The practice of mindfulness (purposeful, non-judgmental attention, and detached awareness) can contribute to creating and establishing a positive classroom atmosphere that supports educational value, viable interactions, challenging learning, open creativity, and regular effort, all the while transferring passion. According to the Danielson Framework – Domain 2, one of the most important aspects of teaching is the environment, atmosphere, and culture of a classroom, which is a direct result of a teachers energy. When a mindful teacher communicates both orally and non-verbally, clear, calm, and equitable expectations and proceeders, extraordinary things can happen.
A teacher practicing mindfulness can simultaneously encourage student independence and choice, connected to high expectations, while doing so through a lens of non-judgement. Having a general awareness of the moment allows the teacher to better take in subtle differences between students and activities to foster and support novel ideas. A non-judgmental awareness increases the openness of novelty seeking and producing of ideas to further manage the classroom energy and relationships. In addition, the students will pick-up and learn these concepts from the teacher leading by example and through modeling, thus supporting stronger teacher interactions with students and creating a positive classroom atmosphere and energy. For instance, a teacher can give a student positive reenforcement of specific behaviors and also encourage students to do the same for each other. This could also be expanded to allow an open exchange between students so they are able to ask each other for clarification and help about the concepts or activities in class not directly understood from the teacher, consequently supporting positive student-to-student respect, behavior, and engagement.
A mindful teacher also displays and shares the understanding of flexibility, such as the importance of welcoming a changing environment rather than resisting it. They could model the ability to view a situation from multiple perspectives and recognized that each perspective has equal value, ultimately showing great respect. Also, a mindful teacher operates as though the classroom is constructed and subject to continual re-evaluation by demonstrating open creativity and connections to the world beyond. For example, a teacher demonstrates knowledge and caring when inquiring about a student’s other activities and connects those to a classroom lesson and future possibilities. Moreover, the free exchange of ideas connected to personal context between students through the ability to share without fear of ridicule or put-downs, will influence the positive interaction, for example students applauding and supporting one another after presentations or performances.
Overall, the mindful teacher generates and maintains an open exchange of energy to guide and support student’s exploration of educational value, positive interactions, and exchanges that connect to life. There are many ways a teacher can create an environment of respect and establish a culture of learning.
Mindful suggestions to help establish a positive learning environment:
- Practice what you preach (students learn most through example):
- Do what you ask others to do
- Act and treat others the way you want to be treated (no special rules, or exceptions)
- Take time to breathe, take a moment, 60 seconds to sit still and be, just notice
- Practice the PAUSE technique
- Take your time and act with purpose (move slowly if need be)
- Model behavior that supports responding (not leading with impulses):
- Thinking before speaking
- Only talk when all attention is given (wait for silence)
- Give your full attention to others when needed
- Try not to multi-task (concentrate on purpose with one task, do it well)
- Actively listen: Paraphrase questions, thoughts, and emotions from others before giving your own personal information or suggestions
- Notice more subtle facial expressions, body positions, and jesters ALL – WITHOUT judgement
- Try to use more vocabulary when you speak (take your time to find the best words)
- Remain silent, let all thoughts and emotions go (sometime the best response is none)
- Be more accepting that everything changes (including people and students)
- Give forgiveness to yourself and others:
- Be more caring, empathic
- Model respect such as giving it in order to get it
- Have an attitude of gratitude (be in a place of wonder)
Challenge: Try going through your day, such as teaching, talking, and interacting normally while using as few words and non-verbal cues as possible (basically, adding more silence).
I’m a music teacher and choral director and think I can teach a whole class or even a whole day without speaking much. Coming soon a post about my experience with this challenge.