I found this article by Vicki Zakrzewski on the Greater Good website very moving to read, partly because of the accounts pupils wrote of the benefits of a more mindful and sensitive approach to teaching that is being tried out in some places in the States. I find that almost all the emails I receive from this site lead me to something of value. Below is a short extract: for the full post see link.
The emphasis on testing can squeeze the feeling out of today’s classrooms. Here is one teacher’s journey to re-connect with herself and her students.
When I look back on the great teachers who shaped my life, what I remember isn’t the way they prepared me to take a standardized test. What I remember is the way they taught me to believe in myself. To be curious about the world. To take charge of my own learning so that I could reach my full potential. They inspired me to open up a window into parts of the world I’d never thought of before. — President Obama, “An Open Letter to America’s Parents and Teachers,” October 26, 2015
Obama’s statement describes the heart and soul of teaching. Yet for many educators, the testing paradigm has removed the joy of teaching, leaving little time for connecting deeply with students. This sense of connection isn’t a luxury. According to research, it can increase the success and well-being of students and teachers alike.
Throughout the country, teachers are resisting the testing paradigm by putting those person-to-person bonds first. In a New York City high school classroom of newly arrived immigrant students, one educator is using simple mindfulness and social-emotional practices to relate to her students as human beings—profoundly transforming her work as a teacher and, at the same time, deepening her students’ learning.
Summer school for teacher happiness
Julie Mann, a 21-year teaching veteran, spent the summer immersed in the science of social-emotional well-being and mindfulness and its application for the classroom. She started with the Greater Good Science Center’s Summer Institute for Educators and then moved on to the GGSC Science of Happiness MOOC, Mindful Schools’ training, Meena Srinivasan’s Teach, Breathe, Learnworkshop, and Barbara Fredrickson’s Positive Psychology MOOC.
Armed with a lot of knowledge, ideas, and determination to stay mindfully present and grounded, Julie started the school year with the goal of creating a safe, connected classroom—similar to what she had experienced at the Summer Institute.
She then outlines the five ways and concludes:
Reconnecting to our own and others’ humanity
Ultimately, integrating mindfulness and other social-emotional exercises into the classroom has allowed Julie and her students to connect with each other on a deeply human level—something that often gets lost in the urgency for high test-scores.
“These practices have made me more mindful and grounded and composed when I’m with my students, which changes how they are,” explains Julie. “I’m laughing with them. I see their goodness more of the time. I get to enjoy them more because I’m less affected by the stress of what has to get done in a day.” She continues:
I went into this thinking this would be so good for my students because they need it so much, but I think what’s becoming more apparent is that I needed this so much. I’ve been teaching for a long time and it’s easy to get tired. But I’m so energized and it all feels so new. It’s giving me the sense that I can have as much longevity as I need in this profession.