For about the past five years, I have been on a mission to promote mindfulness as a tool to address teacher stress. It has been an inconsistent effort, but one to which I am firmly committed.
I am committed to this for many reasons, but what truly drives me is the knowledge that much of the suffering people experience can be prevented. Mindfulness provides a clear, scientifically-validated way to alleviate suffering.
For many teachers and students, this suffering is a by-product of the increased demands and pressures they face. Teaching and learning are exciting processes, but testing, discipline, mandates, paperwork, and lack of support weigh heavy on educators and their students. As a result, great people leave the profession and many wonderful potential educators choose a different career path. Those that do stay can lose their enthusiasm. To steal from Thoreau, there are many, many educators leading lives of quiet desperation.
I believe in advocacy. I believe teachers should take an active role in shaping their profession and do everything possible to improve their working conditions. The problem is that when we only look for solutions externally we miss out on a huge opportunity to transform our inner lives. When we view the problems we face to be exclusively external, the inner work we need to do often goes ignored.
I am sure that my promotion of mindfulness comes across as a form of zealous proselytizing. I also know that I am not the best person to be encouraging others to be mindful. I have an ongoing addiction to my phone. My personal practice is inconsistent. I worry and overanalyze way too much. I can be incredibly self-absorbed. This whole paragraph is proof of that, but I keep going because I know that the implementation of mindfulness in public schools will help teachers and their students uproot many of the causes of their own suffering while simultaneously developing greater compassion. I can think of no greater cause in education to promote.
Sometimes I just want to retreat from the work until I've worked on my own $#!+ long enough to not feel like a hypocritical fraud, but then I visit a school. I share information with teachers and students, and I see many of them recognize what I did several years ago, that practicing mindfulness offers hope. It offers all of us a way to transform our inner lives so we can spend more of the precious moments we have on this planet experiencing peace and contentment.
So I press on.