This week a young man with a gun entered a school near Atlanta, Georgia. Unfortunately, we are seeing incidents like this all too often. Thankfully, nobody was killed, and that is largely due to a woman named Antionette Tuff. Tuff works in the front office of the school and was on the front lines during the incident. As she calmly spoke to the gunman, she told him she loved him. Her mindful approach to what could have been a tragic situation made the difference. After he decided to give himself up she told him, "It's going to be all right, sweetie. I just want you to know I love you, though, OK? And I'm proud of you. That's a good thing that you're just giving up and don't worry about it. We all go through something in life." Tuff's heroism and incredible display of calm under crisis illustrates the value of a mindful approach to resolving conflicts.
There are many things to be learned from this. Every day educators face stressful situations. Those everyday situations may not be as intense as the one Huff faced, but I believe they also require a calm, mindful response rather than an angry, mindless reaction.
Mindfulness training equips us with the ability to control the mind and therefore control our responses to misbehavior and other classroom management issues. When we can apply present-moment awareness to the problems that arise in our classrooms, we are able to maintain calm and model effective and ethical techniques for managing stressful situations.
If you notice yourself or a colleague caught in a pattern of overreacting, consider starting a daily mindfulness practice. It may produce peace within you and your classroom. It may also equip you with "Tuffness" to prevent a tragedy.
I was honored to be asked by Newberry's RETAIN Center of Excellence to write a piece about mindfulness for educators. The paper can be found on RETAIN's website. I would like to thank Dr. Lisa Waller, Dr. Cindy VanBuren and Angie Floyd for assisting me with this project. I am hoping the paper will be the beginning of a conversation about utilizing mindfulness as a tool to alleviate educator stress in South Carolina.