Choosing a single article that was strongly salient for my proposed research was a more difficult proposition than I had anticipated. Not for my (in)ability to decide which was more powerful or impactful but for its connection to teaching, teachers and mindfulness practices. Hence, two articles are submitted for discussion.
Maria Napoli’s Mindfulness Training for Teachers: A Pilot Program (2004) serves as a primer for method and methodology in implementing contemplative practices. Focusing strictly on the sections related to teachers, Napoli states:
Teachers along with their students are experiencing more stress and burnout. To be successful with students, teachers need to have knowledge and skills as well as feel positive about teaching. (2004, p. 34)
While this may be obvious the important question is what can be done in order to make teachers, and (hopefully) eventually students, feel more positive about teaching? Stress is caused a physiological fight/flight reaction within the body. This develops as emergency responses are attributed to non-emergency situations in the classroom. Consequently “in a depleted immune system and a cycle of exacerbated stress” (2004, p. 32). What can we do to maintain and improve the wellness of teachers and, by extension, students?
What interventions can be implemented in order to short-circuit the cycle in a meaningful manner? How, if possible, could mindfulness practices be implemented and monitored. The study does give two examples of teacher mindfulness training (p. 35) that I am contemplating for use in my own research.
Within Napoli’s suggestions for improvement is one important proposal: teachers participating and taking ownership of their own training (p. 38). However, implementation, and the possibility of certification credit hours, may be a difficult sell to the system-at-large.
Essentially, what mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) practices (Kabat-Zinn, 2006) are available to teachers while remaining practical, functional, and appropriate for classroom use while gaining buy-in from teachers and administrators alike?
Additionally, Napoli brings forth the issue of curricular change and modification. How much agency would a New York City public school teacher truly have within the school setting? Would any attempt at true curriculum modification be undermined by structures within the system? This question led me to the second article that discusses school faculty, trust and mindfulness.
Hoy, Gage and Tarter (2006) observe that we are “so accustomed and so efficient at one way of behaving that (we) become seduced by the nominal success of (those) routines.” (2006, p. 237)
The key then would be to either identify those routines, form new ones that compliment the desired goals then implement and nurture them at an organizational level. While ambitious and possibly beneficial to the ‘goal’ of improved student test results and achievement how are these proposed new ways-and-means encouraged and supported by administrators? However, experimentation and the freedom to make mistakes are often not qualities that are encouraged within a school setting, as time is one enemy of ‘covering the material’ students should learn in an academic year.
This I believe is a result of a lack of understanding about the concepts and non-religious aspects of mindfulness. Concepts of trust (Hoy et al., 2006, p. 237) and mindfulness are not often embraced by school administration, who themselves are under significant pressure from the system-at-large.
Building a community of practice (Wenger, 1999) with the desired result being increased organizational mindfulness (Hoy et al., 2006, p. 239) consisting of personnel at several levels with the understanding of expansion to students and possibly parents.
Hoy et al. cite via, Weick and Sutcliffe (Weick & Sutcliffe, 2001), five processes promote organizational mindfulness: preoccupation with failure, reluctance to simplify, sensitivity to operations, commitment to resilience, and deference to expertise. Identification of these factors within any school seems fairly simple even within large schools or departments within schools. However, how stakeholders address these factors is imperative to (what I deem as) a successful implementation of contemplative practices within a school.
I am slightly resistant (as of this writing) to using mindfulness scales (Hoy et al., 2006, p. 245) or heuristics repeatedly over time. This is due to my unscientific sense of ‘questionnaire fatigue’ I felt from participants in the Brooklyn College study.
Again here, trust is key in understanding the concepts of mindfulness and creating a community of practice in mindfulness. Furthermore, stakeholders should be open, not only understanding, to practicing mindfulness on their own to begin nurturing a new community.
I welcome any questions and comments!
Hoy, W. K., Gage III, C. Q., & Tarter, C. J. (2006). School Mindfulness and Faculty Trust: Necessary Conditions for Each Other? Educational Administration Quarterly, 42(2), 236–255. doi:10.1177/0013161X04273844
Kabat-Zinn, J. (2006). Mindfulness-Based Interventions in Context: Past, Present, and Future. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10(2), 144–156. doi:10.1093/clipsy.bpg016
Napoli, M. (2004). Mindfulness Training for Teachers: A Pilot Program. Complementary Health Practice Review, 9(1), 31–42. doi:10.1177/1076167503253435
Weick, K. E., & Sutcliffe, K. M. (2001). Managing the unexpected. Jossey-Bass San Francisco. Retrieved from http://stgallen.moodle-kurse.de/file.php/1/Tools/Innovation_Management/Managing_the_Unexpected.pdf
Wenger, E. (1999). Communities of practice : learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge, U.K.; New York: Cambridge University Press.