Mindfulness: Buy-in or No Sale…

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.

 

6 thoughts on “Mindfulness: Buy-in or No Sale…

  1. Profile photo of David Walters Jr.David Walters Jr.

    Furman and Gruenewald-Expanding the Landscape of Social Justice: A Critical Ecological Analysis
    This article forced me to think about how I make meaning in different places that I find myself in and why. I feel that sometimes when I’m in a particular place I view myself as the other, disconnected from the field. I critique and judge and stand above others. I never stop to think about how the state of the environment got that way and how the people exist despite it’s harshness. This article offers an interesting look at social justice in education in order to make a case for socioecological justice in education. I also believe that they are one and the same and that the environment and all agents in society should be included in an education system that is critical of their inequities and impact on our world. When barriers are removed which prohibit or delay opportunities for growth for our world’s citizenry, we are enacting social justice. Of the theories discussed in this article, which do you believe would help your research? I like critical humanist perspective. I also found Rowe and Bowers’ critiques quite entertaining.

  2. Profile photo of Ferzileta GjikaFerzileta Gjika

    Research on Mindfulness suggests that mindfulness practices not only improve health and wellbeing, but also it help think more clearly, perform better, and feel calmer. Because mindfulness is learned through practices it directs it’s attention to the present moment, whether it could be breathing, sensations, or everyday activities.
    On the other hand mindlessness grows out of routine and general comfort that things are being done “correctly.” If the focus is in the outcome of the tests it obscures the process of teaching (Hoy,2006, p.4).
    Hoy (2006) contends that mindfulness requires flexibility, vigilance, openness, and the ability to break set (p.4). Mindfulness requires openness to new information and different points of view, whereas the counterpart mindlessness considered as simply not paying attention, not being in the moment. In our everyday routines we do not realized how mindlessly we live. It reminds me an old expression I have heard many times that “eyes don’t see it, but our brain does”. Mindlessness also acts from a single perspective blindly going with the flow rather than thinking “out of the box”. My questions are: How do social and cultural environments change mindlessness? How about our classrooms? Are schools, teachers, students more mindless than they used to be? Or more mindful than they used to be? If we are multitasking are we becoming successful or are we just saving time? How capable are we to understand stereotypes, and see it from a new perspective? If we acknowledge at some point that we are mindless, do we have the tools to become mindful? Do our students have the necessary tools to become mindful?
    Like Marissa, I too would like to know ways of incorporating mindfulness into classroom. Buy-in into the mindfulness happens only if we are able to see the benefits of mindfulness, not only in teaching and learning but also in everyday life situations.

  3. Profile photo of David Walters Jr.David Walters Jr.

    Andre,
    This paper seems right up our alley. It is very interesting the use of bodyscan for this research. Is this a method you’d like to explore in the future.
    I personally believe that mindfulness or health and wellness education is necessary for our children. From the statistics regarding attention span and levels of stress in students caused by the environment, mindful/wellness practices can help to manage stress and create a lifestyle of self-awareness and self-reflection. Every generation is introduced to new stimuli that distract our students from their studies and environmental stressors cause real and imaginary violence on our children by others and the self. Teachers have to be able to know their students and recognize their emotional state. My issue is, how with all that is required can a teacher manage to do this with 175 students at the high school level. If wellness practices are incorporated into lessons then teachers can see their students with respect to their true self.
    What did you think of the minfulness activites? I personally like the questions posed to the teachers. This article was a great pic.

  4. Profile photo of Kylah TorreKylah Torre

    I agree that mindfulness practices on the part of teachers, students, and administrators would be very helpful in reducing stress and gaining focus. Something Marissa said struck me, however, and that was the idea that the mindfulness practices could help students and teacher focus on a shared goal. It almost goes without saying, but I think it would be helpful if we had some better shared goals. If the goal that we are striving for is better test scores, then I almost wonder what the point is of mindfulness. Or rather, I wonder if students will be likely to buy-in to such a practice when what they are doing in school is so seemingly meaningless. Not in your class, Marissa, but in many places.

  5. Profile photo of Marissa BellinoMarissa Bellino

    So I read the Napoli paper and while reading I couldn’t help but think about the new teacher evaluation system that New York State/City has adopted and more specifically the Danielson framework for evaluating teacher effectiveness. I just went to training for this the other day and it is so interesting how the basic assumption is that students are with you, able to engage all of the time, and the onus is on you as the teacher to get every student engaged. But we all know the reality of working with kids of various ages (or adults for that matter). No matter how engaging your lesson, your students are coming from their own place where they may be experiencing a million different emotions related to a million different things that have nothing to do with your lesson. If the whole push is to make learning more meaningful and create (for all to see) learner-centered classrooms, I think now, more than ever, some kind of mindfulness needs to be incorporated into teacher and student practice at a school-wide level.

    I want to think more about how I can incorporate a mindfulness practice into my classes. I have seen many of my students experience test anxiety, especially with the high stakes attached to exams and the pressure many students put on themselves to out compete their peers. I also have struggled with focusing attention at the start of the period. With my upper class students sometimes it takes them ten minutes or more to say hi to one another and settle down. I often notice myself getting super frustrated and sometimes outright angry with them during this time. I can see a mindfulness practice being very valuable for all of us to focus our attention and begin class with a shared vision. My hesitation is my own limitation with mindfulness and my lack of confidence in leading students in any form of practice. I would be less concerned about the time investment as I see this as a way to make the limited time you have with students more productive and focused on a shared goal.

    Andre I am interested to hear more about your own experiences with mindfulness and how you feel you use it, when you use it, do you use it with students, and the kinds of results you are seeing. I would also love to hear more about your journey into using this and if you had/have any hesitations about bringing it into classrooms.

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