“In an institutional setting in which ‘innovative overload’ and ‘repetitive change syndrome’ have become normalized as routine forms of everyday life, the third synergy of mindful teaching is simply stopping. And then stopping again. And then again.” – The Mindful Teacher, p. 64
As depicted in the above quote, objectives, standards, testing and multiple reform initiatives seem to require that teachers and students are constantly on the move. However, an anchoring illustration from The Mindful Teacher challenges this notion and suggests that stopping can, in fact, lead to a transformative educational experience.
Megan Mahoney, a participant in the Mindful Teacher seminar and special educator in the Boston Public Schools, embraced this idea of stopping both for herself and her students. Megan was trying to address a few students’ behavioral issues, especially during standardized testing sessions required for all students by her school. Megan admitted being “skeptical of meditation” at first, but then began to see the benefits of being open to stopping. “I found myself beginning to look forward to and appreciating the time that was set aside for meditation at each of our Mindful Teacher meetings,” she said. “I truly enjoyed that time to myself. I felt free to think freely and uninterrupted and could truly begin to reflect on my students, my classroom, my teaching, and my own personal life. As a teacher, there is so little time set aside to quiet your mind” (The Mindful Teacher, p. 44).
Megan began with stopping and later added concentration meditations to reflect on particular issues in her classroom, including the students’ behavior during testing. In addition, an element of mindfulness from the work of Ellen Langer encouraged Megan to pay greater attention to quieter students, encouraging disruptive students to self-regulate their behavior during test periods. Actively stopping allowed Megan to consider these issues and address them in a humanistic manner.
She also found that stopping could be quite powerful for her students’ educational experiences. Megan created “quiet time” periods during the day when students could reflect both on the school day and their own personal lives. This quiet time allowed students to self-regulate and create a calm and attentive learning environment.
Even if meditation may be a foreign concept and may not seem right for you, we encourage you to explore what the power of stopping can do for you both professionally and personally and for the students in your classroom.
“While formal meditation might be an optimal way of stopping and re-centering yourself, busy teachers cannot always do this, so it is important to recall that ‘meditation can be very informal’ (Hahn, 2005, p. 16) and, with the right frame of mind, can occur in the midst of everyday life.” – The Mindful Teacher, p. 65