“The connection between mindfulness and education is both natural and fundamentally important, now more than ever. The difference between a good teacher and a great teacher, it is often that ineffable quality that you know but cannot pin down in words.” – The Mindful teacher
Teaching is a stressful profession causing many to burn out and leave the profession. A recent survey found that roughly half a million U.S. teachers move or leave the profession each year. That’s a turnover rate of about 20 percent compared to 9 percent in 2009. Indeed, anywhere from 40 and 50 percent of teachers will leave the classroom within their first five years, with over nine percent leaving before the end of their first year.
The high stress of the occupation shows up in higher rates of anxiety disorders, but particularly in physical ailments, with higher rates of laryngitis, conjunctivitis, lower urinary tract infections, bronchitis, eczema/dermatitis and varicose veins in female teachers. There is a pressing need to retain good teachers. So, it has become very important to identify means to help relieve the stress and lower burnout rates.
Mindfulness has been shown repeatedly to decrease physiological and psychological responses to stress (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/07/17/destress-with-mindfulness/ and http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/category/research-news/stress/). Mindfulness has also been shown to help improve performance and relieve stress in students (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/08/08/building-a-better-adult-with-elementary-school-mindfulness-training/ and http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/09/04/go-to-college-with-mindfulness/). In addition, mindfulness has been shown to decrease burnout in the medical profession (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/08/10/burnout-burnout-with-mindfulness/). So, it would seem reasonable to suspect that mindfulness training would help teachers to reduce stress, the consequent physical symptoms, and burnout.
In today’s Research News article “The Effectiveness of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on Educator Stress and Well-Being: Results from a Pilot Study”
Frank and colleagues investigate the effectiveness of a mindfulness -based stress reduction (MBSR) program to improve high school teacher stress and well-being. They found that MBSR produced significant improvement in emotion regulation, self-kindness, mindfulness, overall self-compassion, and sleep quality in comparison to a no-treatment control group.
Hence it appears that MBSR is effective in improving well-being and reducing stress in high school teachers. Of course, more research is needed particularly with randomly assigned active control conditions and long term follow-up. But, these results are very promising. Given the importance of education to the well-being of our entire society, helping to relieve the problems experienced by teachers has to be a high priority.
This as well as research with students points to a development of a total mindful environment in education, where both students and teachers are trained in mindfulness and mindfulness practice is incorporated in the school day. The research suggests that this could have a major positive effect on education.
So, teach and learn with mindfulness
“I had decided that this would be my last year teaching until the mindfulness program began at my school. Now I am rededicated to my profession.” – Teacher, East Oakland
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies