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Should Teachers Be More Mindful?

A report published this fall in School Psychology Quarterly found that teachers who participated in a mindfulness program were better able to manage their classes and build relationships with students.

The study was conducted by researchers at Pennsylvania State University and funded by the U.S. Department of Education and the Institute of Educational Sciences. Using a sample of 50 teachers, it compared a control group of teachers with a group that went through the Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education program, which aims to reduce stress by equipping teachers with mindfulness and emotional-competency skills. The researchers looked at changes in well-being, efficacy, burnout, and mindfulness through self-reported measures.

Teachers who underwent CARE showed higher gains in these areas. For instance:

  • 87 percent agreed this type of program should be part of teacher training or teacher professional development.
  • More than 90 percent reported improvements in self-awareness and well-being.
  • 77 percent said CARE made them "better able to manage classroom behaviors effectively and compassionately."
  • 83 percent believed it improved their relationships with their students.

According to the study, teachers who participated in CARE also saw positive effects in their students. For instance:

  • 76 percent noticed improvement in students' prosocial behavior—including helping, sharing, and working together.
  • 66 percent noticed improvement in on-task behavior.
  • 57 percent noticed improvement in academic performance.

Though these findings are promising, the report notes potential limitations in the study, including its small scale, the self-reporting, and the fact that teachers may have benefitted simply from having ongoing support.

This study is far from the only example of teachers trying out mindfulness practices. In 2010, Ariel Sacks began using mindfulness in her classroom on the advice of a yoga teacher. And a San Francisco middle school that incorporated meditation into its students' school days found that truency and suspension rates decreased.

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