Innovative Instruction

[Ask a Teacher] Taking on Remote Teaching: Mindfulness

Alexa Beechler
May 7, 2020

How can teachers find peace and balance during a time of unrest? 

One answer: Mindfulness 

Anxious. Fearful. Worried. Overwhelmed. Sad. These emotional states were the top 5 that educators shared they were feeling at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, along with the Collaborative for Social-Emotional and Academic Learning, set forth to uncover how teachers were doing in the midst of such unprecedented times. While these responses could be expected during this time in history, an earlier 2017 survey by these joint centers had yielded similar results. 

Due to the transition to distance learning, the pressure put on teachers within the traditional classroom setting has now been multiplied. While learning is not stopping, neither is the busy life of a teacher. The balancing act of the century has now begun. 

Though I may not have all the answers, as a former elementary school teacher, I have found powerful ways to help me find peace in the midst of the most challenging times of my career. These tips are simple to implement but come with two ground rules: You deserve to be happy and you are worthy of time on your calendar. Now that we have gotten those rules established, let’s talk about three tangible ways to bring peace and joy to your life.

1. Be mindful of the world around you. Have you ever noticed that happiness is a pursuit, that you have to chase happiness to get it? But negativity, well, that is sometimes simply just a click away. Research shows us that our brain is wired to react to negative experiences more than to positive ones. This means that we need to be intentional about what we focus on. So, I decided to become focused on finding joy, positivity, and peace. I decided to take pictures of everything that made me feel those feelings. Then, I posted them everywhere.


Try it for yourself

  • Perhaps it is your pet that brings you joy; take a snap.

  • Perhaps it is your family that brings you positivity; snap a pic. 

  • Perhaps inspirational quotes bring you peace; take a screenshot. 

  • Whatever it is, make it visible to you and feed your mind with that hope. 

Try it with students

  • Make this into a photography project and invite your students to share what brings them joy, positivity, and peace. Then, have them share it with each other. Spread the hope around; it’s contagious. 

2. Be mindful of your inner thoughts. Gratitude. We all have heard that one before. Be grateful for those around you. It’s good for you, they say. And yes, that is right, but let’s break down why and how. When you focus on things that you are thankful for, your brain begins to release stress-reducing neurotransmitters: meet your friends dopamine and serotonin. So, it is important to practice gratitude daily and often to keep the stress at bay. Find the good and shout it out. I loved what educator Chuck Poole does with his students, so I had to shout it out

Try it for yourself

  • Is a colleague rocking it at work? Let them know!

  • Did someone publish amazing content on social media? Give it a like!

  • Are your students rocking? Shout them out! 

 Try it with students

  • Implement an afternoon shoutout time, and have your students use a backchannel like Today’s Meet or posting platform to shout out one person who deserves two thumbs up. Kindness is free to give, yet priceless to receive. Let’s cultivate more of it. 

3. Be mindful of what you see. Can you see color? If so, that is a gift because many people are unable to see color at all. Research shows the uplifting effects that color can have on our emotions, so be on the lookout for it.

 Try it for yourself

  • Take a few minutes each day to write down a few colors and hues that you noticed. At the end of the week, take time to reflect on that and write a haiku. We know that poetry also elicits stress-relieving effects on our bodies, so go on, get your write on. 

 Try it with students

  • Invite your students to go on a color hunt and take note of the colors they find and the feelings that come with those colors.

  • At the end of their hunt, invite them to write a haiku about the colors they discovered. Once students feel more confident, have them create a painting or picture that corresponds to their work. When we allow our minds to create, joy abounds. 

To the tired, stressed out and overwhelmed teachers: I see you. I hear you. I value you. You inspire me. I hope these tips can help bring you peace in the middle of your most challenging year yet as a teacher. 

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