With all of the demands made on both teachers and students, it’s easy to understand how they may become overwhelmed and stressed in the classroom. This is only compounded by the challenges, responsibilities, and influences they face outside the classroom as well. However, while educational systems spend a great deal of time ensuring students meet educational goals and training programs prepare teachers to become proficient in the technical aspects of their profession, they rarely provide either with strategies to effectively manage the stresses and challenges they may face in their learning, personal, and/or professional lives.
In order to better help teachers and students learn to manage and respond to these challenges, a large number of educational institutions have begun to incorporate mindfulness training as professional development for their staff as well as for students in the classroom. “Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, emotions, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment with openness and curiosity,”and research has found practicing mindfulness has a number of benefits for both teachers and students. For students, it has led to improved attention, emotion regulation, and behavior in school as well as lowering anxiety and stress in the classroom. Similarly, teachers who participated in mindfulness training also demonstrated less stress and were found to have more emotionally supportive and better organized classrooms.
With this in mind, the Studer Trust Teacher Training Center (TTC) has begun to offer mindfulness training for both the teachers who attend its programs as well as students at its partner schools. Through a generous scholarship from Mindful Schools (www.mindfulschools.org), TTC was able to train its staff on and incorporate the Mindful Schools curriculum into its programming starting in 2018. The curriculum provides professionals in- and outside of the educational field with short, age-appropriate activities to help introduce and encourage youth in grades K-12 to practice implementing mindfulness into their everyday lives.
As a result, TTC was able to facilitate 3 8-week mindfulness programsforover 130 primary school studentsat the Salay Monastery in Mandalay, Myanmar, where TTC is housed. Moreover, 25 teacherswho attended our Advanced Teacher Training had the opportunity to complete a corresponding mindfulness course, the goal of which was to provide participants with research-backed mindfulness strategies to better engage and become aware of their interactions with students in their classrooms. A number of teachers noted a variety of benefits from participating in this program, including the ability to better focus during training sessions and improving their relationships with their students. One participant stated, “Mindfulness is essential for learning. I’m able to better control myself, make major decisions, and I feel more peaceful.” Another teacher pointed out how mindfulness can improve teacher-student interactions: “Teachers are able to listen to their students more, be more patient, and more easily manage their anger”, while another added, “mindfulness is necessary for teachers to help them have more positive attitudes and behaviors”.
In light of the positive feedback from teachers and students, TTC plans to expand the mindfulness programming it offers in the future. Along with continuing to include mindfulness activities in its training courses, it also aims to begin training its alumni to incorporate the Mindful Schools curriculum in their classroom. Over the next year, a member of the staff will participate in the Mindful Teacher Certification Program through Mindful Schools, which will supply TTC with not only the expertise it needs to effectively prepare its participants to implement the curriculum but also ensure more students throughout Myanmar are given the opportunity to reap the benefits from mindfulness practice as well.
As always, Studer Trust is extremely grateful to its donor, the Wai Yin Association, for its continued generosity and support and would also like to thank Mindful Schools for its assistance in making this addition to our program possible. We are constantly appreciative of all the individuals and partners that have assisted Studer Trust in exemplifying its motto, Respect the Spirit of Helping, which has allowed us to continue providing access to quality educational opportunities to students and communities throughout Myanmar.
“Mindfulness Fundamentals.” Mindful Schools, 13 May, 2019, https://www.mindfulschools.org/training/mindfulness-fundamentals/.