Why Mindfulness Meditation Should Be Central to Teacher Support

  • Seventy-eight percent say they are often physically and emotionally exhausted at the end of the day.
  • Eighty-seven percent say the demands of their job at least sometimes interfere with their family life.

The staggering statistics listed above could be attributed to many different careers—police officers, social workers, military personnel, or senior executives. The aforementioned positions are some of the most stressful jobs in the United States.  However, these statistics do not belong to the jobs mentioned. These numbers come from a survey of 30,000 teachers, conducted by the American Federation of Teachers.


Teachers have the honor and great responsibility of molding the next generation of leaders, scientists, doctors, policymakers, and teachers. A teacher arguably plays one of the most integral roles in a child’s life.   This role is increasingly stressful and multi-faceted.  Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers says the following,  “We ask teachers to be a combination of Albert Einstein, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King Jr….We ask them to be Mom and Dad and impart tough love but also be a shoulder to lean on. And when they don’t do these things, we blame them for not being saviors of the world. What is the effect? The effect has been teachers are incredibly stressed out.”

Teacher Stress and Attrition  

Teachers are leaving education at alarming rates. According to Mindful Schools, a nonprofit organization, “Roughly half a million U.S. teachers leave the profession each year – a turnover rate of over 20 percent.” The Alliance for Excellent Education reports on the extreme cost of teacher attrition saying,  “…..is not only damaging to schools, it is very costly, adding up to $2.2 billion a year.


Teachers are stressed out, and districts must create solutions and supports for teachers to combat teacher stress. Mindful Schools describes the domino effect of stress, saying,  “Toxic stress starts as decreased productivity and creativity, escalating to more serious symptoms like frequent anxiety, dissociation, frustration, and, eventually, burnout.”   No one can be expected to do their best work with these types of reactions.

The Solution: Mindfulness for Teachers 

What is the solution to teacher stress?  Many schools and districts try various ways to reduce the stress that teachers experience by increasing teacher pay, improving staff recognition,  and providing better curricular resources. While increasing salary and providing improved professional development is key to retaining top talent, districts are missing the mark. Districts must provide teachers with the tools to combat stress. Mindful Schools explains, “Because the roots of toxic stress lie deep in the nervous system, we need tools that go beyond the conceptual mind to directly target that system. To transform our habitual responses, we need to regularly practice our skills when we are not in “fight – flight – freeze” mode.”

The key to transforming stress could lie in the practice of mindfulness meditation.  John Kabat-Zinn, a researcher who has studied the benefits of mindfulness since the 1970s states the following, “Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.” It’s about knowing what is on your mind.”  Mindfulness provides the practitioner with the ability to go back to one’s breath during difficult moments. Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk known for his teachings on mindfulness says the following,

 Mindfulness is the energy that helps us recognize the conditions of happiness that are already present in our lives.  It is present in every moment of your daily life. There are those of us who are alive but don’t know it. But when you breathe in, and you are aware of your in-breath, you touch the miracle of being alive. That is why mindfulness is a source of happiness and joy.

Many might be skeptical that being in the present moment and breathing deeply could prevent teacher burnout and toxic stress. However, several studies have indicated the overall benefits that mindfulness can have on one’s health. The University of Arizona reported on a study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies. The study of 860 Buddhist practitioners concluded that mindfulness training benefits people both physically and mentally. Specifically, mindfulness training, “improved social relationships with family and strangers and reduced stress, depression, and anxiety while increasing well-being and happiness.”   Furthermore, The Huffington Post recently reported on a study that linked mindfulness with decreased amounts of the stress hormone, cortisol.

Thich Nhat Hanh leads an organization called Wake Up Schools as he is passionate about spreading mindfulness to teachers. Thich summarizes the powerful impact of mindful teachers, “With mindfulness teachers and students can experience more peace, learn how to take care of difficult emotions and create conditions for a happy school and a happy world.”

Imagine how different our schools could be if teachers were trained to practice mindfulness….




Zarcone, Kelly.Mindfulness Training Has Positive Health Benefits. Retrieved from https://nau.edu/research/feature-stories/mindfulness-training-has-positive-health-benefits/

Mindful Staff. (2016). Jon Kabat-Zinn: Defining Mindfulness. Retrieved from http://www.mindful.org/jon-kabat-zinn-defining-mindfulness/

Why Mindfulness is Needed in Education. Retrieved from http://www.mindfulschools.org/about-mindfulness/mindfulness-in-education

Layton, L. (2015). Is the classroom a stressful place? Thousands of teachers say yes. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/is-the-classroom-a-stressful-place-thousands-of-teachers-say-yes/2015/05/12/829f56d8-f81b-11e4-9030-b4732caefe81_story.html

Mindfulness Meditation Could Lower Levels Of Cortisol, The Stress Hormone. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/31/mindfulness-meditation-cortisol-stress-levels_n_2965197.htm

Teacher Attrition Costs United States Up to $2.2 Billion Annually, Says New Alliance Report. Retrieved from http://all4ed.org/press/teacher-attrition-costs-united-states-up-to-2-2-billion-annually-says-new-alliance-report/

  1. Why Mindfulness? Retrieved from wakeupschools.org

Is social media hurting empathy?

Information comes at us in lightening speed. With a quick click of a like button, one can feel as if they have meaningfully and actively participated in a cause. People today move across country to live amongst literal strangers but maintain that they have hundreds of virtual friends. Technologies such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter can increase our sense of connection all while enabling us to live further apart from each other.

The amount of screen time we spend on devices potentially has a negative impact on learning basic social and physical cues that enable one to react with empathy. For instance, facial reading is a key component with the development of empathy. According to research conducted by David Matsumoto and Hyi Sung Hwang, the ability to read expressions is a critical part of developing empathy. In their article, Reading facial expressions of emotion, the researchers note “Reading facial expressions of emotion, and especially microexpressions, can aid the development of rapport, trust, and collegiality; they can be useful in making credibility assessments, evaluating truthfulness and detecting deception; and better information about emotional states provides the basis for better cooperation, negotiation, or sales. Health professionals can develop better rapport with patients, interact humanely with empathy and compassion, and make the right diagnosis by obtaining complete information.” Allotment of screen time within homes and in classrooms, is a daily expectation from children.

Figure 1: The Seven Basic Emotions and their Universal Expressions


Research also shows an increase in levels of narcissism among Millennials coupled with the increase of social media use.  The article , Millennials, narcissism, and social networking: What narcissists do on social networking sites and why – asserts there is a correalation. The article states ” Recent research supports the often-made assertion that the Millennial generation, those in college from the early 2000s to late 2010s, are more narcissistic than previous generations….Narcissists lack empathy and have few, if any, close relationships, yet they strongly desire social contact, as others serve as their primary source of admiration and attention.”

Fig 2: Selfie Syndrome



I am of the branch that for every good there is a bad and vice versa. That said, if there is in fact a connection with social media and the decay of emotional connections (brought on by the lack of real social interaction social media allows) can the paradox be changed?

Are there ways to increase empathy development with children by using technology and social media?

If technology is viewed as a form of evolution, will the seven basic emotions and expressions be replaced by emoticons? 😉

For more info on the articles cited visit-  http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=



An Enagaging Classroom

As educators, we are challenged to address and close the achievement gap as we work to achieve Equity and Excellence for All.

When analyzing data of underperforming students, lack of engagement is often cited as a contributing factor to student lack of success by both teachers and students. We know from the research of Hattie that instead of asking ‘what works’ we need to ask ‘what works best?’ Almost all of what we do has an impact on learning but most of what we do has a very small impact. Cooperative learning is nineteenth on Hattie’s list of 195 High Impact Influences showing more than .59 effect size making it one of the highest leverage influences that positively influence learning.

Classroom A
1. Teacher teaches about 10 min.
2. Stops and asks a question to the class.
3. Calls on one or two  students.
4. Repeat.
Result: Status quo continues.

Classroom B
1.  Teachers teaches about 10 min.
2.  Stops and asks a question.
3.  Asks students to Turn and Talk.
4. Repeat.
Result: Drivers and Riders. Those that know continue to learn and those that struggle, hide or opt out.

Classroom C
1. Teacher teaches about 10 minutes.
2. Stops and asks a question.
3. Teacher introduces a cooperative learning structure that ensures the engagement principles of PIES.
4. Repeat.
Result: Engaged learners held accountable to each other and the content.

The key to the success of the Student Engagement rests not with the implementation of engagement structures, no matter the model, but with the awareness and internalization of the power of the four cooperative learning principles known as PIES.

Positive Interdependence (no winners and losers)

  • Do the students feel on the same side?
  • Does the work of one benefit all?

Individual Opportunities (no free rides)

  • Does each member have to publicly perform in the group?

Equal Participation (no domination, no hiding)

  • Does each member participate for roughly the same amount of time?

Simultaneous Interaction (stay engaged)

  • How many many students are speaking or writing at once?

These four principles lead to engagement, and engagement leads to learning, and learning is why we exist!

Skip to toolbar