Abbotsford School District, located between Eau Claire and Wausau, WI, recently elected to have a cohort of educators journey together though the Growing Minds online professional development course in emotional intelligence. The 16 participating educators teach elementary and middle school age youth. Some are first year teachers, while others have been with the district for over a decade. All were hungry for balance in their lives at school and at home.
As participants of our Foundations of Mindful Living: Fundamental series, their intentions included finding calm in the midst of chaos, cultivating a common language for social and emotional moments, and finding ways to model the behavior they wish to see in their students.
With these common goals in mind, the teachers set out on a 10-week journey, spending an average of 30 minutes/week interacting with online sessions, exploring and practicing new skills. Their online learning was supplemented with two zoom calls to check in and share the journey.
For each of two 45-minute zoom calls, teachers carved out time in their hectic schedule, turning off their cameras as they were guided through a “soft landing”, a purposeful pause designed to transition from one activity to the next with emotional balance. After the three-minute practice, every hand went up when asked, "Who needed this today?" One person even shared she didn’t know how much she needed it until she was guided through it.
During the zoom call, some educators chose to share ways the course affected them personally. Heads nodded in agreement, when one teacher shared, “I learned it's ok to take time for myself.”
Another teacher commented, "I have been doing mindfulness practices every morning and every night at home. It has transformed how well I sleep, and it has been getting me ready to start my day off on the right foot".
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Throughout the sessions, teachers communicated through an online discussion board, sharing their personal experiences and reflections. They shared things that brought them joy and lifted them up, as well as stressors that, upon reflection, would be great times to incorporate mindful moments.
After the ten weeks, all of the Abbotsford educators who filled out the survey reported, 'I am better able to notice when my stress is rising'. Feeling stress arising is a key skill in inserting a purposeful pause to refrain from reactive, or depleting patterns of behavior.
Another teacher wrote, "When I’m upset, I am better able to pause and notice how I’m feeling before I respond or take action." Pausing can greatly improve a teacher’s ripple effect by limiting emission of negative vibes. It’s also essential in modeling mindful behavior for students to see and mimic. It’s invigorating to hear how five hours of online learning can help teachers feel more resilient and less drained.
Feeling connected after learning together, the educators brainstormed ways to support themselves moving forward. Many realized that giving themselves permission to insert mindful pauses in their day would be a huge step. They recognized this would require overcoming barriers such as feeling like they did not have enough time or enough practice to slow down. The group also voiced that casual check-ins with one another through texting and in the hallways would be a great way to keep their journeys going.
Overall, we were so thrilled to work with these amazing Abbotsford educators. The insights and practical benefits they shared with us in the short time we worked together are things any district would be proud to highlight and build upon!
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