From Oregon to New York, Greece to New Zealand, and pretty much anywhere across the globe, there are active fault lines which could shift at any time. When these fault lines do shift, they sometimes create a tidal wave, an earthquake, or even cause something as small as a rumble that is felt at the human level.
This is not very different from what occurs as one’s life shifts. Life is moving along in one direction, seemingly happily (or, if not happy, it is moving along fine), until it isn’t.
This was me – and maybe it has been you too.
I was trained as a lawyer, worked hard to be on law review, pass the bar exam, and become an expert in my field. Then, something shifted, and I could not imagine continuing in that career. I turned my focus to family and education. Selected to serve on the school board, I learned some of the bigger concerns of schools and how students, teachers, and administrators grapple with these concerns.
One evening, at the school board’s meeting, the topic of discussion was a new SARS virus called bird flu. Some may remember this from before COVID became a part of our vernacular. There was concern that teachers would become ill and there would not be substitute teacher coverage. I asked, “If this occurred, could people like me pitch in and help?”
By 9:00 am the following morning, the principal had the application in my hand and I was on my way to becoming a teacher, work that I grew from and loved for many years thereafter.
Throughout these years of teaching, there were countless beautiful experiences with students - one recently stopped me at my local automobile dealership and said I was her favorite ❤️! Compliments just do not get any better than that!
Every day, I learned from wise and talented fellow teachers, which includes my two sisters and my mother. They helped me learn real tools to help schools. This was the only way I could bridge the gap and create positive experiences in the classroom.
One critical skill that I learned was mindfulness at school. In fact, if I had to pick the single most important skill, it would also be mindfulness. The practice of mindfulness creates skills of self-regulation, which actually calms the amygdala in our brains, enabling awareness and stability.
My first introduction to mindfulness in education came in Reynoldsburg City Schools when I was a long-term substitute teacher of Integrated Language Arts. The regular teacher, who was going to be absent for a while due to surgery, had left a note that her students like to watch zoo cams. Before the children arrived, I took a moment for an internet search to see what zoo cams existed and found several. I bookmarked those, and when the class was struggling to pay attention, I offered a short break to watch a zoo cam. They loved it. Soon zoo cams became my way of infusing a pause, using a quiet, mindful moment with animals as a sort of mindfulness practice.
For students and teachers in schools, there can be many shifts during the course of one day, and some seem seismic shifts. Maybe they woke up late, maybe traffic was bad or the bus driver was different and grumpy. Maybe their teacher got sick and they have a sub they do not know and who does things different. Whether these shifts are earthquakes, rumbles, or a fun new thing, depends on how the individual views them, can adapt, and self-regulates.
These are skills I now work to bring into schools through Mind Body Align, training students, teachers, and staff members. Mind Body Align’s Director of Education Julie Braumberger is a licensed elementary school teacher. She also hires former teachers to teach mindfulness-based social and emotional learning in schools. Together, we all work with teachers to improve their lives and the lives of their students by using these real tools which must be learned and practiced so they are accessible in times of need.
Recently, in a conversation with Julie, she said, “There is no substitute for using the breath and mindfulness in education. No amount of math flash cards or reading of books will substitute for learning how to pause and self-regulate when a stress occurs. Mindfulness is the missing piece in most educational programs, and it is also the secret to success in life.”
For teachers and other educators who make a shift and choose to leave the classroom to work in other facets of education, including administration or even outside schools in other businesses which support educational systems, they often greatly miss the students, teaching, and the whole classroom experience.
Mind Body Align has worked with and surveyed many educators. There are commonalities which emerge. Around the practice of mindfulness, professional development programs allow educators to see the value of mindfulness on the work experience, their personal lives outside of school, and the student experience in the classroom.
Valuable mindfulness skills, including a brain and body accustomed to self-regulation, benefit every profession, not just teachers and teachers who shift roles.
These skills are portable to all of life, easing pain and anxiety, and sometimes allowing joy, among all life’s shifts.
Checkout the Mind Body Align Episode!
If you'd like to hear more about Mind Body Align, checkout their episode with Annamarie Fernyak, the founder and CEO of Mind Body Align, and Julie Braumberger, former educator and director of Mind Body Align At School. In this episode they discuss the benefits of practicing mindfulness in education both as the student and teacher, tailoring their program to school culture, and the importance and impact of hiring teachers into companies like Mind Body Align.
Writer, Terise Ryan
Strategic Communications, Mind Body Align
Writer, Julie Braumberger
Director of Mind Body Align At School
& Former Teacher