As a teacher, I’m constantly reflecting on best practices. How can I be a better teacher? What does it mean to be a better teacher? My focus over the years has varied. I started out focusing on classroom management, it was all about controlling the classroom environment. Then I focused on motivation, how to get students involved. I focused on differentiation, attempting to challenge each student at whatever level they are in my class. I focused on my tone, the choice of clothing and how I present myself, how I communicate with parents and the community. On my career goals, obtaining a second credential for CTE, getting a second Masters, creating clubs, etc.
What I’ve come to realize that as important as all of these factors are – and they really are important – the most important factor was something that I was not focusing on. In many ways I was ignoring it all together. This factor that’s so immensely important is the social-emotional well-being and intelligence of my students and myself.
What is social-emotional intelligence? In Social Neuroscience: Key Readings, it’s defined “as an array of emotional and social abilities, competencies and skills that enable individuals to cope with daily demands and be more effective in their personal and social life.” Great, so what does that mean? I think it means that by understanding our own emotions, and the emotions of others, we’re able to cope better with “daily demands” and we can potentially handle better our “personal and social life.”
So, by students and teachers taking a few moments to calmly think about their own emotional state, by getting in touch with the present and understanding our own feelings, we can handle our days a little better, maybe a little more focused, maybe with a little more patience – with others AND ourselves.
This week, students in all of my classes, we started taking a little time each day to look at what Mindfulness can do for us in the classroom. When we come back from Thanksgiving week, we’ll start every period, every day with a few moments of Mindfulness.