Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Teaching Mindfully

Happy Wednesday!

Something that I am consciously practicing this month is mindfulness.  I was fortunate to have the opportunity recently to attend a two-day Mindfulness training held at the ABC Home store in Flaitron.  First off, it was my first time in that space-- a unique, beautiful, commerce-meets-social-change, art-space-- and it is absolutely gorgeous, thoughtful and very expensive.

As for the Search Inside Yourself training, a.k.a. SIY, it was right on time for me.  Ever since I read The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle some time ago, I have been working on living in the present.  I tend to be "in my head" a lot, and an over-thinker, so the idea of living mindfully really resonated with me.  But busy as I am-- graduate school, commuting to a new school, balancing my personal life and maintaining a social life-- I was largely in go mode, just getting things done and making it look effortless.

Truly, presentation is half the battle of most things.  Look the part and the rest will come.  Or maybe that's just the style blogger, fashionista in me talking.  Either way, mindfulness, the state of being aware, is something I strive to do.  This is all to say that having two days of learning how to tap into awareness, practicing meditations, and reflecting on who I am and what's important to me, was just what I needed.  I think when it comes to learning about things that aren't tangible, it's helpful to be open to the process.  I was very open, so I learned a lot.  Ironically enough, the training touched upon the five components of emotional intelligence--self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills also referred to as leadership-- something that has recently become a significant, and named part of my teaching philosophy.

Something that I learned early on in my career is that I need to be aware of my emotional and mental states at all times, because teaching brings out all of who a person is whether we care to admit that or not.  I learned this while struggling through my early years of teaching self-contained classes, and had to learn how to empathize with students while maintaining my joy.  I also had to learn how to leave my personal life at the door, and do my best to be present to the students and adults who I encountered.  I didn't have the language for it at the time, but these were the beginnings of my spiritual journey.  Those were the days before I learned the power of deep-breathing exercises that got me through my last toxic work environment-- seriously people would ask how I was so happy, and really few of them knew that it was truly work for me to be that way.  I would say things like "Today is a good day," and "I will do my best, no more and no less," and I will handle all situations that come up effectively and "in this moment I have no problems, I am okay."  I would also take deep breaths upon entering the building and climbing the steps to the third floor.  I would also greet people genuinely, spreading good energy, love and light around me as I moved through the space.  I would smile even when I didn't feel it.  It may sound unbelievable, but it worked.  I made it through, and in a way, thrived.

The teacher, and person really, I am today embraces the power of affirmations and breathing practices, as well as physical movement like yoga or biking to release stress and other energies.  Whereas in my last job, I posted affirmations behind my desk just for me and my co-teacher to see and use, I now have large affirmations posted in my shared office for all to see, and some specific ones for my students.  One that I refer to often in talking with my colleagues, as well as students is: Always do your best.  No more and no less.  When one of us is trying to do too much and stressing outI literally point to the sign.  When one of my students has just finished talking his exam and is worrying about how he did, I point to the sign and say, you're doing too much right now.  It's amazing how quickly you can teach and reach people through example and keeping it simple.  Students are carrying some of what they learn in the space I created along with my awesome, kindred-spirit, office-mate into their other classes.  The teacher I am today also claims space as a positive space, no longer just through what's said and takes place inside of a room, but literally on my door this year is a sign that reads: This is a positive space and I honor that with my words and actions.  I chuckle to write that, but this is just me being myself and knowing what works for me and in turn those that I encounter.

I continue to be aware that my professional life mirrors my personal life, the common denominator being me and what I bring to all situations.   Prior to experiencing the Mindfulness workshop, I wasn't fully aware of the depths of self-awareness.  It's not just knowing the emotional and mental components of yourself, but also knowing your values, your triggers, your strengths, your weaknesses and being good with it all.  I truly believe that all educators people would benefit from that kind of learning of self and how to navigate the social-emotion stuff that is a huge part of our work lives.

What are your thoughts?

Love to all.

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