Every year at my children’s school, parents get to describe the classroom they want their children to be in the following year in order to have a say in the child’s placement. Every year on my forms, amongst other details specific to each child, I write, “No screaming.”
Who wants their kid to have a screaming teacher? Yet, can you blame a teacher for going over the edge? State-mandated curriculum, test scores, behavior issues, learning challenges, overcrowded classrooms, being underpaid, administrative demands, clueless parents, all crammed into a six-hour day, and then some. Undoubtedly, teaching can be deeply rewarding, and I love and appreciate teachers very much. But there are more than enough reasons why teaching can also be very stressful. Perhaps this is a big part of why, according to a 2003 study by Ingersoll and Smith, almost one of every two teachers leaves the classroom after five years.
Teachers are often required to attend workshops aimed at training them to handle curricula in ways that will improve the learning of their students. While new reading strategies and math games can be helpful, isn’t their effectiveness diminished when the tone in the classroom is stressful, and the teachers themselves are worn out, tense and losing it?
New York’s Garrison Institute’s Initiative on Contemplation & Education offers a federally-funded training program, Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education (CARE), aimed at helping teachers improve their classroom environments by learning to become aware of their own stress and anxiety while teaching, and how to use mindfulness- and contemplative-based techniques to manage their emotions, rather than be reactive. The goal is to give teachers tools that they can apply in the classroom in order to create and maintain supportive relationships with their students while managing classrooms effectively.
Rather than focusing on what teachers teach, the CARE approach focuses on how teachers teach. During a CARE workshops equip teachers will experience meditation exercises along with breath work, kindness practice, deep listening, and movement such as walking meditation, martial arts or yoga.
In addition to training at its Hudson Valley location, Garrison offers in-service programs on request.