Mindfulness and Trauma-Informed Teaching

In the past couple of years I have had the opportunity to take classes in my district on mindfulness and on trauma-informed teaching. Both were fantastic and got me thinking about how to do a better job responding to students and working with children. I definitely believe in the benefits of both. I definitely believe teachers benefit from having an understanding of both.

From Mariano Cuajao’s flickr

That said, with all the focus on mindfulness and trauma-informed teaching, maybe the problem is that we’re asking kids to behave in ways that are antithetical to being a kid. Maybe we should consider what we are asking kids to do and be sure it is reasonable. How long are we asking students to sit on the carpet? Are we asking them to sit criss-cross, applesauce, hands-to-themselves, right in rows for that time? Are we expecting students to be silent for extended periods of time? Are we expecting students to be ‘on task’ for long periods? Are our expectations appropriate for the age of our students? Are our expectations humane?

Or, maybe we’re making kids sit through content and lessons that are completely of no interest to them. How many of us could do day after day of content that does not interest us? Especially if it is difficult for us. If students do not have choice in their day (and even in the best of situations students have very little choice as they do the same content as everyone else their age) can we truly expect them to behave as we desire?

Or even, maybe we’re trying to make them fit our mold rather than recognizing that they are already formed and we could meet them as who they are.

Again, I believe in mindfulness and trauma-informed teaching. I am concerned they will become (or already are for some) tools for controlling children. We have seen that happen with grit. It’s not hard to imagine.

With the best of intentions, with intense reflection, with great love of and joy in children, I make mistakes in how I treat my students and respond to them. Every single day. The more I learn about mindfulness and trauma-informed teaching, the less I believe I make those mistakes. At least not the  same ones. Still, I have to keep in mind why I believe in mindfulness and trauma-informed teaching. They are tools that help me treat my students with respect and with care. Just as I hope I would treat anyone. They are not about getting kids to do what I want them to do.

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