Although she originally planned to become a Serbian language and literature teacher, Tatjana teaches a highly interactive and interdisciplinary Cambridge subject at the International School – Global perspectives. This subject further strengthened her competencies related to instruction where students acquire the skills of academic writing and critical thinking, which Tatjana already possessed. She uses a conscious and assertive approach to teaching and communication, which yields excellent academic results, but also contributes to the development of student’s socio-emotional competencies. In her practice, Tatjana aims to help students understand the purpose of education and advancement, but also how to apply that knowledge in practice and everyday life. Through the school club she runs at International School, Tatjana presents the techniques of conscious and assertive communication, which is a very useful skill. The relationship with oneself and others, ways in which we cope with stress and relieve stress are the basics taught in her club. All these elements are also applied in communication with parents and colleagues, so one of the school projects coordinated by Tatjana is “Parents’ Turn to Teach” within which she establishes closer communication with parents through direct interaction. In addition to the said project, she also runs several workshops with the aim of teaching and advising her colleagues on how to cope with stress, and how to become more aware so as to save their strength for future challenges that teaching entails.
Being a mindful teacher with a conscious approach to teaching and learning is a new MUST since teachers work in difficult times and face a lot of stress: challenging students, lack of student motivation, bad communication among students, parents and colleagues, noise, low living standard. Teachers work overtime and use a lot of vital energy throughout the day spent teaching, guiding, communicating, mentoring and providing support for others.
Who helps them recharge? Who reciprocates all that love and commitment? Their students. They give energy to the classroom and their teachers. In the time of the pandemic, students left school and faced the distance between them and their teachers. Still, teachers had to continue their work in cyberspace and in the classroom. How difficult has it been?
An assertive and conscious, mindful approach is the way to stay stable, balanced and motivated. Changing the approach and being ready to accept new forms and ways of teaching and learning is the key to a magnificent field of opportunities that will bring peace and prosperity to the personal and professional life of teachers. Therefore, this approach to teaching can be a new way of facing issues and earning the best rewards in teaching – peace, acceptance and mindful life.
Gates to Now
These are the first and the most important ways to start engaging in conscious practices. The so-called Gates to Now approach provides an introduction to the following techniques. According to Ekhart Tolle, it can be easy for anyone to understand and implement them.
- First gate: Conscious breathing
It is advised to focus attention on breathing, so before every class, every meeting, make sure you focus your attention on breathing. Each time we take a long inhale, and a nice long exhale, we can notice that we feel calmer and focused. This is presence and consciousness. This is the method we should practice and repeat all the time.
- Second gate: Meditation
Meditation is an ancient and recognised approach that introduces more balance into everyday life. It can be practiced in a traditional way, or keeping our eyes open, which is the perfect way to do it all the time, on every occasion. Teachers who do not practise it because of their religious beliefs, should focus on breathing techniques.
- Third gate: Power of the present moment
The key factor here is to become aware of your body, your inner being, your organs. We need to be more aware of presence, since we tend to spend too much time in the past, too much time rushing to the future, trying to find happiness and peace in the upcoming events and accomplishments, while our life is happening in this moment. Being more present in each present moment will bring calm, presence and acceptance.
Spending time in silence
As pointed out earlier, noise can be a significant stress trigger in school environment. Teachers sometimes aren’t aware of it; they get used to it and live with it. This should be practiced and is considered to be helpful after an exhausting class, or meeting. It is nice and recommended to spend some time in silence. It does not have to happen at any particular place or time, it is important to become aware of the silence within. We need to feel it, to become aware of it. If you try and feel it, you will notice that you can be at any place that is crowded and noisy, but you will feel profound peace and silence.
Now, imagine a teacher who spends most of his time in school in this state of mind? This teacher would be productive, but calm, happy and willing to transfer his state of mind to others, students, colleagues and parents. In addition, silence is a natural state and we were all aware of it before our mind won and that awareness was lost. Doing this takes us back to the beginning of our path, our life of peace and joy. Let silence be your everyday guide.
Mindful practices in school environment demonstrate teachers’ ability to focus on the present moment, to direct conscious attention to the work, results and personality of their students. A mindful teacher has a nice personality, he/she is calm, ready to cooperate, open-minded, less prone to stress and students recognise that on a very specific level, the level of joint communication and positive emotional exchange. Academic results and social emotional stability will follow.
Attention and awareness are equally important in the communication with parents and colleagues, since parents are sensitive, especially to criticism, yet they tend to criticize a lot, and on the other hand, teachers are under stress and can react negatively in times of burnout. If an issue is approached mindfully, stress levels are decreased and people are able to find creative solutions to problems.
Consciousness is endless
It is impossible to start mindfulness and conscious practice and then stop it. This process will never stop, it is going to be part of your daily routines. However, it may sometimes seem that you are miles away from it when you feel anxious, tired, exhausted or even depressed, but it is impossible to stop the practice or to leave this path once you start. This is an endless cycle and a skill to last you a lifetime. It is important to remember that you can be down for a while, but using mindfulness can be a solution for difficult life challenges – finding peace and acceptance mode in every situation. Teachers are very important to society, so their personal spiritual growth is the most important investment that will pay off and help them and the generations to come. Hopefully, teachers will become more mindful in the future, so we can expect the same from future generations. This will be essential for collective consciousness and awakening.