Teaching Mindfully

Mindful teacher courses will soon be offered in Fargo to assist teachers in reducing stress.

According to North Dakota United, “More than half of the educators in a survey of nearly 5,000 respondents say that their mental health is an issue: 58 percent said their mental health was ‘not good’ for seven or more of the previous 30 days. A survey from 2015 had found just 34 percent of educators felt that way.”

The stress educators face is affecting their sleep patterns, with 78 percent getting only five to seven hours of sleep per night.

“The courses started after I had spent years working with kids as a school-based occupational therapist and recognized the growing levels of stress, burnout and anxiety among teachers and other support staff,” Heidi Demars, founder and director of training of Mindful You – Mindful Me, said.

Nick Archuleta, president of North Dakota United, said, “North Dakota United represents 11,500 public employees statewide, at work in K-12 schools in every community of our state, our 11 public universities and in city, county and state government. A big part of our mission at ND United is to provide professional development opportunities to all of our members to help them to become the polished professionals that our state’s students and citizens deserve.”

Members of ND United are regularly asked what types of professional development courses they want, and stress management often comes up from public educators and employees.

After becoming certified as a Mindfulness Educator, Demars began offering her services to local schools in Bismarck and partnered with ND United to work with other districts.

“These mindfulness trainings are our opportunity to connect our members with techniques and strategies that will benefit them personally and professionally,” Archuleta said.

According to Demars, her “ultimate goal is to integrate mindfulness into the classroom to address the social and emotional needs of children, like self-regulation and emotional balance, but as research shows, a mindful classroom begins with a mindful teacher.”

For education professionals to do their best, they have to feel that way, which is why ND United chose Demars to assist members in overcoming stress and to lead healthier lives.

“Teachers and education support professionals in our public schools have witnessed an increase in workplace pressures and stagnant wages,” Archuleta said. “It is not surprising, then, that we have seen an increase in job related stress and anxiety.”

“An unrelated survey from UCLA showed that 51.4 percent of teachers reported more students are experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety than in previous years,” ND United said in their press release.

Teachers and students benefit from these courses, and evidence suggests that mindful interventions help improve attention, emotional resilience, memory and self-control.

“This mindfulness training will provide teachers with the tools to develop a personal mindfulness practice, reduce stress, frustration and burnout by combining movement, breath-work, mindful awareness and self-care practices that can be integrated easily into the school day,” Demars said.

The courses are designed to help teachers cultivate inner resources for self-care and resiliency to help reduce burnout and to create greater peace and productivity, learn how to meet and navigate intense emotions to cope with stressors of being a teacher and to understand how mindfulness is connected with communication and interactions with students and other staff members.

Part 1: The Mindful Teacher was offered in Fargo Nov. 11 and Part 2: Mindful Classroom will start in early 2018.

“As educators are able to achieve mindfulness for themselves, personally, they can then pass those lessons on down to the kids they work with each day in the classroom,” Archuleta said.

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