One mid-June morning, before dawn, sitting on an outside stone
bench in rural Mississippi cradling a cup of warm tea, I listened to a
beautiful Vietnamese chant, indecipherable, but accompanied by a huge bell, a tone
that penetrated the morning air and awakened my mindful self. As a teacher of mindfulness, I will always be
a student of mindfulness.
While many think that teachers have three months off during
the summer, they are often quite busy. In my first few weeks this summer, I was
both a teacher and a student.
The Martin Institute Conference, held on the campus of
Presbyterian Day School, provides professional development for educators
“centered on critical and creative thinking, collaboration, and brain-based
research.” At this year’s conference, The Heart and Soul of Teaching, June
9-10, I presented Cultivate Mindfulness
for Effective Teaching to 30 teachers and administrators. The
presentation was an introduction to mindfulness and its practice for
the teachers themselves including instruction for mindful listening, breathing,
movement, eating, being mindful of thoughts and emotions, and the
science behind mindfulness. The session also included suggestions
for introducing mindfulness into the classroom, using creative ways
to help students strengthen their awareness, decrease stress, improve
impulse control and cultivate more compassion and kindness. Teachers were
introduced to resources, such as Mindful Schools, an organization that trains educators
around the world in mindfulness, as well as print materials, websites and apps
for ongoing development of a mindfulness practice.
A week later, I became a student at
Magnolia Grove Meditation Practice Center near Batesville, Miss. A group of 32
monks and nuns who dedicate their lives to mindfulness as an integral part of
their practice of Buddhism presented Happy
Teachers Will Change the World. During this four-day retreat, participants
from several states practiced sitting meditation, deep relaxation, mindful
eating, participated in group discussions, and listened to talks by the
monastics as well as a video of Zen master Thích Nhất Hạnh specifically directed to teachers.
This experience helped deepen my practice of mindfulness,
allowing me to be more aware of each moment in my environment and within
myself. An authentic practice is the
foundation for sharing mindfulness with students.
Suzanne Martin '75 is a Religion and Mindfulness teacher at Immaculate
Conception Cathedral School. She has presented Mindfulness workshops and
sessions for teachers for three years.
Pictured above: Suzanne Martin '78 (second from left) visits last month with her classmates at the Magnolia Grove Meditation Practice Center near Batesville, Miss., where she and her classmates attended a retreat on mindfulness. Earlier in the month, Martin was a presenter at the Martin Institute Conference held at Presbyterian Day School.