The mindful teacher – How emotional regulation can help you and your students

Photo of teacher modelling lotus position in front of a school class

Your mood can have a profound effect on how your students behave – so make sure you pay attention to your own mindset as well as theirs…

Kamalagita Hughes
by Kamalagita Hughes

Have you ever considered that how you are – your mood, associated behaviours and responses – is a huge influencing factor on the atmosphere of the classroom?

Often, you’re not fully conscious of your moods, and yet they have an effect on others. By becoming mindful of your internal weather, you can make a difference between being a calm breeze or whipping up a storm in the classroom.

Studies show that your thoughts aren’t separate from your emotions. Emotions, how you are feeling, tend to colour your thoughts, views, judgement of people, things and events. Sometimes it’s hard to know how you’re feeling, especially in a busy environment like a school where it can feel like you’re being bombarded from the moment you walk in until the moment you walk out – but emotions, your mood, can affect your lessons, interactions, relationships and how well your day goes.

Having some awareness of what your internal weather is and giving it some space to settle will have an effect on staff and students around you. It will send a signal to their nervous systems that they can begin to calm down and settle too.*

Research shows that emotional regulation is the aspect of mindfulness practice that staff find most helpful.** We’re not talking in-depth counselling, but becoming aware of your mood and internal weather, can help you make choices that result in your day going more smoothly.

Try spending a few minutes just tuning in to how you’re doing. This can be done sitting in your car before leaving or arriving for work.

  • Close your eyes, or have a soft gaze, and ask yourself, ‘What’s my internal weather right now?
  • An image might come to you, like a rain cloud or a hazy sky. Or you might have some sense of mood – sunny, stormy, bright or dull. Be patient, as you might not get an immediate response.
  • Whatever you find, don’t judge this state. Acknowledging it gives you information, from where you can decide what would be helpful today. In this way, you can start to make choices about your day.
  • Gently open your eyes if they’ve been closed, or refocus, to the broader environment around you.
  • Whatever you’ve discovered, try not to fix this mood, or think that’s how it always is or always will be.

Kamalagita Hughes is a qualified teacher and lecturer, and has been practising mindfulness for 25 years; this item is based on an extract from her book, The Mindful Teacher’s Handbook, available now (£16.99, Crown House Publishing)

*L. Flook, S. B. Goldberg, L. Pinger, K. Bonus and R. J. Davidson, Mindfulness for teachers: a pilot study to assess effects on stress, burnout, and teaching efficacy, Mind, Brain, and Education 7 (2013): 182–195.

**Y. Hwang, B. Bartlett, M. Greben and K. Hand, A systematic review of mindfulness interventions for in-service teachers: a tool to enhance teacher wellbeing and performance, Teaching and Teacher Education 64 (2017): 26–42

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