June 2, 2016 Olivia Otten

Mindful of Teacher Wellbeing

A teacher’s sense of wellbeing impacts directly on their students’ wellbeing. As one of the most rewarding careers, it can also be a stressful and emotionally-demanding profession, particularly for teachers working in under-resourced communities South Africa.

In South Africa 56.8% of the population lives in poverty, the teachers and their students alike face social challenges, resulting in aggravated stress and burnout. The result is that the quality of education is affected – in the Western Cape the average teacher is absent 19 days of the year, the highest rate in the Southern African Development community. South African teachers in particular require stress management techniques to deal with the emotional challenges

How can teachers develop these techniques to help them to deal with everyday stressful situations and guard against long-term burnout? According to a new teacher mindfulness study conducted by the University of Wisconsin’s Centre for Investigating Healthy Minds, practicing mindfulness could significantly reduce teacher burnout, improve their classroom management and increase their self-compassion. The result would be increased quality of education for students.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness stems from centuries-old traditions and is now a fast-growing popular and secular technique to heighten attention, empathy and other positive emotions through awareness of thoughts, external stimuli and body sensations – such as breath.

More simply, mindfulness is ‘paying attention to the present moment, without judgement’.

However, the average teacher faces a plethora of demands simultaneously and continually, making the act of paying attention to the present moment incredibly difficult. Additionally, passing judgement is an emotional reflex, especially when confronted with a misbehaving child.

Why should teachers practice mindfulness?

Mindfulness research indicates great psychological, physical and social benefits, especially for teachers. For example, studies show that just 8 weeks of practicing mindfulness significantly boosts our immune system, it is a good antidepressant and increases our ability to learn, concentrate, regulate our emotions and empathize

More importantly for teachers, there is scientific evidence that teaching mindfulness in the classroom reduces behavior problems and aggression among students, and improves their happiness levels and ability to pay attention. Teachers trained in mindfulness can pass-on techniques to students.

For this reason, Earthchild Project hosted their first Teachers Wellness Convention on 28 May, 2016. The convention provided teachers from under-resourced schools in Khayelitsha and the Cape Flats the opportunity to practise yoga and dance, and to attend art therapy, healing massage treatments, nutritional and dietary workshops and meditation. Teachers were able to focus on their own wellbeing.

Mindfulness Resources



About the Author

Olivia Otten Olivia Otten is an Earthchild Project Content Creation Intern. She is an English major at the University of Cape Town who is passionate about yoga and holistic living. She was first introduced to yoga at age 12 as a tool to deal with anxiety, however it was at age 17 that she began to truly discover the healing and transformative power of yoga. Other than yoga, Olivia also has a deep love for children, dogs and peanut butter.

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