Mindfulness and the beginning teacher
Teaching is stressful. A number of studies have demonstrated that teachers are not coping in the classroom and many are leaving the profession (Viola, 2009). To promote self esteem and self efficacy for beginning teachers and to help them cope with the stress and isolation prevalent in the first year, resilience training is needed (Keltchermans & Ballet, 2002; Molner Kelley, 2004; Findlay, 2006). Pastoral support and assistance for personal and emotional issues have potentially significant impacts on resilience and performance for beginning teachers. However, few mentoring programmes consider these stressors which, when addressed in a structured mentoring programme, have a significant impact on improving teacher efficacy and job retention rates (Gless & Moir, 2004).
Mindfulness, a form of contemplative practice, is used throughout the world for personal wellness (Kabat-Zinn, 2005). Prior to the past five years, though, there have been few programmes in tertiary education that included contemplative practice (Bush, 2011).
This doctoral study reviews the findings from the individual ‘lived experiences’ of a small group of beginning teachers who were introduced to mindfulness. The purpose of these exercises was to improve their ability to be more compassionate, more focused and more aware of the present moment (Kabat-Zinn, 2005). Based on perceived reductions in stress and increased ability to cope with the needs of individual students, the results of this study indicated that mindfulness was a significant part of the initial teacher education and professional development programmes for the participants.
A hermeneutic phenomenological study was undertaken to describe the personal and professional lived experiences of these beginning teachers. Mindfulness itself was used alongside hermeneutics and phenomenology. Mindful meditation strategies outlined by Zajonc (2009) and Kabat-Zinn (2005) were implemented to complete the data interpretation. The philosophies of hermeneutic phenomenology espoused by Husserl, Heidegger and Gadamer were drawn upon to describe the participants’ lived experiences.