Educators are feeling time poor

Educators are feeling time poor, overworked and stressed.  This is the finding of repeated studies in Australia and overseas. Workload intensification is motivating many educators to make a career change or take early retirement. A Monash University study claimed even early career educators are at risk of burnout. Headlines in various media sources have described the current state of play in the teaching profession as a ‘crisis’. It is, for individuals and for society. It is a crisis that is insidiously masked by what has become a cultural norm.

Feeling like there’s never enough time is a sign of the times. For most of us, workload intensification is our reality and with it comes the stress and distress of overwork. In a timely article for The Conversation, Zoe Krupka points out that many of us, especially women, work too much to really be well and that the only antidote is to stop overworking. In a culture where busy has become the new normal, and busyness, like business, assumed the status of virtue and is worn as a badge of honour, stopping is easier said than done.Yoga2GoKids3

Inhabiting this culture of busyness is living a toxic paradox: the demands of work leave no time to live the life we are working for.  Becoming aware of the paradoxes that are at work in our lives can help us to see more clearly how life is working for us, or not. Becoming aware of how this paradox was at work in my life as an early childhood teacher  set me on the path of practicing mindfulness and bringing mindfulness to life at school.

Along the way I became aware that mindfulness is shot through with paradoxes such as: being less concerned about the result makes it easier to work effectively with the process, cultivating humility increases self-confidence, attending to our emotions helps regulate them. And, most pertinently: making time for mindfulness practice makes time.

For educators working with these paradoxes of mindful awareness, they can restore a sense of wellbeing and purpose that takes the pressure off classroom and collegial relationships and external demands. Educators and others who have attended mindfulness courses have testified that practicing mindfulness helps them at home and at work and the benefits for educators and children are being expounded in various forums.

Practicing mindfulness is not difficult but it does take practice and practice pays off in a variety of ways. A little practice often is better than a lot of practice occasionally. Daily is better than weekly, weekly better than monthly, monthly better than yearly.  For me, making a mantra of ‘five minutes a day never goes astray’ helped me to remember to stop whatever I was doing and give myself five minutes to simply sit and pay attention to the sensations of breathing. When we have become addicted to doing, the first step towards breaking the habit of busyness is simply remembering to give yourself permission to stop. This might be for as long as a single breath or for several minutes.

If you’re curious and a bit keen to give practicing mindfulness a go, try simply practicing STOP.  It’s a practice I learned when I first did the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course and that I routinely use and incorporate into courses and retreats. STOP is an acronym. ‘S’ stands for stop, ‘T’ stands for take a breath, ‘O’ stands for open to awareness (of sensations – physical sensations, sound, touch, taste, smell, sight, as well as feeling tone and thinking), and ‘P’ stands for proceed.  That’s it. All you need to do is remember to stop, take a breath and notice (with an attitude of friendly non-judgmental curiosity) what’s happening in and around you right now, then proceed with whatever you were doing. You can do this wherever you are, whenever you like several times a day if you want. You can do it alone or you can do it with the children in your class.

Start making time for mindfulness and mindfulness will start making time for you. To start, simply stop.

Sharn Rocco

Having experienced first hand the benefits of practicing mindfulness – feeling less stressed, more focused, open, flexible and organized, Dr Sharn Rocco began integrating mindfulness practices into her pedagogy and researching and teaching mindfulness in education, healthcare and community settings. In 2012, while scholar-in-residence for the Initiative on Contemplative Teaching and Learning at the Garrison Institute New York, Sharn resigned her tenure at James Cook University, to dedicate herself to the work of bringing mindfulness to life. Sharn has designed a unique Professional Development opportunity for teachers: Bringing Mindfulness to Life@School. The value of mindfulness in education begins with the mindful teacher and extends to offering mindfulness practices to students as a life skill. Practicing mindfulness helps teachers to establish and maintain supportive and safe learning environments. This is what underpins the design and delivery of the unique Professional Development course, ‘Bringing Mindfulness to Life@School’.

4 thoughts on “Educators are feeling time poor”

    Marion Brook says:

    Hmm, Mindfulness cannot reduce our workload. Pretending it can is… naive at best.
    The piece is a good answer to the piece above “Why wellness isn’t the answer to overwork” The money quote:”No amount of multivitamins, yoga, meditation, sweaty exercise, superfoods or extreme time management, as brilliant as all these things can be, is going to save us from the effects of too much work. This is not something we can adapt to. Not something we need to adjust the rest of our lives around. It is not possible and it’s unethical to pretend otherwise.”

    Sharn Rocco says:

    So true. “Wellness is not the answer to overwork” is a timely article. The contribution of mindfulness practice and its effects, including feeling less pressured for time, can be feeling like we have enough time and confidence to resist unreasonable demands and to do so with greater calm and clarity.

    Danielle Gagnon says:

    I would agree that shifting our perspective can create feelings of calmness and clarity. It is not about pretending that we have everything in check; mindfulness creates an equanimous mindset, in which what we do comes more at ease, because we have more inner peace. So while we feel that we are working too much, at least we can do so while feeling peaceful inside. Otherwise, find another job and stop complaining 🙂

    Maree Aldwinckle says:

    Anne, many times milestones are learning. I am really heartily sick of the understanding child development, which in essence is child psychology, being continually bashed. De-emphasising an understanding of development for early childhood professionals is like telling a doctor that they no longer need to understand anatomy. Yes, we want educators to look beyond behaviour, we always have, especially in relation to emotional development and cognitive development. Some aspects of learning and development are more directly observable than others. Not all milestones are directly observable either. Oversimplification of concepts and ideas and continual bad pressing the ideas of understanding child development is not doing the early childhood sector any favours!

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