by Lisa Thomas Prince
When I first transitioned from my role as a K-8 teacher of world languages to a teacher of mindfulness, I was thrilled to bring into my professional life what had been, until that point, my mostly personal practice of mindfulness meditation. But conveying to these squirrely preschool-aged kiddos in front of me the mindset that took years of yoga and meditation practice to develop was a bigger challenge than I expected. My sense of
equanimity in practice wasn’t prepared for the 4 year olds who couldn’t control their aggression, the kids who screamed out in the middle of our lessons, the multitude of questions, the tears shed in frustration, or my reactions to the cumulative effects of these things.
At the time, I didn’t really know of others doing similar work. I wish I might have found a way to connect with others, maybe even just a small group of teachers to practice with, to ask questions of, and to share in the journey of our work with kids. Instead, I found myself searching for a curriculum, lesson plans, a teacher’s guide, or any such support materials to guide me. My uncertainty led me to look for something outside of myself, in hopes of somehow strengthening my confidence in teaching these important and affirming practices.
Thankfully, a colleague invited me to a group of mindfulness teachers who meet regularly to share their challenges, exchange stories, and join in practice together. In this space of community and trust, we talk about what’s happening for each of us as a teacher and learn from what’s happening for others. We also use the time as a training ground for noticing our own inner experience, without the pressure of being in front of a group of students.
Through our community practicing together, I have learned that no matter what curriculum, lesson plans, or teacher’s guide I might use, the strength in my teaching comes from my ability to recognize my experience in the midst of the energy and excitement of the classroom and to be present, really present, to whatever it is I – as
well as the kids – may be experiencing. In practicing with others and sharing honestly with them, I’m strengthening my ability to stay with the challenges and appreciate the joys of working with squirrely children of all ages.
And so, I was thrilled to see that as a part of the upcoming Bridging the Hearts and Minds of Youth conference, a Friday morning session is being offered to create a community of practice for attendees. The Morning of Practice and Connection will offer a block of time for personal practice and connections with people working towards similar goals. We can share our challenges and joys, learn from each other, and hold our own personal experiences with kindness and curiosity while wrapped in the supportive atmosphere of practice. Throughout the conference, attendees also have the chance to participate in a home group; a community formed specifically as a place to ask questions, make suggestions, and share support. We have so much to learn from and to offer each other, perhaps even connections to make that will sustain us in our work long after the conference ends. In community, we can share with each other strength for the journey. I hope you’ll join me in community on Friday morning and in a home group.