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Med in school

Can compassion meditation benefit school teachers?

Scientific evidence that mindfulness produces demonstrable effects on well-being and health is well established.(1) Mindfulness classes are offered in many different contexts, to healthcare professionals, secondary school students or patients suffering from depression.(2) There is now also a significant body of research showing that mindfulness-based methods to develop empathy lead to a decrease in the biological markers of stress. (3)(4) Participants found they had greater compassion for themselves and for others after just two weeks of applying the techniques.(5) Happier teachers means happier students. An article in next month's Review of Educational Research corroborates existing studies on how teacher empathy improves student's engagement and achievement.(6)

For the first time in Europe, these tools will be offered specifically to school teachers. Christine Longaker, who has 30 years of experience in training healthcare professionals and social workers, including in mindfulness and empathy, explains: “These tools have benefited healthcare professionals for many years and now it is time to share them specifically with educators. Just like healthcare, teaching is a very noble, but stressful, profession. When teachers learn how to apply mindfulness and compassion toward themselves, they will experience more fulfilment in life and satisfaction at work.” (7)

  1. See for example Richard J. Davidson, PhD, Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, et al (2002), Alterations in Brain and Immune Function Produced by Mindfulness Meditation.

  2. Organisations offering mindfulness in the UK include the Mental Heath Foundation http://www.bemindful.co.uk/ and the Mindfulness in Schools Project http://www.mindfulnessinschools.org/

  3. James Doty, Director of the Stanford University Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education wrote in the Washington Post on 26 March 2011: “In a number of studies using a variety of psychological and biological measures and neuroimaging techniques, compassion not only stimulates one’s pleasure or reward centers but also leads to a decrease in biological markers of stress and an increase in indices of adaptive immune function. So what’s not to like about being compassionate? It improves survival of the species, leads to happiness and results in improved health.”

  4. http://www.emoryhealthsciblog.com/?tag=geshe-lobsang-tenzin-negi

  5. http://positivepsychologynews.com/news/kathryn-britton/2011101119494

  6. Debora L. Roorda et al, The Influence of Affective Teacher–Student Relationships on Students’ School Engagement and Achievement: A Meta-Analytic Approach, in Review of Educational Research, December 2011.

  7. http://www.spcare.org/ and www.mind-with-heart.blogspot.com/p/breaks-for-teachers.html