When it became clear that the remainder of spring classes were migrating to an online/distance learning format, Dr. Becky Beucher, assistant professor in the School of Teaching and Learning, decided to host a virtual meet-up for faculty and staff in the College of Education to create a supportive space for colleagues to “bear witness to one another”. In this group, they could share about their transition, ask troubleshooting questions, and think about how mindfulness can help faculty, staff and students cope with the transition and uncertainties.
Beucher has taught online classes for the last couple of years so she was familiar with how to teach and support her students in that format. As she talked with colleagues across the college though, she heard some hesitations and realized that some of her colleagues were unsure about the transition and how to support students from a distance so she scheduled the virtual meet-up.
Beucher has practiced yoga and breath work for a decade now and believes this practice can help individuals deal with stress. She offers yoga and meditation to her students in face-to-face classes at stressful times during the semester. She felt that this practice would also be helpful to her colleagues as research shows that mindfulness can help calm the mind and settle the nervous system to help people build mental and physical resilience to stress.
“Educators are also caretakers of our students. Our students rely on our leadership, and they look to us for structure, support, and flexibility,” said Beucher. “Yoga and meditation help caretakers to stay grounded and centered in order to bear witness and hold students’ concerns and needs from a compassionate place.”
She began the initial virtual meeting with 15 minutes of breath work and meditation to help the group relax and get into a good mental place to talk about any issues they are facing and help their colleagues problem solve. The rest of the hour was spent in a sharing circle where colleagues took turns talking about their transition to online teaching and sharing issues that they were facing. The group was very supportive and offered many different perspectives and ideas to help colleagues prepare for the weeks ahead.
Beucher also encouraged her colleagues to consider offering mindfulness sessions in their classes to help students navigate the transition and adjust to the new norm. When she started her classes after the extended spring break, Beucher invited her students to join her in a short meditation, where they muted their sound and videos and followed along with her instruction for breath work and relaxation. Then, she asked them to unmute and followed up with a sharing circle where everyone could compassionately listen to each student’s experience.
“We transferred our classroom norms and practices into the digital space,” said Beucher.
Beucher has held a few shorter check-in sessions for colleagues as they get further into online classes and adjust to the new normal. She encourages colleagues to use mindfulness to help them deal with their own stresses, to ensure that they can find a compassionate place to listen and provide support for their students and to incorporate this practice into a few class sessions. She continues to host impromptu meditations as time allows and as interest arise. She is offering the next scheduled meditation on April 27th via zoom from 3:30-3:40pm and is hoping to host a few more sessions for colleagues as we finish the semester from a distance.
Beucher shared a few resources that you can use as you get started in mindfulness.