“Just notice your breath, the sensation of your air coming in, going out,” says Christa Turksma, a Dutch woman dressed all in white with silver-white hair. She’s one of the co-founders of Cultivating Awareness and Resilience for Educators, or CARE for Teachers.
For the past nine years at this annual five-day summer retreat, and now within schools, CARE for Teachers teaches what’s called mindfulness: calming the body and mind through breathing and movement, and using insights from psychology to better regulate your emotions.
They do a series of role-playing activities to practice listening and conducting difficult conversations with a boss, fellow teacher, parent or student. It’s the first mindfulness program to be partially funded by the U.S. Department of Education — and aimed at teachers, not directly at students.
Teaching is inherently a stressful occupation, and by many accounts, it’s getting more so. Students bring the effects of poverty and trauma into the classroom. Administrators lay on the pressure to meet ever-changing standards. In the last few years, teacher job satisfaction has reportedly plummeted to a 25-year low, and turnover is high — almost 50 percent for new teachers.