DALLAS – There are stresses that can impact and interfere with a student’s learning, both at school and at home. It is how a child deals with the distractions that can help determine their success. It is how a teacher manages their own stress that be a game changer in the classroom.

“Allow the back of your head to rest on the seat,” Chelsey Charbeneau whispered to a large group of teachers during a meditation exercise.

“Let’s take a moment to just rest and to pause,” she continued.

It is the end of the school year, and some Dallas Independent School District teachers are still practicing ways to be as present as possible.

“Invite a deep breath in through your nose,” Charbeneau instructed the group. “Open the mouth and let it go.”
The exercise is a new approach, where meditation is just one mindfulness strategy. It is an option in a tool box encouraging teachers to focus on themselves, in order to better help their students.

”It’s cutting edge,” said Principal Marlon Brooks.

The teachers are among large groups of Dallas ISD employees engaging in Social Emotional Learning seminars with University of North Texas-Dallas’ Emerging Teacher Institute. It is an innovative program, considering many educators are highly stressed, working in high pressure environments, and retention rates are becoming a major challenge.

”You know, we are losing teachers by the drove,” Brooks explained. “We aren’t addressing those needs when we get the teachers in, and with all due respect to the college preparation programs, those needs aren’t all being addressed.”

For months, students from 12 campuses, mostly across southern and West Dallas, have also been participating in similar Social Emotional Learning exercises.

Dr. John Gasko is Dean of UNT Dallas’ School of Education.

Gasko explained, “If we expect teachers, who are on the front lines of the caring profession, to really cultivate the relationships that they need to get young people to great, we’ve got to pay attention to their own ability to deal with stress.”

Mindfulness for Educators is encouraging teachers to rest and refocus. Chelsey Charbeneau is helping the group with tactics.

Charbeneau explained, ”We’re teaching them simple breathing exercises, four-count breath, alternate nostril breathing. We’re teaching them present moment awareness.”

Educators say the strategies may be part of a changing culture on some campuses.