The Mindful Teacher: Uncovering strategies for overcoming stress.

Year: 2018

Author: Lemon, Narelle, McDonough, Sharon

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Becoming a teacher is a complex journey. There are many intricacies to identifying as a future teacher, and for many there are a variety of reasons for why one nominates this a career trajectory. As a part of this how one forms their identity, beliefs, self-efficacy, and resources in regards to coping and skills connected to the role of being a teacher develops over the course of initial teacher education in connection to professional experiences across a variety of contexts including at university, within educational settings, and within the community (Darling-Hammond, 2012, 2014; Garvis, 2010; Garvis & Pendergast, 2010; Lemon & Garvis, 2013; Mergler & Tangen, 2010; O’Neil & Stephenson, 2012; Turner et al., 2004).
Teacher self-efficacy develops during teacher education with highly effective teacher education able to support and enhance self-efficacy. Teachers set goals, anticipate outcomes and monitor their actions as they reflect on their personal efficacy and the developmental self-efficacy beliefs of beginning teachers are important for investigation as they enable us to identify experiences that support the development of skills and strategies that foster self-efficacy and coping. Coping is a practical construct that is relevant and imperative for adaption to social and cultural contexts.  Research in coping increasingly deals with how individuals can enhance their quality of life through the use of effective coping strategies. Lazarus and Folkman (1984) define coping "as constantly changing cognitive and behavioural efforts to manage specific external and/or internal demands that are appraised as taxing or exceeding the resources of the person" (p.141). The cognitive, affective and behavioural aspects of the coping process are addressed in this definition and this research seeks to identify the challenges that pre-service teachers and the way they draw on a range of coping strategies in order to navigate these challenges.
In this paper we share a qualitative research project in which we examine the construction of productive coping strategies associated with the practice of mindfulness when dealing with the challenges associated with learning to become a teacher. We explore if pre-service teachers identify mindfulness practices as a support for coping with the challenges of learning to teach. We also offer suggestions and strategies for encouraging pre-service teachers to draw on formal and informal mindfulness practices as part of their approach to coping strategies for learning about the complexity of teaching.