Heart-Based Teaching: A Mindfulness Program for Preservice Teachers

Heart-Based Teaching: A Mindfulness Program for Preservice Teachers

Timothy W. Pedigo, Glenna Lambert Howell
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5748-7.ch005
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Heart-Based Teaching, a mindfulness training program embedded in the professional education curriculum of preservice teacher candidates, is described. Heart-Based Teaching prepares teacher candidates to model and teach mindfulness to help their future students achieve social emotional goals as well as to enhance the teacher candidates' own social emotional competencies. Theoretical and research bases of the program as well as specific elements of implementation are included: structure of the two required courses, mini-lecture/discussion topics of each class session, assignments, assessments, and rubrics. Some initial qualitative data that contributed to program development are presented, and parameters of an ongoing robust quantitative study are described. Heart-Based Teaching is presented as a replicable model for other teacher education programs.
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Heart-Based Teaching prepares teacher candidates to access and maintain their caring hearts in the classroom. When teachers care, students care—about themselves, their classmates, their teachers, and their learning. In the Heart-Based Teaching (HBT) approach, teachers and students work together not only to achieve the cognitive goals of “college and career readiness,” but also to create a classroom environment that can support the development of the social emotional knowledge and skills that have been linked to personal and career success (Goleman, Boyatzia, & McKee, 2002). Mindfulness, the capacity to maintain an awareness of the present moment, without judgment, in the ever-changing now (Kabat-Zinn, 1994), provides the foundation for the HBT curriculum. Through this curriculum, mindfulness helps teacher candidates strengthen their in-the-moment awareness, helping them regulate their own emotions and behaviors and be more attuned to and compassionate toward students. Mindfulness also helps teacher candidates develop a classroom management style based in caring and support rather than adherence to a discipline external to students, teacher, and their developing relationships (Gold, Smith, Hopper, Herne, Tansy, & Hulland, 2010).

HBT targets two challenges for teacher educators: first, to strengthen teacher candidates’ social emotional competencies (SEC) in order that they may cope more effectively with the daily onslaught of classroom stressors, and second, to prepare candidates to address the demanding social emotional learning (SEL) goals (see Table 1) mandated by many states and school districts. Because HBT as a curriculum continued to evolve as candidate feedback was analyzed over the first semesters of implementation, no quantitative data from the program are presented here. However, the authors do provide examples from candidates’ writings that describe effects of HBT, demonstrating how this program prepares them to develop future students’ range of SEL skills and abilities as well as their own SEC. Parameters of a robust quantitative study currently planned are also described.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Secure Attachment: An individual with secure attachment is equally able to explore the world and develop autonomy as needed and to be close to an attachment figure for support. Such individuals are able to use attachment figures to restore and refuel themselves to strengthen autonomy.

Down-Regulation: The capacity to calm oneself from emotional arousal or upset through activation of the parasympathetic nervous system. Individuals who are skilled in down-regulation, in soothing themselves, are better able to manage their emotions.

Social Emotional Learning (SEL): Refers to the process by which individuals develop the fundamental social and emotional competencies essential to success in school and the workplace. These skills typically include the ability to be aware of one’s own and others’ thoughts, perspectives, feelings, and emotions; the ability to regulate one’s own emotions and behaviors; the ability to build and maintain positive social relationships; the ability to communicate respectfully; the ability to resolve conflicts constructively; and the ability to make safe, ethical, responsible decisions.

Avoidant Attachment: An individual with avoidant attachment tends to be afraid to be close and to believe that needing the attachment figure will lead to rejection or upset, limiting or disallowing dpendency. Such individuals tend to rely on themselves and to avoid needing the attachment figure, resulting in limited dependency development.

Disorganized Attachment: An individual with disorganized attachment is not only afraid of being close and needing an attachment figure but is also afraid of being alone to manage his/her autonomy. Such individuals are characterized by emotional deregulation and often vacillate between needing and distancing others.

Maladaptive Schemas: Patterns of dysfunctional perceptions, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors which develop early in life from failure to adequately meet the child’s needs for connection, autonomy, play and spontaneity, limits, and assertion. These dysfunctional patterns are repeated and elaborated throughout the individual’s life, posing obstacles for accomplishing goals and getting needs met. These schemas may also cause the exclusion of pertinent or important information, focusing attention only on that which confirms pre-existing ideas and beliefs. Maladaptive schemas then can contribute to and strengthen stereotypes, making it difficult to retain new information that does not conform to those pre-existing understandings about the world.

Interoception: Perceiving one’s own bodily states and internal physiological sensations. By bringing attention to the experience of sensation in the body, a meditator is able to disentangle from obsessive thoughts.

Attunement: The capacity to be aware of the emotions of others by reading facial expression, body language, and voice tone. Individuals with such capacity are often skilled in responding to the emotional states of others.

Anxious Attachment: An individual with anxious attachment tends to be afraid that the attachment figure will be lost or upset through separation, limiting or inhibiting exploration of the outside world. Such individuals tend to try to please and maintain proximity to the attachment figure, resulting in limited autonomy development.

Amygdala Hijacking: An experience of having fears detected by the emotional center of the brain which activates the sympathetic nervous system, the body’s emergency alert system, preventing the individual from being able to fully utilize the knowledge stored in the prefrontal cortex. The amygdala is a gross detector and overcorrects for possible dangers, resulting in many false positives (perceiving danger when there is none).

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