Many people think that without that self criticizing-voice in their minds that they will turn into a blob on their couch with a tub of ice cream in one hand and the remote in the other never to be seen at work again. But the truth is that we are far more motivated by compassion than criticism.
As teachers, we know that when our students are distracted we have to respectfully and kindly redirect them. We can't criticize them harshly or put them down. Let's imagine a specific scenario:
You are logged into Google Meet for class and notice that one of your students is still on the first screen of the virtual program you are using 20 minutes into the class. Calling out this student and reprimanding them for not doing their work will not likely have the effect you want.
Instead, you decide to state what you observe and redirect them to what you want them to be doing. For example, I can see that you are only on screen one. I want to make sure everything is OK. Is there something I can do to help you with?
We can’t just yell at our students when we are frustrated with them, call them names, or tell them that there's something wrong with them because they are never on task. So why do we give ourselves permission to talk to ourselves this way?
Compassion is the act of being caring and understanding with ourselves instead of overly harsh and judgemental. When we bring compassion to our mindfulness practice we start to create some space between what our mind thinks and what we believe about ourselves and others. It allows us to really examine the narrative we tell ourselves repeatedly throughout the day and get curious about if it is in alignment with the way we want to feel.
I challenge you to bring more compassion to your practice. Be gentle with yourself. And most importantly, if you wouldn’t say something to your students, don’t say it to yourself!
Alyssa Mancini is a certified secondary biology and chemistry teacher. She started teaching high school biology and chemistry in 2007 and spent the first 12 years of her career teaching in NYC public schools. She is a registered yoga instructor, mindfulness facilitator, and herbalist. Her mission is to inspire and support teachers interested in bringing mindfulness and yoga to the classroom.