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Wellbeing and Resilience in Humanist Teacher Education: Literature, Pedagogy, and the Modelling of Mindful Futures

These times of uncertainty, anxiety and overwhelming information, mean that many of us are seeking to find a sense of calmness. The global upheavals of a virulent pandemic, a very real climate crisis, the instability of economic and political powers and the emergence of anti-racist movements like Black Lives Matter are all issues that call to people to engage responsively with our world.

A mindfulness practice, the simple act of pausing, taking a breath and becoming aware of our mind, body and heart, may offer some respite as well as a way to support one’s desire for action.

As a yoga teacher, mindfulness practitioner, former high-school teacher and now scholar, I have seen the benefit of mindfulness personally and professionally. My practice has taught me how to respond to strong emotions, bad behaviours and forceful words. I have also witnessed how leading mindfulness practices in a community of mostly white education students can create greater space for social justice issues, like racism, classism and sexism. A growing body of scientific research supports my observations indicating that when one learns to examine long-held opinions and cultural assumptions towards the self and others, one can free the mind to unlearn and to re-learn, to story and to re-story, to revise and to recognize. This takes time, effort and commitment.

Despite anti-racist policies in teacher education, access, equity and equitable representation remain ongoing challenges. White, middle-class, able-bodied, heteronormative students populate the majority in faculties of education across Canada. For some of teacher candidates, gaining insight into the lives of “other people’s children,” as education scholar Lisa Delpit puts it, can support multiple ways of reaching out to the diversity of students. By disrupting notions of assumptions, biases and prejudice, teacher candidates can become more aware of existing inequalities in their communities and the white-centeredness of curricula.

Karen Ragoonaden