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Emotional Resilience – Presentation to the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET)

We have been invited by Universities' Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET) to share with other ITE colleagues, our work on developing resilience in trainee teachers using emotional resilience and techniques found in the study of mindfulness. The presentation will take place Friday 8 February 2019, with Ellen Buttler, Director of Initial Teacher Training and Essential Skills Programmes and Dean Howes, Teaching Fellow at the Centre sharing how students can better understand how to develop their ability to cope during emotionally challenging and stressful times.

We caught up with Ellen and Dean before they attended the presentation, which is due to take place at the Mother's Union (Mary Sumner House) in London from 10am.

How has mindfulness been explored in the teaching sector so far?

"There is a growing body of evidence for the effectiveness of mindfulness in education. Studies of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) type interventions have been performed in primary, secondary and post-compulsory settings. These have focussed upon students and teaching staff. Overall, findings show that they have many benefits in areas such as wellbeing (e.g. lower levels of stress, anxiety, and depression), performance (e.g. increased concentration) and personal attributes (e.g. confidence)."

How do you think mindfulness will help benefit the teaching sector?

"The teaching profession inherently contains features and pressures that reduce mindfulness. These include working in an environment where regular judgments are made on the teacher and by the teacher, where daily experience is highly structured and scheduled, where reflecting on the past and planning for the future are key components of the profession, and where a high number of emotional interactions occur each day. Research has shown that any environment that contains these features can have a detrimental impact upon a person’s health, mental wellbeing and performance. Mindfulness provides an approach and set of techniques that have the potential to bring balance to these features through experiences whereby one can let go of judgements, agendas, schedules, thinking about the past and planning for the future. It does this through the cultivation of present-moment awareness via a range of meditative and non-meditative practices and techniques. Through regular practice, a person can increasingly apply these practices and techniques to in-the-moment situations."

What is an 'individual emotional response'?

"An individual emotional response, as viewed from the perspective of mindfulness, is a habitual feeling and subsequent expression of the feeling to a particular stimulus. This stimulus may be external in the source (e.g. a person jumping out at you) or internal in the source (e.g. a person imagining that someone might jump out at them). When the stimuli occurs, the mind, body and emotional system will respond in the manner that it is used to responding in (e.g. being scared and escaping the situation)."

How is Emotional Resilience practiced?

"Emotional resilience refers to a person’s ability to accommodate, experience and navigate emotional responses in a healthy manner. It refers to the ability to move on from negative experiences in a positive way rather than ruminating on them. Many techniques are available to build the capacity for emotional resilience and include social support, modeling and mentoring, experiencing varying situations, hobbies, expressional activities, contemplative activities and wellbeing activities (including mindfulness)."

How can mindfulness help improve your ability to cope with stressful times and emotionally challenging situations?

"Mindfulness helps to build emotional resilience by cultivating the capacity to give our full attention to the present moment that we are experiencing. In doing this, worries that emerge from thinking about the past or future are reduced. If the current situation is a difficult or challenging one, then being mindful allows us to engage with it in a more grounded, authentic, healthy and successful manner. Often it is the expectation of a situation and the thinking about it beforehand that grows anxiety. The practices of mindfulness require us to move away from such thoughts to focus on present-moment experiences and the neutral and/or positive elements of it. Further, mindfulness also allows us to engage with and experience positive moments too. Often the wellbeing, mental health and performance benefits of positive experiences are diluted because our minds are preoccupied with our worries, tasks, schedules and the numerous other things that we could ruminate on. The engagement in positive moments builds emotional resilience because it allows us to experience the full range of human emotions. This allows us to accept whatever the current moment is as a part of the natural variation of human emotional experience."

How can teachers, or other working individual apply mindfulness to their working life?

"Mindfulness contains a mixture of meditative and in-the-moment practices and techniques. Used together, a person could build their capacity for present-moment awareness in any situation. For example, a teacher may engage regularly with mindfulness meditation outside of the workplace. They may then apply the techniques at regular intervals during the school day (e.g. in between lessons) or organically in response to emerging situations (e.g. a difficult conversation with a parent). Mindfulness techniques can be effectively used before a situation (e.g. before a job interview), during the situation (e.g. in response to a difficult interview question) and/or as to consolidate and move on from the situation afterward (e.g. after the interview to prevent rumination about it). This latter approach is particularly effective for increasing work-life balance as it allows a person to let-go of work-related emotions once the working day has finished."

What can visitors expect from the day?

"ITE Colleagues from Higher Education Institutions nationally will be in attendance, alongside possible DfE and ETF colleagues. In our slot we will be presenting and discussing the 3 session programme of resilience, wellbeing and work-life balance that I deliver to our Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) trainees." (Ellen Buttler)

What will they gain from the day?

"From our presentation attendees will become aware of an effective approach to inform trainees about practices and techniques to improve resilience, wellbeing and work-life balance using the approach of mindfulness."

Give an overview of your experience with Mindfulness and your interest in it.

"My interest and experience with mindfulness emerged from my study of psychology and from an unfortunate illness that I suffered from in my early 20s. Both of these ignited my interest in the link between the mind, body and emotions in wellbeing and performance. It is here that I began regularly practising mindfulness. After teaching psychology for many years I specialised in mindfulness as part of my MSc qualification. I then trained as a mindfulness-based wellbeing coach and have worked with individuals and groups alongside becoming a lecturer in mindfulness. From my person experience and from working with many clients and students, I can testify to the genuinely transformative potential of mindfulness. In its modern format, it is a secular, accessible and effective approach to bringing balance to the pressures of everyday life." (Dean Howes)