When the teachers entered Emmy Josefson’s class on Wednesday, they were met with sounds of kids chattering in the hallway,
However, there were no kids. It was an audio sound.
Afterward, Josefson had them close their eyes and told them to be comfortable.
“Ignore the sounds, find your breath,” she said.
Next, she asked them about the sounds they heard at the beginning of class.
“School sounds,” one teacher said. “Stressful.”
It was the beginning of a meditation and mindfulness class, and Josefson was there to teach them how to take care of themselves.
This is the first time the New Braunfels Independent School District has brought in a wellness advocate.
Lori Gruwell, director of curriculum and professional development at NBISD, said she completed an online webinar conference on mindfulness recently.
“It was all about awareness of the stress teachers face, the stress people face,” Gruwell said. “But teachers in general.”
A few days after the conference, a teacher approached Gruwell about a friend she might be interested in connecting with on wellness.
Because of the mindfulness she learned about in the conference, she said yes and the teacher connected her to Josefson.
She offered to come do morning yoga and then a session during the week when teachers were in training prior to the new school year starting.
“I love the content of the session because she did a yoga session with them for 30 minutes,” Gruwell said. “Then she talked about teachers’ need to be mindful and take care of themselves, and then how to teach kids to do the same.”
Josefson held a yoga session at 7 a.m. for any teacher who wanted to start the day relaxed.
Across the hall from the mindfulness class, was the Mindfulness Room. Inside, the scent of essential oils filled the room. Desks were put together and covered with cloths, with a small vase of flowers was the centerpiece.
At the end of the day, Josefson held another yoga session.
According to the National Education Association, 40% to 50% of new teachers leave within their first five years on the job. Among the factors are a severe lack of work-life balance and the high stress teachers have on the job.
Josefson was a teacher for eight years before she made the transition to a mindfulness coach.
“My dream was to become a teacher and then I became a teacher and it was so hard,” Josefson said. “There are so many things that are put on teachers … you have all these rules and it just gets super overwhelming, and I felt like I was never really taken care of.”
Now, her mission is to help teachers.
“So mindfulness allows you to take care of yourself and just realize that you are enough in this crazy world called teaching,” Josefson said. “I just want teachers to feel taken care of.”
Later on in the class, Josefson read a page from the children’s book, “Chicken Little.”
In the story, Chicken Little was walking in the woods when an acorn fell on top of his head. Because of that, he thought the sky was falling, so he felt the urgency to tell anybody he met about his discovery.
The lesson: Don’t overreact and assume the worst.
Josefson’s brother obtained his doctorate in education in stories. When she told him she was doing this presentation, he told her she had to find a story.
She went through many fables and then it came to her.
“Chicken Little is my favorite story as kid and I was like, ‘It's just an acorn,’” Josefson said. “And this whole story comes and that's how we live our lives, especially in schools, because our classrooms are our all — I mean even in an office, your cubicles are all next to each other, you get an email and you talk to each other and that's like a pastime.”
Gruwell said she wants Josefson to return and hold a mindfulness class for the administrators.
“Everybody in education gets so stressed out and worrying about kids and families and not taking care of themselves,” she said.
During the class, Josefson said the goal is to meditate for 15 minutes. However, depending on personality, beginnings can start at one minute, twice a day, and then gradually increase the minutes.
She also said 15 minutes of meditation equals two hours of sleep. Thus, if a person did not slept well, they can meditate for 15 minutes to relax and recharge.
“What happens neurologically is that both sides of your brain are connecting, so your right side and your left side are communicating with each other during meditation,” Josefson said. “You're also shrinking your amygdala in the back which is in charge of your fight-or-flight-or-freeze, which is how people react to stress.”
Thus, the person is able to react in a more peaceful way when stimuli come their way. Furthermore, the gray matter of the brain grows and doesn't have to occur during sleep — though Josefson said sleep is very important.
“Most teachers are the caretakers and that is what makes us good at our job but we take care of others, not ourselves,” she said. “And all meditation is, is sitting, closing your eyes or laying down so everybody can do it. You don't have to be a crazy yogi in order to be able to do it now.”
For more information mindfulness and wellness, contact Josefson at firstname.lastname@example.org.