Helping Pennsylvania teachers cope through mindfulness webinars

A word cloud created using the collective feedback from all the members in attendance at the mindfulness webinars, who used Zoom’s chat function to share their emotional states, personal challenges and gratitude.   Credit: Pennsylvania State Education AssociationAll Rights Reserved.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Concern for their students and adapting to remote teaching are only a few of the stressors that teachers are facing during the coronavirus pandemic.

In response, the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) has partnered with Sebrina Doyle, a graduate fellow in the College of Education, to offer mindfulness-based stress reduction training via Zoom to their members – to help alleviate feelings of helplessness, fear and anxiety.

Doyle offered the hour-long webinar two days this month to approximately 700 PSEA members.

Sebrina Doyle, certified Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education (CARE) facilitator through CREATE for Education, Ph.D. candidate in the College of Education, and affiliate of the Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

She guided participants through breath awareness practices, an emotional awareness practice which encouraged the identification of where in the body the strongest emotions are felt, and ended with a compassion practice, where participants were able to offer kindness, caring and compassion to themselves and others.

She conveyed the message that it’s hard to struggle, but at the same time, we are all struggling together.

“After we did the mindful awareness of emotions exercise, we asked people to put into the chat function what their strongest emotion was and where they felt it the most in their bodies. There was a flood of hundreds of responses with teachers talking of being full of worry for their students, feeling like they are not enough, putting pressure on themselves…there were some people who talked about waiting for their COVID tests to come back. At the end of the training, someone said, ‘I don’t feel so alone anymore.’”

According to Doyle, the online format was powerful due to its ability to “reach people from all over Pennsylvania, to sit together,” giving some the chance to try mindfulness for the first time.

In addition to pursuing a doctorate in educational leadership through the Education Policy Studies department of the College of Education, Doyle is a certified Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education (CARE) facilitator through CREATE for Education, and an affiliate of the Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center.

“We were attracted to the CARE program because of its research base, its connection with Penn State, and positive feedback from members about previous CARE training. We were fortunate to have Sebrina as our guide,” said Carla Claycomb, Manager of PSEA Education Services.

PSEA plans to continue to offer online wellness training to its members due to popular demand. Their membership includes teachers, education support professionals, higher education staff, nurses in health care facilities, retired educators, and college students preparing to become teachers.

Last Updated June 08, 2021