A day in the life of a teacher practicing mindfulness during a pandemic 

"It can't hurt to give 60 seconds of your day to something that could change your life.”

  • Keira McGuire

Allison Keefe teaches seventh grade English at a Pennsylvania cyber charter school. Many of her students come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds whose families are experiencing additional stress because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s a lot to take on,” she said. “When you’re hearing story after story of a family who is in economic distress because a parent has lost their job or a student who is worried, that’s a lot on us. And, being able to process those emotions ourselves to make space for being able to take care of others is really critical.”

Keefe also felt pressure to help fellow educators who didn’t have as much experience teaching virtually.

“There was also kind of a big shift in terms of sort of our role as cyber in distance learning educators, because suddenly we were in the spotlight and we’re used to kind of being a little bit more in the background of education,” she said. “We were having lots of educators who were reaching out to us asking for help or asking for resources as they were moving into distance learning.”

In order to cope with the additional stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, Keefe was able to lean on mindfulness training she received with fellow educators prior to the pandemic.

“I expected it to be helpful. I certainly expected it to build camaraderie. What I did not expect with how much a sustained practice was going to bring to my life,” said Keefe.

As a result of her training, Keefe sets an intention at the start of every day. An intention helps her to stay focused and commit to a goal. Because she feels she’s a perfectionist, she says a good intention for her is sometimes to be unattached from an outcome.

“It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be done,” she said.

Keefe also incorporates at least one minute of meditation into her day.

“Often it’s more than one minute every day. I’m up to about five minutes,” Keefe said. “But one minute is sort of the minimum that I ask of myself every day. And it’s honestly made a big difference.”

Keefe says the practice of mindfulness could help other people during the pandemic.

“The practice of mindfulness isn’t going to change any of the things that you’re experiencing in your day-to-day. It’s not going to take something that is sad and make it not sad. It’s not going to take something that is stressful and make it not stressful. What mindfulness is going to do for you is allow you to recognize in the moment that that’s what’s happening,” she said. “I think my advice to someone who is maybe feeling skeptical is that it can’t hurt to give 60 seconds of your day to something that could change your life.”

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