Note from Dave: For years, I've kept a correspondence with Camille Napier Bernstein, an English teacher in MA who thinks and cares deeply about her work. Camille's thinking has popped up on my blog before (see this “Principles Must Be Proven” post), but today I've got something for you that's so good and comprehensive there's hardly a need for me to speak.
Here's what I love about what Camille shares below:
- She gets the hang-ups people might have when they hear about this hypnotherapy meditation thing. She shares evidence to support the idea that common perceptions about this are quite probably wrong.
- She shares with us something we can use as soon as we'd like to start training ourselves to access internal silence — a direct connection to a longer piece I wrote a while ago in “How to Deal with Bad Feelings About Teaching This Year: A Self-Examination Protocol for Understanding (and Starting to Do Something About) Negative Teacher Emotions.”
- In sharing this, Camille demonstrates a generosity of spirit and an earnestness of collegiality that I hope and pray we can all aspire to.
Enjoy Camille's piece and the practice it engenders.
Best to you,
For over twenty years, I've begun my classes with stillness — first as a crowd-control trick; later, because it's the best skill I know to share with kids. My former students, years after they've graduated, still contact me to say they heard “Orange Sky,” one of the calming songs I use in my class, or thank me for introducing them to meditation. They rarely thank me for teaching them grammar or thesis development, which may suggest that I'm a crappy English teacher or that I'm onto something with teaching them a stress reduction technique.
More than any other year, I have needed meditation to get me through these tough times, and that is why I commissioned a special meditation to speak to our struggle. This meditation is FOR YOU, my tribe. It was written and recorded by a wonderful women I've known for 13 years. I met Jess Porter — okay, I stalked her like a rabid fangirl — after using her hypnobirthing recordings during my pregnancies. I begged her to make more recordings, just for me. And now, hearing her voice for even ten seconds relaxes me immediately.
Jess is a hypnotherapist, macrobiotic chef, and stand up comic; she has recorded two personalized meditations for me (which include my name over and over, so I cannot share them), and she recorded the 30-minute one I send out to my colleagues every year. I called Jess last week and spoke to the fears teachers have about returning to the classroom and how that anxiety and uncertainty can be paralyzing. Jess got it. But what's more, she found a way to bring that fear — that contracting of heart and mind — under control, expanding it into something beautiful.
Some of you might pause at the word hypnotherapy or hypnosis, assuming it means brainwashing someone into doing silly or harmful things. It's not. It's a form of meditation, and studies have shown its efficacy for reducing stress, improving immunity, and alleviating PTSD.
Research has found hypnosis can even alter a person's immune function in ways that offset stress and reduce susceptibility to viral infections.“Is Hypnosis Real? Here's What Science Says,” Time, September 4, 2018
A guided, 13-minute meditation for teachers during COVID, made by Jess Porter
What Jess does in this 13-minute meditation is lead you through a body relaxation exercise and then remind you of several things:
- A relaxed state can improve your immune system.
- You can access this relaxed state whenever you need it.
- Your relaxed state transfers to your students.
- Your love of learning is what brought you to teaching, and you can still feel that joy this year.
You can do the meditation any time of day, and almost anywhere — in your bed before sleep; in a chair the first thing in the morning; on a picnic blanket under a brilliant sky. You could even arrive early to the school building and do the meditation in your car before you start your day. (But please, do not listen to this while driving!)
I hope you find this meditation helpful. Jess does a great job contextualizing the meditation in an intro. If you want to skip this intro later and just get to the meditation, start it around 2:44.
Camille is one of the best teachers I have ever had the honor of working with. It was almost 20 years ago, and whenever I think of Meditation being used in the classroom I think of her. She is right when some of us looked at her beginning of class ritual as “strange” but she was just an innovator before her time. It is an awesome practice and kids love it. You rock, Camille!
Principal Yelle Elementary