Author Q&A: Season Mussey Talks Mindfulness in the Classroom
Author Q&A: Season Mussey Talks Mindfulness in the Classroom
PUBLISHED: Thursday, August 15, 2019 by Andilynn Feddeler

Mindfulness can be used in the classroom as a method to increase overall teacher effectiveness, raise student achievement, and reignite the joy of teaching and learning. Mindfulness in the Classroom introduces eight mindful principles that support social and emotional learning for teachers and students in today’s schools, leading to increased empathy, kindness, self-awareness, integrity, self-control, and honesty. Learn more about mindfulness and how to use this book as a guide for the journey back to the heart of teaching and learning in this interview with the author, Season Mussey, Ed.D.

Q: Why is cultivating mindfulness so important in today’s classrooms?

A: The “big-picture” answer is because our students and our teachers are worth it. Using a mindfulness framework to attend social and emotional learning in the classroom increases overall teacher effectiveness and student academic achievement. But, more than that, it humanizes the work that is going on in our schools today. With the pace of technology and the “busyness” that permeates our culture, this is becoming more and more important in our society: learning how to be human; how to show compassion, how to support one-another, how to love. But, in order to do that, we must be able to “see” one another. We must slow down and pay attention. That is what mindfulness is all about. 


Q: What does it mean to use a mindfulness framework?

A: A mindfulness framework is an approach to the “big-picture” goals of using mindfulness to promote social and emotional learning in the classroom. The framework is the “how-to” guide for mindfulness in the classroom. It is based on eight principles that can be used and modified at any grade level and in any content area. The principles are: “I”-work, cultivating connections, creativity, writing, breathing and movement, holding space, gratitude, and commit-to-one. In the book, the essentials of each principle are discussed and several activities are described in detail. I really want teachers to “try this.” Since the mindfulness framework isn’t an add-on program or a stand-alone curriculum, it would be possible for a teacher to embed these ideas into the excellent work that he or she is already doing! I wrote this book for teachers, hoping that they would find some useful tools to add to their repertoire.    


Q: How would you explain mindfulness to someone who only associates it with meditation?

A: I’m glad you asked this question. There is a common misconception that mindfulness means meditation and vice-versa. Mindfulness is a way of being and acting in the world that allows one to focus and pay attention to the people and needs around them. Rather than emptying the mind and letting go of any thought or emotion, a mindful person would tune in and attend to thoughts, emotions, and contexts, with intention. Meditation may be a wonderful tool to help a person focus, and therefore become more mindful, but mindfulness is more than simply meditation alone. A mindful person sees and then takes action. In my book, I’m advocating mindfulness for the development of social and emotional competencies, so in this context, mindful actions might look like: self-awareness, social-awareness, responsible decision making, compassion, patience, gentleness, self-care, and so on.  Specifically, this book is about mindfulness in the classroom for students and teachers, so ideally, mindful thoughts and actions would become more frequent in schools using this framework. 


Q: How is “I” work foundational for the rest of the principles in your book?

A: “I” work is the first and foundational principle in the book. The “I” in “I” work stands for identity, integrity, and inspiration. Engaging in “I” work helps the teacher and students understand who they are as individuals and what strengths they bring to the classroom. “I” work also helps students and teachers know the meaning of integrity. The idea is that once they know who they are and what they stand for, they can live lives of integrity, being true to who they are in the context of the classroom. This requires mindful attention and action. People who have integrity of identity inspire others to be their best selves, too. This principle has three essentials: (1) Know who you are, (2) Be true; be you, and (3) Motivate others and yourself. This principle is foundational because it will allow the teacher to determine what aspects of the framework can be applied to their work. Knowing who you are and what gifts you bring is empowering, and can be the catalyst for trying some of the other principles in the classroom. It is also vital for the social and emotional competencies in the areas of self-awareness and self-regulation. 


Q: What do you hope readers take away from your work?

A: My hope is that this book will empower teachers to be the best that they can be for themselves and their students. I truly respect and admire teaching professionals; I hope that this message comes across loud and clear to my readers. This book is meant to be both a source of hope as well as a practical resource, even a sort of handbook to which teachers can return again and again for ideas and inspiration. I hope my readers can feel the love that I poured into the pages, and I hope that this work makes a positive difference in their lives and in the lives of their students. 

Season Mussey, Ed.D., loves teaching and learning. She believes that empowering teachers will improve schools, bring hope to families, and transform communities. She has a BA in Biology, an MA in curriculum design, and an Ed.D. in teaching and learning. She lives in Austin, TX, with her beloved family and dog, Darwin.