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Early Childhood Teachers’ Well-Being, Mindfulness, and Self-Compassion in Relation to Classroom Quality and Attitudes Towards Challenging Students

Abstract

Early childhood teachers are instrumental in creating socially and emotionally supportive learning environments for young children. However, there is a paucity of research examining teachers’ psychosocial characteristics in relation to the dimensions of quality learning environments. Furthermore, little is known about the relationship between teachers’ psychosocial characteristics and their attitudes about children whose behavior they find challenging. The present study examined data from 35 preschool teachers’ self-reports of well-being, mindfulness, and self-compassion in relation to observations of classroom quality and ratings of semi-structured interviews about a child chosen by the teacher as most challenging. Mindfulness, self-compassion, personal efficacy, and positive affect were associated with emotional support while emotional exhaustion and depersonalization were negatively associated with emotional support. Depression was negatively associated with emotional support, classroom organization, and instructional support. With regard to the interview ratings, mindfulness and efficacy were positively associated with perspective-taking and sensitivity to discipline, and depersonalization was negatively associated with sensitivity to discipline. While further research is needed to ascertain causality, these results suggest that teachers’ psychosocial characteristics may impact their ability to create and maintain optimal classroom environments and supportive relationships with challenging students. Furthermore, they point to the need for research to examine professional development designed to promote mindfulness, reduce distress, and support teachers’ social and emotional competence and well-being.

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Acknowledgments

Funds for the research reported in this article were provided by a grant from the Fetzer Institute.

Author information

Correspondence to Patricia A. Jennings.

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Jennings, P. Early Childhood Teachers’ Well-Being, Mindfulness, and Self-Compassion in Relation to Classroom Quality and Attitudes Towards Challenging Students. Mindfulness 6, 732–743 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-014-0312-4

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Keywords

  • Mindfulness
  • Self-compassion
  • Teacher social and emotional competence
  • Classroom quality
  • Teacher–student relationships
  • Burnout
  • Depression