Stress Management and Resiliency Techniques for Educators (smartEducation) is an eight-week, evidence-based program designed to address the needs of educators and professional support staff. SMART, originally developed in the US, is now managed by smartUBC, a not-for-profit unit of the University of British Columbia, and is coordinated through the Okanagan School of Education.  In Ontario, SMART is administered by a UBC partner, Mindfulness Everyday, a Toronto-based, registered charitable organization responsible for the delivery of the program and training of certified SMART facilitators throughout the province.

Unlike other programs ultimately aimed at teaching mindfulness skills to students, smartEducation is designed for the educators themselves. The course emphasizes the cultivation of mindful awareness including elements of self-compassion, emotional literacy, self-regulation skills, and optimism. Special emphasis is placed on self-care, as many working in the field of education report experiencing high levels of chronic stress and burn-out. The program is open to all education professionals including: teachers (K-12), post-secondary educators, educational assistants, child and youth workers, social workers, psychologists, occupational therapists, audiologists and speech-language pathologists, physiotherapists, student support staff, as well as administrators and office staff. Previous experience with mindfulness is not required.

The program involves experiential mindfulness activities that include: secular meditation practice, mindful movement, and self-reflective exercises designed to cultivate greater emotional awareness and self-regulation. In addition to practice, weekly meetings include presentations that teach key themes, as well as group discussion. Participants benefit from daily home exercises in support of the program.

Course outcomes:

• Manage stress through a greater understanding and control of emotions • Employ self-care techniques to cultivate personal and professional resilience • Create effective strategies for relating to challenging situations • Have personal experience to support other programs for students in mindfulness • Enhance concentration and executive function (planning, decision-making, and impulse control) • Revitalize purpose, personally and professionally • Improve personal mental and physical health • Promote happiness through healthy habits of the mind

This 20-hour program is delivered in a weekly workshop format consisting of eight, 2-hour sessions, and a 4-hour silent retreat. Home practice activities are also part of the course. Successful participants receive a certificate of completion from UBC’s Faculty of Education.

Teachers from various Ontario Boards have successfully used their professional development funding to pay for all or part of their smartEducation program.