A Professional Cornerstone
Raeann G. LeBlanc, an assistant clinical professor in the College of Nursing at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, can claim a lot of time and experience in the education system. So it means something when she talks about her best educational experience: a certificate in Mindfulness for Educators that she earned from Antioch University New England (AUNE) in 2012.
Mindfulness, the awareness of oneself and others, is essential to being a good teacher, Raeann said. Being aware may sound obvious, yet it’s something you never stop cultivating. I see learning to be aware as a specific skill, intuition, and caring approach, she said. It requires skill and practice.
Part of what I learned was to offer space, curiosity, and to be very aware of my response to situations as they arise in teaching, learning, administrative, and clinical practice relationships. You offer an active, open attitude of attention to the present and resist the conditioned response to quickly judge or dismiss what is unpleasant or cling to what is pleasant.
Raeann’s professional focus is on adult-gerontological advanced practice and public health nursing. She has taught nursing for more than ten years, first as an adjunct professor and then as a full-time professor. For the first few years of her career, she worked mostly in clinical practice, gradually teaching more as her education advanced. Although her main focus these days is academic, she still maintains a small clinical practice one day a week.
A few years ago, as a new faculty member in a mentoring group, Raeann received a small amount of money to spend on something that would support her work as a teacher. When she found AUNE’s Mindfulness for Educators certificate, it was just the ticket for Raeann, who has been a Zen practitioner of mindfulness and daily meditation for nearly 20 years.
At the time I took this course, I was perhaps the busiest I have been in a long time, completing a doctorate and working both as a full-time educator and maintaining a nursing practice, she said. The course fit in perfectly and, in fact, offered me greater understanding of myself and others, and a compassion that was very supportive and continues to be.
Her cohort in the program included elementary and high school teachers from both rural and urban areas, as well as college professors from a diversity of fields. The on-line course was organized into modules for reading, reflection, and experiential learning to be shared with the community. Her classmates were very interactive and responsive in the learning forums, Raeann said. They also met face to face three times during the year-long program, and practiced meditation daily to reflect on their practice and understand themselves better.
The certificate program inspired Raeann to apply for an invited speakers grant from The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, with the goal of offering a retreat on mindfulness and nursing education to the UMass-Amherst faculty.
I feel [AUNE’s program] was a cornerstone for my overall success, she said. It changed the way I interacted with others and myself. I was able to see the necessity for compassion practice.