Why mindfulness matters: how mindfulness of paraprofessionals affects personal and professional well-being
This paper explores the action research question, How can I increase my own mindfulness and ultimately help other paraprofessionals increase their mindfulness practice? Starting as a personal journey to increase my mindfulness practice, an eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program was followed. Knowledge and insights gained during this research cycle helped guide the creation of professional development workshops for nine paraprofessionals working in an urban school in Yukon. Participants met weekly for seven weeks to explore and practice mindfulness techniques for self-care and for use with students in the classroom. Participants completed initial and follow-up surveys, weekly exit cards, and contributed to group brainstorming prompts. In addition, two paraprofessionals completed interviews at the completion of the study. Data collection included researcher’s personal journal, mindfulness practice log, and awareness survey, as well as participants’ surveys, exit cards, group brainstorming, and interviews. Based on the mixed methods data collection and content analysis, it was evident that paraprofessionals noticed increases in overall health and well-being following the mindfulness training. All paraprofessionals expressed strong desires to continue meeting and practicing and demonstrated a commitment to ongoing self-care. Clearly, the self-care of paraprofessionals working with students with special needs should be a priority of the education system in Yukon. Further research in this area should be conducted with larger participant groups to generalize findings.