I am always asking my students to engage with their learning. I am often asking of my students to focus, and expecting them to pay attention during the learning activity. However, how often do we, as educators, allow our students to develop and practice the skills of paying attenion? I’ve been inspired over the last few years by Cohort 21 members pursuing mindfulness (or some variation of it) in their Action Plans. Check out @dneville and @aharding posts for more on this.
How, when we were young, did we learn to pay attention, how did we learn to focus in class. Consider our students today and how different their academic demands are, and how different their social demands are. Academically, they have one of the most powerful thinking machines in the world in front of them – at their fingertips. Socially, they carry on conversations in multiple dimensions, asynchronously and hyper-synchronously across multiple media: Snapchat, Twitter, Email, Facebook, and the list goes on.
[Mindfulness] gives them [students] a sense of control over their emotions and behavior. We work with them to recognize and be able to move from their thinking mind, where we all live most of our busy and hectic lives, to their sensing mind, where they can be connected to the world and the moment.” (Lichtman, 171)
When we are asking your students to focus in class, we’re asking students to pay attention in class, we’re asking them to disengage from something which is emotionally engaging for them, which is socially engaging, and for all of our students across our grades, have incredibly high stakes, and an immediate impact to their social and emotional lives.
We need mindfulness to foster and cultivate skills to learn how to disengage from their social-emotional world, and be present in the moment of learning. We need to ask teachers “How might we give our students the tools and to practice these tools to stay engaged in our classes?” This is vital to teach our students so that the curriculum – these excellent skills and important content that may not be immediately important to them but helps in their overall development of education character and skill, can be successfully learned.
Mindfulness is one of the tools that can be used to teach students to engage in the moment and to disengage from these other moments of social intensity and urgent needs. Mindfulness teaches students the difference between urgent and important and that if you focus on the important things urgency arrives less frequency.
Mindfulness is not onerous nor does it have to be intense to work. Schools are seeing results with 50% of their teachers doing one session of mindfulness which is no longer than three minutes once a week. (Lichtman) If our students can experience this, if we as teachers can experience this, then we can strengthen our students’ cognitive ability to pay attention and focus in class.
I think that educators can practice and provide for our students the tools to help feel in control, excited about, and take the intiative within, the future. Mindfulness is one oft these tools.
Mindfulness addresses a wide range of issues that are not addressed through pure academic learning. It prepares the mind to learn, and it addresses the social and emotional side of learning and of life.” (Lichtman, 170)
The above post was inspired by a passage from Grant Lichtman’s recent book #EdJourney (see my review here).