Manager – Teacher Leadership
Katie joined TELLAL from her position as Vice Principal at GEMS Wellington Academy, Silicon Oasis, and in 2013, was awarded the prestigious GEMS Core Values Award.
As teachers, it is our duty to help our students grow and develop in the best ways possible. We want to see our students learn, create and even innovate as their potential expands with each school year. But the structure and remit of schools is also changing. As we speak educational institutions, either through their own volition or following community encouragement, are adapting their approach to student development. They are embracing new ways of teaching, new concepts to be included in curriculums, new versions of exams to suit a wider variety of personality types and capacities and listening to others about new learning methodologies that improve student engagement and performance. Of course, as the format of schools evolves, so too does our understanding of how best to support our students in their learning journey. One of the key ways in which we can improve our students’ engagement and experience, and therefore their overall potential, is with mindfulness and the ways in which we can bring this transformative resource into our classrooms.
Many people don’t quite grasp what mindfulness is and how it can be so useful. Many people might be off-put by a concept that appears to be a ‘millennial-led invention’without actual meaning; but they would be wrong on both counts. Not only has mindfulness been a concept that has been practiced for centuries, it is also quite a simple idea whose power is extremely hard to deny. Mindfulness is about being fully present in the moment and what is happening (ie no smart phones) or “the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment”. Essentially, it is an extension of taking a deep breath and trying to focus and calm your mind.
In a world completely saturated with screens, advertising and technological distractions, it isn’t hard to see why students haven’t necessarily developed the best attention spans. The youngest generations are growing up in the world where food, clothing, cleaning, devices and more can be ordered at the touch of a button and, in most cases, delivered within minutes. These students have no concept of how to wait or the pleasure of anticipation, they are used to getting everything exactly when they want it. That isn’t to say they are all spoilt of course, this is now the world we live in. Who doesn’t have a smart phone with a Deliveroo app? Haven’t we all adapted to enjoy the convenience of instant gratification in some ways? Now we tend to carry the memory of times when patience was required, rather than live in them.
All of us are aware of how destructive this evolving culture can be and the pressures it exerts on students in terms of communication and social media. Finding ways to extract students from these environments and empower them towards self-reflection and self-soothing are exactly the type of techniques that can utterly transform their educational experience and propel their talents to greater heights. Mindfulness moments can be amazingly powerful for students, particularly those who suffer with anxiety, have ADHD, are on the spectrum or have additional learning needs. For all of your students it offers a centring, de-stressing experience, a chance for self-awareness and a strong sense of calm and peacefulness they may well struggle to find anywhere else.
Mindfulness can directly improve:
There are a few different options available for small, or big, ways in which to bring mindfulness into your classroom, and they can be adapted to the needs of your students. Our top pick for guidance was the advice from edutopia who recommending practicing the techniques first yourself, and then choosing moments in which to add them to your students’ daily lives, even if only for five minutes a day. Here are the four different options edutopia suggested:
Mindfulness through breath – mindful breathing is about taking deep, controlled breaths that require focused attention to master. It should quiet the mind as you take note of your body’s movements and inhale for three and exhale for three.
Mindfulness through sensory experiences – this is about opening up the senses in productive ways. Have the students close their eyes and then choose from listening to calming music or sounds from nature; putting things with strong smells in jars and have the students try to guess the contents; handing them distinctive or interesting objects and trying to guess what they are.
Mindfulness through guided imagery – this is a fantastic way to develop imagination in a relaxing manner that can open the mind in a myriad of ways. Have students close their eyes and then take them on a journey with a relaxation story; it can be connected to your subject as well. If you aren’t comfortable taking the lead, there are lots of versions available online as well.
Mindfulness through movement – it probably won’t surprise you that the last option is yoga. This ancient practice might not feel like it is everyone’s cup of tea, but numerous studies have shown that it does have an extremely positive impact on our physical and mental health. Practicing a few moves daily will help your students relax, stretch and feel rejuvenated for the day. Isn’t that a great gift to give them?
Do you work at adding mindfulness into your classroom? What techniques have you found to be successful for your students? Have you found it useful for exam prep or behavioural change? We’d love to hear from you about your experiences and lessons. Join the conversation on our social media platforms Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Linkedin or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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