Mindfulness. You might well have heard the term… but does it have a place in the modern classroom?
What exactly does it mean?
The term is used to mean the state of being conscious and aware of your surroundings. In therapeutic terms it is having a mental state achieved by focusing your awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting your feelings and thoughts.
So how is that relevant to teaching?
Without Mindfulness we all just act out whatever arises in our consciousness; it is mindless, no conscious thoughts are steering it, like a computer running a programme. We all do it all the time. Have you ever found yourself at the end of a car trip from point A to point B and don’t remember the journey or have you ever eaten a meal without really tasting it? If so, you recognise what it is to be unmindful.
When anger comes up in our mind, without mindful awareness (of the anger as just an emotion that is arising), then our mind is taken over by the anger. Children begin to act out the emotion of anger that has arisen – they speak angrily and act angrily. The same goes for sadness, fear, worry or restlessness.
With strongly developed Mindfulness, we begin to discover that we can see those emotions just as they are….as just strong emotions that have arisen in our consciousness…and we have a choice as to whether or not they take over the mind, and a choice as to whether or not we will act them out.
Is there really something to it?
There is a link between meditation and mindfulness. In order to be fully aware of what is happening in their bodies and to their emotions children will need to calm down and listen to their bodies – this does involve focussing on relaxation and often listening to a short script to relax. In practice adults often have a problem with letting go and relaxing in a “public space”, children are usually fine with it (after an initial giggle or two).
What benefits does it have?
Research over the past few decades has found that mindfulness training develops: Increased attention; Increased working memory, planning, organization, and impulse control; Decreased hyperactivity and impulsivity; Fewer conduct and anger management problems; Increased emotional regulation; Increased self-calming; Increased social skills and social compliance; Increased care for others; Increased sense of calmness, relaxation, and self-acceptance; and Increased self-esteem. Can you afford not to try it?
So where can I find out more? How do I fit this into a programme of study?
There are many moments in the school day where a mindful approach can be used – focussing on the natural environment when outdoors, encouraging the class to take a few deep breaths, focussing only on themselves or advocating children are gentle and kind with themselves rather than anxious and stressed. Mindfulness can occur in all of these moments, but like any skill it takes dedicated time to develop it and master it, therefore incorporating it into a scheme of work will have the most pronounced benefits.
At Services for Education we are working with Jigsaw PSHE to offer a programme of support for schools. Jigsaw is a comprehensive programme incorporating PSHCE, SEAL objectives, Relationships and Sex Education and emotional and social learning. Lessons are taught as a discrete subject but the values taught permeate the curriculum and assemblies. At the heart of the Jigsaw approach is using Mindfulness to encourage pupils to be aware of their feelings and emotions at all times, thus giving them a choice of reactions to any situation, instead of being caught up in the heat of the moment as so often happens in schools and in life.
If you are interested in finding out more about the Jigsaw philosophy please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.jigsawpshe.com