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Mind Mining

Sep 23, 2017 by

Educating in the moment.

Honestly, how are you doing? What’s on your mind?  Is it the bus breakdown that required your attention at 6:15 this morning?  Is it the last minute substitute who showed up at the wrong school?  Is it the persistent parent who you know will want to see you… for the THIRD time this week?  Perhaps it’s the students you know who will not eat a proper meal over the weekend.  If school is not enough to fill your consciousness, don’t forget about home.  Did you buy enough milk for the week?  Will you have a chance to fix the bathroom before mom visits?  Of course, our time saving computers and other devices are making our lives easier with social media meltdowns and never ending junk e-mails.  By the way, you still don’t have those budget reports together for next week’s school board meeting.

What a mess.  It is a wonder we can complete anything considering the endless sensory barrage that defines modern life.  For educators, the stress and anxiety can be overwhelming.  Obsessive reflection about what happened in school yesterday, last week or last year, coupled with the never ending demands of PLC meetings, standardized testing prep and daily lesson planning can crush even the strongest educational leaders.  This chaos is not limited to administrators, faculty and staff.  It is every bit as real for the student body as they navigate the tumultuous seas of rigorous courses, high stakes testing and extracurricular competition. As some may recall, adolescence brings a host of other concerns that fade with maturity, but for young people, the trials and tribulations of interpersonal relationships, peer pressure and life in general adds many more layers of anxiety.

What is mindfulness?

The complexity of modern life is pervasive.  We are constantly bombarded with sensory stimulus and other information we race to process, let alone understand.  In recent years a popular, albeit ancient, way of thinking has reemerged as a promising way of coping with the tempest that all too often occupies the human mind.  Mindfulness, in various forms has been explored by throngs of individuals and organizations as a means of reducing stress, increasing efficiency and most importantly, increasing overall happiness.  According to Dan Harris of happify.com, “Mindfulness is the ability to know what’s happening in your head at any given moment without getting carried away by it.”

The concept is simple, but the applications and approaches are remarkably diverse.  For some, mindfulness is achieved through simple reflection.  For others, breathing exercises or meditation are employed to achieve this state of awareness. Although its role in the complexity of modern life is undeniable, electronic devices and apps have been utilized to help people live in the moment.  Even the everyday act of eating can lead to an increased sense of well-being when the principles of mindfulness are applied.

Mindfulness in Education

“Sometimes my brain is like a snow globe when you shake it up.  It’s stormy and wild and I can’t see things properly. Mindfulness helps me slow down so I can see all the different snowflakes and understand what’s happening in my mind.” These words from a middle school student in New Zealand illustrate the power of mindfulness for students.  When simple breathing exercises or more advanced guided meditations are taught, student learning improves.  Behavioral issues are reduced and classroom management is less burdensome. It is not just about students though.  When teachers utilize mindfulness techniques, they are more efficient and, in general, happier.  For school leaders, the chaotic demands of the position make mindfulness a valuable resource.

Making a Change

Thankfully, the idea of mindfulness is wildly popular and there are numerous resources available.  For schools, organizations like empoweringeducation.org, mindfulschools.org and mindfulnessinschools.org present a wealth of videos, lesson plans and advice ready for the classroom.  Finding the best fit for your school may be a challenge, but they generally promote mindfulness through breathing exercises, sensory experiences, guided imagery, sensory experiences or movement.  Modeling and faculty buy in is a crucial component to instructing the concept of mindfulness, so it only makes sense to introduce the concept and practices to faculty and staff well in advance of promoting the idea to the larger student body.

Make it Happen

Mindfulness is largely an internal, individual idea.  Although the mindful educator is likely to relate better to the people around them, the path to this type of awareness must be engaged at the individual level.  Let that engagement begin at the top.  When administrators research and adapt the concept of mindfulness in their personal and professional lives, they can attest to the impact on their own lives.  It is more likely that a transition to an increased mindful perspective will be apparent in the attitude and effectiveness of school leaders, making the concept all the more appealing.  Taking a few steps toward mindfulness could have a meaningful impact on your school, as well as yourself.

Keywords: mindfulness, happiness, work life balance, education psychology

Comment below on how you think your school can use mindfulness and how it could be implemented.

References

Kuyken, W., Weare, K., Ukoumunne, O. C., Vicary, R., Motton, N., Burnett, R.,  Huppert, F. (August 2013). Effectiveness of the Mindfulness in Schools Programme: non-randomised controlled feasibility study. The British Journal of Psychology, 126-131. doi: 10.1192/bjp.bp.113.126649.  Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23787061

Long , C. (2012, September 7). How Do Educators Handle Work-Related Stress? National Education Association. Retrieved from: http://neatoday.org/2012/09/07/how-do-educators-handle-work-related-stress/

Mindful Aotearoa. (2015, October 20). Kids explain mindfulness. Mindfulness Exchange. Retrieved from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=awo8jUxIm0c

No Author. (2015, December 7). Why Mindfulness Is a Superpower: An Animation. Happify.com Retrieved from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6T02g5hnT4

Novotney, A. (September 2014. Vol 45, No. 8). Students under pressure. Monitor on Psychology, 36. Retrieved from: http://www.apa.org/monitor/2014/09/cover-pressure.aspx

Wei, M. (2015, August 24). What Mindfulness App Is Right for You? Huffington Post. Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marlynn-wei-md-jd/what-mindfulness-app-is-right-for-you_b_8026010.html

Yaron, L. (2015, November 10). Mindfulness in the Classroom: A How-To Guide. Education Week. Retrieved from: http://www.edweek.org/tm/articles/2015/11/10/mindfulness-in-the-classroom-a-how-to-guide.html

 

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