This summer, your school’s administrator read a book or two on the benefits of mindfulness practices in the classroom and ‘Voila!’, it’s now part of your curriculum. What do you do?
First, take a breath.
🙂 See what I did there? Mindfulness? Take a breath? Nevermind.
The first few days of school are over and, hopefully, your heart rate has returned to normal. By now you’ve successfully remembered, then forgotten, then remembered all of your new students’ names, and so you’re ready to think about what you’ll actually teach this year. Enter Mr. Mindfulness.
It’s quite simpler than many make it out. So again, take a breath.
Take away all the supposed “research” and “best practices” and whatever other educational lexicon that have been thrown at you these last few weeks, and what you have is really basic common sense. Especially for a Physical Education teacher.
If you know much about mindfulness then you know it involves concentrated meditation and/or breathing exercises designed to help individuals focus on the here and now. By practicing this again and again it becomes a discipline that is supposed to help with… EVERYTHING (or so they say). There are entire colleges dedicated to this approach. Take UC Berkeley. Their Greater Good Science Center is completely focused on using science-based practices to help people lead a more meaningful life.
I don’t disagree with their scientific research on the positive effects of mindfulness but rather on their reasons and goals for using it. Depending on your goals as an educator, you might disagree too. Their goal is to research and develop “happy and compassionate individuals, strong social bonds, and altruistic behavior” (see ‘core themes’ below).
Without getting too philosophical, I just don’t think it is our job as educators to instill these values in our students. We already have enough on our plates. Our job is to educate, not to dictate meaning or happiness. I’ve never heard a parent say they send their kid to school to learn to be happy. But I digress. In essence, I agree with the tool of mindulness, just not with the purpose for using it. But, as a tool, here’s how I wield it.
To be mindful is to be aware. The more aware you are of things the easier it is for you to adjust and change in order to improve. Improve is the focus. Growth. A.k.a. learning. Here’s an example.
Salim struggles with striking a ball off of a tee. He swings and swings and misses and misses. Here comes ‘mindfulness’ and immediately everything…
s l o w s d o w n.
If Salim slows down his swing, things becomes much easier to register in his mind. Before he begins his swing he notices his breathing and body position. As he slowly brings the bat to the tee he recognizes how his hands hold the bat and how his arms are moving the bat towards the ball. He is focused on the ball but he is still aware of his body parts – this is called proprioception (fun five-dollar word for ya).
Because Salim is aware of his body parts then he is more aware of what is connected to his body (i.e. the bat). The extension of his arm is the bat and so he is better suited to adjust the bat to meet the ball. Of course, this should be extremely easy as he is moving at snail speed. Nonetheless, awareness is taking place.
If you are a Physical Education teacher then you have heard the word ‘awareness’ more times than you can count. Body Awareness. Spatial Awareness. Effort Awareness. These are all paramount movement concepts we teach in P.E. The rest of the teaching world is just now catching up. Welcome to the team!
The common sense of it all is that to be mindful is to simply to be aware. To be aware at a slow and deliberate level is the key to allowing students to build and improve in any area. Another great example of teaching slow deliberate mindfulness which then leads to quicker mastery of learning is teaching Tai Chi to improve in other martial arts.
So, want to teach mindfulness?
Start slow… and make sure to breathe.
*If you’d like to discuss (or disagree) more on the topic, use, or philosophy of mindfulness please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, subscribe to this blog, or simply leave a comment below. I love a good challenge.