There are several definitions of mindfulness and I have selected three that for me seem to paint a full picture of this practice. Dr. Patrizia Collard, a noted mindfulness teacher, psychotherapist, author and lecturer at the University of East London defines mindfulness as “being aware of or bringing attention to this moment in time, deliberately and without judging the experience.” Daniel Rechtschaffen, author of The Way of Mindful Education and the facilitator who is working with MPS this year, defines mindfulness as “ever present awareness.” And finally, MPS parent and mindfulness teacher Lisa Hills provided me with this take on mindfulness, “the ability to see any experience clearly and investigate it with curiosity and kindness. Through practicing mindfulness, children learn how to choose where to put their attention, how to keep their attention focused, to find balance in their emotional responses, and treat their own and others’ experiences with kindness.”
Being present in the moment is a lifelong pursuit and schools that adopt and practice mindfulness and instill and nurture these practices at their core are stronger learning communities. For teachers, being able to fully attend to what they are teaching, interacting with their students in a focused, relaxed and deliberate manner and doing so with a sense of calm and connection to the simple moments of the day, create rich learning environments.
Students who learn and practice mindfulness, are able to approach their class work with an increased sense of calm and relaxation; a focus that allows them to fully attend to the task and filter out distractions, concentrating on what is important and immediate. It allows students to take personal responsibility and use tools to focus and center, thus opening up to the possibilities and enjoyment of the moment – whether that is observing a meal worm, taking a walk, adding fractions or reflecting on a reading passage.
In the roll out of mindfulness at MPS we are beginning with our teachers learning the fundamentals of this practice. As they become comfortable with incorporating mindfulness in their daily lives, we will move to having Daniel work in classrooms directly with students and teachers in how the practice looks in a classroom. He will model lessons and then facilitate teachers implementing lessons. All of this is very much in line with our current Responsive Classroom approach and is a logical synergistic opportunity for our social/emotional work with students.
We will have a session(s) for parents once we are up and running. I know that many parents currently practice mindfulness in their own lives.
Research has shown that schools where mindfulness is practiced allows for a greater sense of calm, less anxiety, more focused attention and greater receptivity to learning. Research has also shown that standardized tests scores can go up. Most importantly it is a tool that promotes well being, self awareness and thoughtfulness towards others. Mindfulness helps us become really present and engaged, so we respond wisely to a challenge and experience each moment as it unfolds. It is a wonderful learning tool. It is a wonderful life tool.
“We spend precious hours fearing the inevitable. It would be wise to use that time adoring our families, cherishing our friends and living our lives.”
– Maya Angelou