Mindfulness seems to be popping up everywhere lately. It’s being used in business to increase worker potential and give them an edge in decision-making. It’s also used in education to help students focus and to aid teachers in preventing burnout. There was a Mindfulness Summit during the month of October with fascinating interviews of people describing what Mindfulness is, how to practice it and why. There’s also a Facebook page dedicated to Mindfulness and EFL. People practice mindfulness sitting at home, while they’re out walking or even while they’re eating. It’s definitely gone mainstream and has become somewhat of a buzz word.
I came across Mindfulness one day while searching for information about yoga. At first I was just curious about this strange new term but the more I looked into how to practice Mindfulness and the possible benefits from doing so, the more convinced I was that I should be trying it out. That was around three (maybe four) years ago and I’ve practiced it on and off since. The beauty of Mindfulness is that you can practice it anywhere, at any time and without the need of any equipment or special conditions. You can adapt it to your routine and your way of life.
I began including, when possible, a few moments of Mindfulness in my daily routine. There were days when I didn’t manage to fit it in or completely forgot about it but generally speaking it has become something I do once in a while just to take notice of how I feel and what I’m thinking about. It’s a moment when I try to just be.
Last year I began using Mindfulness in the classroom. I have no training in this regard so I just followed my own intuition. I would find a moment during class to really become aware of the present. As teachers, we all know that this can be extremely difficult to do. When I’m in class, my attention is split in countless directions at the same time: is this activity working? is Juan paying attention? did I remember to put the flashcards in the order of the song? if Maria finishes before the other students, what can do on her own? which activity should we move on to next and when? Lots of very distinct thoughts dealing with the present, the past as well as the future. It’s hard to cope sometimes but using Mindfulness now and then helps bring me back to the here and now. I’m not saying that those thoughts go away- and I don’t think they should because they’re all a necessary part of the process of teaching- but taking a moment to live in the present and take stock of the situation helps me maintain my energy levels as well as keeps me thinking clearly. I think it prevents me from getting whisked away by my own thoughts.
I’m no expert in Mindfulness by any means, but I’ve noticed two different ways of practicing it in the classroom. There are times when I use Mindfulness for my own well-being. As described above, I use it to find my center again, a sort of restart button. There are also times when I focus my practice on my students. Instead of being aware of how I’m feeling and what my needs are, I try to tune into what their energy is like, the dynamics happening at that moment and what they could possibly need. I think a critical moment to do this is right at the beginning of class, maybe in the hallway before they’ve even gone into the classroom.
With my pre-schoolers I often practice Mindfulness during ‘Talk Time’ (described in this post). At the beginning of class, we settle in and each child briefly shares something with the class. While they are speaking, I try to focus my attention solely on what each one tells us. I make sure that I have nothing in my hands and that I’m sitting in a relaxed but attentive way. I try to make sure they keep an active pace in going around the circle but I try not to be forceful in directing what goes on. During their moment to shine, I simply listen and notice what’s happening. This technique has become really useful in deciding how to carry out the class, which activities would be more appropriate depending on their levels of energy as well as interest and, maybe most importantly, it’s something I truly enjoy.
In this post I’ve described the ways I use Mindfulness in the classroom and why. I challenge fellow bloggers to do the same. Whether you’re just starting to practice Mindfulness or you’ve been doing it for years, write a post about it. Tell us about how you practice, share an anecdote or simply write about why you would like to practice Mindfulness. The point of the blog challenge is to raise awareness of how other teachers use or are interested in implementing Mindfulness as well as to allow us to learn from each other. Thanks for reading. I’m looking forward to reading about your experiences and thoughts on Mindfulness.