Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Mindfulness in Schools : Airy Fairy or Vital?

I have seen a lot of discussion lately about schools in New Zealand introducing elements of Mindfulness into their school culture and the wildly varying reactions to this. From the parents that think it's great, to those that don't mind to those that think it's taking away from the important stuff (I assume they mean reading, writing and maths...) to those that think it is airy fairy nonsense and those that oppose it on religious grounds.
"Some members of his congregation felt mindfulness was inappropriate for children, he said."
I found this notion dumbfounding and did some digging to discover that this comes from Christianity (in NZ). Mindfulness (and hence the resulting self-empowerment) is linked to meditation which is linked to religion (as it is a foundation practise of Buddism, for instance).  Christianity relies on people getting their strength externally through Christ and they see mindfulness as a threat to that (I could spend a whole blog post delving into the validity of this kind of linking but that is not a great use of MY attention right now...).

Richard Burnett is the creator of a Mindfulness in Schools programme to provide a fundamental skill that benefits all people. Training the muscle of our attention - the foundation of mindfulness.
In the TEDX talk below he talks about where we put our attention and how important this is. He mentions his experience and also current research by others showing our mental health and happiness are profoundly shaped by what we do with our attention.

I have to say that I believe, based on my personal and professional experience, that Mindfulness is a crucial skill. This has been a fundamental part of my pedagogy for a long time now. Through my experience  with connecting and re-connecting (especially those) 'at-risk' students with a love of learning (or in the very least a respect and appreciation for it!) and the curriculum.
In the very least it provides the mind the down time it needs to do what it does - sift through a vast amount of information and make connections to come up with unique solutions to our problems and create pathways forward in our life journeys.

I have linked to some more mindfulness resources below (some I have not viewed in depth yet).

  - Just breathe
 - Mindful Schools In-Class Instruction
 - Mindful Schools Curriculum Training - Sample Footage
 - Mind in a Jar - Planting Seeds: The Power of Mindfulness for Children
 - Mindfulness in Education
 - Teaching Mindfulness at Children at Home and In Schools

If you are feeling annoyed, frustrated and overwhelmed with all the things you have to do in your days, you need some mindfulness in your life. It may seem counterintuitive to put aside time to just 'do nothing' - but that time will support your brain to more effectively deal with all the stuff you are throwing at it. Try it yourself, you will be surprised! In the very least experiment with it on your class and watch their learning outcomes and social interactions improve!

Mindfulness is VITAL to enhance personal happiness and success in whatever we are doing to sustain ourselves in this life. 

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