Mindfulness as a Legitimate Praxis in Teaching and Learning
The very rich, engaging and rewarding presentation given by Richard Lissemore, Ryan Donovan and Hilarie Ashton inspired me to revisit some articles that I read on ‘mindfulness.” ‘Mindfulness’ although not new is an up and rising praxis that is being incorporated in the practice of teaching and learning. One of the articles that I read was written by Dr. David Forbes. You can access the article via this link:
Dr. Forbes is an Associate professor in the Urban Education department at CUNY Brooklyn College. According to CUNY Graduate Center website, he “teaches mindfulness and other contemplative and integral practices to school counseling students, and educators.”
David Forbes on mindfulness and education: Limited
Forbes raised the question, “Why are so many teachers and students stressed out, or turned off to education?” For students he proposed that due to varying distractions “many students find it difficult to relax, focus, and concentrate and often are unable to learn what they need.” He believes that teaching students about emotions and feelings will allow them to perform better in school. Forbes wrote, “developmentally appropriate mindfulness practices can contribute to positive outcomes for students: reducing stress and reactivity, promoting greater presence, self-regulation of thoughts, affect, and behaviors, and improved self-reflection, resilience, interpersonal skills, receptivity, and learning.”
For educators, Forbes believes that educators “feel alienated by a system that takes away their professional skills….” Forbes stresses on mindfulness practices for students in improving performance in school but however failed to address mindfulness practices for teachers in dealing with the daily stress in the classroom. (Forbes, 2012) wrote:
In mindfulness you observe experiences as they arise in the mind and hold them with compassion. Over time you begin to notice that thoughts and feelings are not substantial or permanent, and you are able to let them go and become less identified with them. Many people gain practical benefits from mindfulness in terms of personal growth, relationships, and overall well-being. Mindfulness can lead to less stress, heightened sensory awareness–i.e. being more fully in the present–as well as more regulation of attention, thoughts, behaviors, and emotions.
Kenneth Tobin on mindfulness and education: Inclusive
Dr. Kenneth Tobin of the CUNY Graduate Center along with his colleagues (Powietrzynska, et al) are making strides in incorporating ‘mindfulness’ in the teaching and learning of science in the classroom. In a piece written by Dr. Tobin and his colleagues, they “address the nature of mindfulness and its salience to education generally and to science education specifically.” according to Tobin (2012), “as well as being less emotional, mindful individuals have greater: control over their thought processes; awareness of experience while being immersed in it; objectivity; tendency to defer judgment; likelihood to act as ecological stewards; levels of cooperation with others; and social attunement.”
You can access the article via this link:
Powietrzynska and mindfulness in the classroom
Powietrzynska employs a heuristic as a low grade intervention in creating heightened awareness of emotional states when teaching. Powietrzynska explains that heightened emotional states, “if sustained and not regulated for extended periods of time, negative emotions may inevitably lead to poor health.” Here, Powietrzynska states the obvious that distress, chronic stress or hyperstress (which is experienced inside and outside of the classroom) can eventually lead to poor health. The importance and difference with Powietrzynska’s research and findings are that individuals involved are able to “moment-to-moment” identify the stressors and his/her response to them. What’s the point of this exercise? Well, according to Tobin (2012), “as well as being less emotional, mindful individuals have greater: control over their thought processes; awareness of experience while being immersed in it; objectivity; tendency to defer judgment; likelihood to act as ecological stewards; levels of cooperation with others; and social attunement.” In observing experiences as they arise, an individual may quickly realize that certain feelings and emotions are unsubstantiated and can easily disconnect from them. What’s the connection between good health and learning?
Conclusion but not the end
It is not enough to become aware of the moment to moment in the classroom. Rather it is imperative to enter the classroom in a state of awareness. As Dr. Ian Ellis Jones notably stated on mindfulness:
…. mindfulness is totally different from all other forms of meditation in that it is something you do throughout the whole day, namely, remembering to stay present, in the present, from one moment to the next. whilst paying attention, on purpose, to what’s happening in the present moment, without judgment. Your whole life becomes one extended exercise in meditative awareness of what is.