On the Road from Mindless to Mindful
Samantha Jeacle, Teaching and Learning Leader
After regularly practising mindfulness meditation with two cooperative groups of Year 11 English students in 2015, part of the Smiling Mind education research project, I was eager not to lose that momentum with my new classes this year.
But things being what they are in schools, where a lunchbreak is a dream not often realised, and you’re constantly on the run… I did. Lose my momentum, I mean. Completely. I lost my own mindfulness practise along with it too. Which was unfortunate, given the benefits it holds for us teachers too.
I found myself faced with a challenging group of Year 7s. Mostly boys. Lovely boys, but boisterous! And not particularly interested in English class. Plus a small group of reserved and studious girls at the mercy of all that energy.
I battled through Term 1. Seating plans were put in place, I designed shorter activities to hold their concentration and consequences were metered out for behavioural outbursts. We were doing OK, but I knew it could be better. Then I remembered.
Maybe it would really help.
Term 2 was different. We started with a big chat about our brains and how they work. We discussed exciting terms like neuroplasticity, the default mode and prefrontal cortex. They learned that their brains aren't formed yet (a mantra I have often repeated to myself over the years) and that they can actually notice their thoughts and direct them to where they want to go.
It worked. For most of them. We had a much more settled term. Many of the boys that were teetering on the edge came back from the brink and got to experience a level of a calm and concentration that they had not managed before in class. They also felt more connected to me, because they could see that I was someone that didn’t just care about their work output, I also cared about them and how they were coping with school and life.
Unfortunately, after riding high on this wave of optimism I got slack again at the start of Term 3. And what do you know? The tone of the classroom slipped again. I’ve since reintroduced regular mindfulness meditation back into our classes but it’s been harder this time around. I’m hoping after the holiday break we can get back to where we were, travelling slowly but steadily on the road from mindless to mindful.