I’m proud to announce that I’ve recently taken part in The Mindfulness Summit, a not-for-profit project with a mission to make mindfulness mainstream.
Now, what is mindfulness and why am I writing about it on an ELT blog? In a nutshell, mindfulness is the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis. Mindfulness is a near synonym of awareness, i.e. knowing and understanding what is happening in the world or around you.
There are two reasons why I’m about to devote a whole blog post to mindfulness. For one, I believe that being mindful (or aware) is synonymous with being a good teacher. In other words, understanding what is happening in the world around you (read: classroom) is fundamental to good teaching practice. Noticing and knowing that a problem or a situation exists is a prerequisite to finding solutions. But most importantly, being mindful is a straight way to happiness.
The other reason why I’m writing this post is the blog challenge I came across earlier today, written by Micaela Carey. In her post, Micaela describes the ways she uses Mindfulness in the classroom and why and she challenges 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.
So here’s my take on mindfulness.
My regular readers may know that I’ve always been a believer in dogme teaching. To my mind, dogme, a communicative approach to language teaching that encourages teaching without published textbooks and focuses on conversational communication among learners and teacher, closely relates to what mindfulness is about. From my point of view, the relation lies in the fact that both zoom in on the present moment.
As SLA research implies, there’s no point in a one-size-fits-all approach to teaching English; the sequence of acquisition is not identical with the order language items are presented in coursebooks anyway. Thus, it makes more sense to build on what each and every student already knows and can do, and the only way to find out what our students know is to be mindful, i.e. to pay attention to the language they produce at each given moment.
There are many ways of practicing mindfulness with your students. Needless to say, they don’t even need to know about the concept to benefit from the practice. To an outsider, your mindfulness practice will probably look like a cool activity or an effective warmer.
So, here’s what I did with my 13-year-old students the other day. The idea came to me unexpectedly, as most creative ideas do, and that might be one of the reasons why it eventually went so well.
I handed out post-it notes and asked each student to write one thing that was on their mind at that moment. Then I got them to put the post-it note on somebody’s back without revealing the word. Each student had to find out what the word was by asking appropriate yes/no questions.
When everybody finished, I collected all the post-it notes and stuck them on the board. We put them into categories, such as people, pets, problems, the future, the past, the present, etc. Then I, in a deliberately jovial and triumphant manner, gradually removed all the cards with things which didn’t relate to the present moment. For example, most students had thought of their upcoming tests. This, as they admitted, was a rather worrying thought. I said there was no point in worrying about the future – the only thing that mattered was the precious moments we were having together. I told them that from then on we would only enjoy the lesson – every single moment of it.
They nodded in agreement, smiling ….
So, what are your ways of practicing mindfulness? Although this may be the first time you’re pondering this question, give it a try 🙂