“The highest function of education is to bring about an integrated individual who is capable of dealing with life as a whole.” – Krishnamurti
If you were to google mindfulness it states that it is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique. For me, mindfulness is learning to live in the present moment and take things one thing at a time. It is a tool that helps myself and my students to deal with the anxieties that we deal with on a daily basis. It is a reminder to be grateful for the things that I have and the things that are going right in my life. For my reading students, it is a tool to help them calm themselves at the beginning of every class period and through our “Mindful Monday” practices, it helps them to train their brains to focus on tasks (something that has helped some of my most struggling readers).
Many believe that mindfulness is meditation. What I have found through my reading and research is that mindfulness is like the marathon that you train for and meditation is the training that you do for that marathon. Through meditations, you are able to train your brain to be aware of when you are “off task” and tune back into the moment that you are in. Being in tune with the present helps us to be more productive, helps us to enjoy the things that we do more, and helps us to deal with our stresses by not worrying about the past or the future.
The whole concept of mindfulness really resonated with me after hearing about it at the workshop earlier this year. I am a self-confessed worry wart. I have always been. Anxiety and the need to please have burdened me all of my life. Add on the role of being a mother and the anxiety and mommy guilt has been enough to put me over the edge! However, when I started to read the journals that I ask my students to keep daily, I began to realize that my anxiety at age 40 was nothing in comparison to what some of these 11 and 12-year-old boys and girls are dealing. I could not believe how anxious they were and how so many of them were desperate to find some tool to help them. It made me really start to think about what may happen to some of them if they did not learn to handle the stresses that they are feeling at this point in their life.
As a teacher and a mom, I worry about what kids are doing to relieve stress. We hear all of the time about drug abuse, bullying, and suicide. It all scares me to death. While it seems that every generation has their new and different things that stress them out, it seems to me like a tool like mindfulness is exactly what all generations could use to help them to relieve anxiety and live a happier life.
With the age of less and less recess in schools and technology distracting us from everything, I truly believe that mindfulness is a tool that everyone needs to learn, especially our children. It used to be a badge of honor to be able to say you could multi-task like no one else. However, there is more and more research to say that our brains are not meant to multi-task. The part of our brain that was meant to activate for fight or flight for a short amount of time is now activating for longer and longer periods of time with no rest. None of this is good!
As I mentioned in my first post, my goal is to simply share what I am doing to introduce mindfulness to my students and how it is helping me in my own life. In a very short time, I have seen such an amazing change in some of my students. Some have even written me letters to tell me how much it has helped them and how they have seen it help their friends as well. I truly believe that mindfulness needs to be woven into every classroom!