Mindfulness

Being interested in heathy eating and the like I came across the word “mindfulness” related to the way we eat. It is believed that when you eat it is better not to watch tv or read a book or do anything else not related to the process of chewing and swallowing food. They say you should concentrate on each piece you consume. Doing so you seem to get satiated more quickly and feel better since you don’t over consume food. It is even claimed that it affects your digestion positively.

As you may well have guessed, I’m leading to mindfulness in teaching. Why?


There was a situation at my lesson when one student got irritated because of another one who “helped” her suggesting the right answers not allowing any time to think it over. When it happened and the student left the room I was shocked and upset. Analyzing this situation I saw that I have been overlooking such moments for a long time. The student who interrupted his mates several times during a lesson hasn’t always been like that. He used to wait for others to think their utterances over and didn’t intrude on somebody’s speaking. I have been letting it be for all this time without considering it to be important thus, he gradually began to do what he does. Why have I been neglecting it? Because I was busy thinking about something else. You know it very well, a teacher is all the time multitasking. We have to keep in mind a hell lot of things: timing, next activity, questions to ask, whose turn is now, where this damn handout with the next task is, what track it is, I should write this mistake down for later correction, this is a good idea, this student is not speaking enough and so on and so forth.
So, here am I scrutinising the problem. I’ve even understood that it is a kind of trait of my character – if I’m busy thinking about something I’m not flexible enough to notice and react properly. I might be not careful enough or even careless about what’s going on being concentrated solely on how well students do the current task. I guess it may stem from the fact that I hate being slow, I feel awkward if students have to wait for me and I am an ardent supporter of the idea of keeping a good tempo for creating proper learning atmosphere. Here I come to the conclusion that to avoid the lack of mindfulness I may need to sacrifice a bit the tempo of a lesson to have enough time to keep vigilant watch not only on shallow processes of a lesson but on some deeper ones considering possible consequences.

That’s where I’ve stopped pondering. I wonder if I’m alone with this lack of mindfulness. If you have overcame it – tell me how. Or just tell me what you think about my ideas above.

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3 thoughts on “Mindfulness

  1. Dear Cait, every line of this post resonated with me. Over the years I’ve come to regard multitasking as one of my worst, absolutely unbreakable habits. Even at the planning stage as I get down to work I solemnly promise to myself I won’t get side-tracked, and will fully focus on the preparation, and get it right this time. And then the skype icon will flash, and one thing will lead to another, and I will lapse into my customary careless ‘let’s just get this over with’ behaviour. But did you know that it’s our nature, as women, to multitask? We were designed for that just as men are inherently better at concentrating on a single task at hand. I’ve read a couple of interesting articles on that, and I sometimes use the information to justify myself 🙂
    Maybe this is also the reason there are more female teachers out there.
    As far as the pace is concerned, you and me are very much alike. If I feel that the pace of the class is starting to slow down, or that someone is less involved, or if – god forbid – the students have to wait while I’m shuffling papers, I can feel the tension in the air and go straight into the panic mode. I don’t know where this comes from and I have no idea how students feel about these gaps – I’ve never had the chance to ask. What are your thoughts?
    Regarding the incident you mentioned, I don’t think mindfulness has anything to do with that. The way I see it, it was simply the case of being observant. Your mind might have registered it the first time, but did not process it in the proper way – due to its overload with other, more urgent tasks. In this situation being mindful would imply solely listening to those two students for a while at the expense of.. well, of everything else. I’m not sure we can afford this level of detachment. I believe this particular instance might have been prevented by taking ample time to reflect on the class afterwards. Then you might have remembered and analyzed it. But in the classroom, it’s ultimately just another task on our list, and it’s up to us what priority to give it.
    Come to think of it, there haven’t been a single class after which I didn’t realize I hadn’t forgotten to do one thing or had overlooked the other. There must be a limited number of tasks we’re capable of handling at a time – either it all comes down to this, or I’m just awfully disorganized and absent-minded 🙂
    The bottom line of my lengthy comment is mindfulness in the classroom is a luxury and multitasking is the essence of our job, whether we like it or not.

    • Thanks for your comment, CaneSugar. Having read it I see that you think nothing much can be done except analyzing such situations afterwards. Correct me if I got you wrong. I used to have a special column in my lesson plans where I put my thoughts and ideas opposite each stage right during a lesson. It was done to reflect on it later and see what worked well and what could have been changed. But I failed to find time for reflection and gave up commenting since it is yet another task for me at a lesson. Now with a couple of groups finished I may well try again) thanks for making me remember it!

      Kate

  2. Writing down your reflections during a class is something I’ve never thought about. My point is that during the class such things are hard to notice, and they probably will not make it into your special column anyway, since you said that you didn’t really consider the fact that your student interrupted the others as important. Moreover, making notes while actually teaching might further overwhelm you (it will definitely overwhelm me:)).
    By reflecting I meant replaying the class in your mind, say, on your way home, and once you’ve detected some problem areas, try to work out the solution or let it emerge at a later time. I think it doesn’t really matter which way we bring our awareness to the problem, my idea was to come back to the class mentally when you have fewer tasks on your plate.

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