I was once a student in university. I went to class early in the morning for 50 minutes, I had 10 minutes to get to the next class, then another 10 minutes to get to the next class. Get to university, go to class, go to the next class, take some notes, talk with friends, go to another class, and repeat the next day. I often wondered how I got through undergrad and stayed focused. Maybe I had an advantage from many years of competitive sports background where I worked hard at the mental aspect of competition including focus, visualization, and achieving flow. I have now learned that these mental skills can be applied to any situation.
I recently attended a professional development seminar on managing energy to maximize personal effectiveness. The instructor would often stop and ask us to assess our level of focus (0-100%) and rate our energy (1-10). This activity alone prompted me to focus and be aware of my presence in the room. During different times of the day, or after activities in the classroom, my levels of focus and energy would fluctuate. Reflecting on this process, I thought about the typical classroom and how each student will have different levels of energy and focus at the start, during, and after class. But this also impacts the instructor as we have to teach at different times of the day, while maintaining high energy and focus.
Students go from one class to the next, and in class, their attention often shifts depending on what is happening. As a result, their energy is in constant demand. To help balance the demands of academic responsibilities and overall wellness, Langer (2000) explores two dichotomies in education, mindlessness and mindfulness. Mindlessness is a pre-programmed state of rigidness that is often based on routines. Mindfulness is when we are engaged in the present and our mind is reactive to new things. When participating in classroom routines or taking in new information if we do not question our thoughts, this practice can promote mindless learning which is not transferable. Whereas mindful learning is all about being present and active in the moment, noticing and questioning new things, and making new connections.
We often use active learning strategies and from my experience being focused and active requires energy, and if my energy is low I need to restore it. Meditation in education has shown to have positive effects on emotion and attention regulation (Waters, Barsky, Ridd & Allen, 2015). Meng (n.d.) states a few mindfulness techniques to help restore energy, which include short meditation strategies such as being aware of your breathing and counting breaths, which might only take 30 seconds with practice. If we took 30 seconds at the beginning of class or before an activity to re-focus us and students to restore energy levels what would our classrooms look, sound and feel like?
Langer, J. E. (2000). Mindful learning. Current Directions in Psychology Science, 9(6), 220-223
Meng, C.L (n.d.) Mindfulness for the 21st century leader – a human energy conservation technology. Malaysian International Chamber of Commerce & Industry, retrieved from http://potentialproject.com/mmp_upgrade/images/downloads/Mindfulness%20and%20energy%20management.pdf
Waters, L., Barsky, A., Ridd, A.,& Allen, K. (2015). Contemplative education: a systematic, evidence-based review of the effect of medication interventions in schools. Education Psychology Review, 27(1), 103-134. doi: 10.1007/s10648-014-9258-2