Updated: Aug 16, 2020
Di Harvey takes a look at Mindfulness and how it informs our practice at Outreach.
Seeing the peaceful face of a youngster sat cross-legged (mid mediation) on the front of an education magazine, got me thinking about the subject of ‘Mindfulness’ and young people. A recent article in The Guardian noted that the ‘Mindfulness in Schools Project’ had trained nearly 2,000 teachers this year, a jump of 40% on last year, and much of that growth came from schools with higher than average proportions of vulnerable children. These are and young people experiencing higher levels of stress in small shoulders through family circumstances, parents losing their jobs, financial stress, anxiety about crime, fear about homelessness and fear for the future. Among the techniques being shared, children and young people try mediation and breathing to help them conquer and even overcome anxiety and fear. According to Jyoti “Jo” Manuel director of Special Yoga proving therapeutic yoga training for children with special needs: “The simplest way to bring the mind back to the present is to notice the breath..
it creates a connection to a more present moment.”
But practicing mindfulness doesn’t have to necessarily mean practicing meditation, yoga or breathing with students - although I do remember spreading an aura of calm among a pretty disruptive class by showing them a ‘yogic breath’ which worked a treat. Having a Mindful approach is the psychological process of being aware of the present moment, in an open, accepting, non-judgemental way. This might be simply taking a break to listen to a student or have a slightly off curriculum chat. Being a listener is important especially with young people who find themselves on the outside mainstream education. In addition, taking time to praise efforts and not focusing on individual ‘ability’ and being positive and supportive with feedback would in my practice count as having mindful approach.
Research by the Sutton Trust points to the importance of focus on the process, not natural ability of the student when giving feedback. So praising effort rather than intelligence or ability increases motivation and provides a template for students to follow next time. According to owner and practitioner, Jodie Devlin: “It’s vital we stay positive and supportive with our students, we are acting as mentors as well as teachers, listening, being non-judgemental and helping them to make decisions for themselves. Having a mindful approach is central to our teaching.”
By encouraging mindfulness we are helping to keep students focused on the now, the present and not the past. So whether we are pausing for a breath or taking time to listen, we are helping students to build self esteem and focus on themselves and the job in hand. The hope is that we can harness this engagement in the present and eventually focus on the path ahead, rather than students worrying about a past or even present anxiety. In this way we, as educators and mentors become a positive force in their lives.
With thanks to SEN Magazine