Mindful Education

Mindful Education

There’s been growing interest in mindfulness in education in recent years, but all too often educators struggle to know where to start, how to work with the teachers first before considering the potential impacts for students or how to carry all other stakeholders with them.ย  I’ve also had experiences where senior educators have struggled to figure out all the implications of how mindfulness practices will change so many other facets of their school culture. For example, if a school expresses a commitment to mindfulness then it has to completely rethink its approach to discipline, behaviour policies etc.

I’m always keen to bring free and useful resources to the attention of readers of this blog. So, I wanted to get a quick message out to all to share information on the Mindful Education Summit. This is a free online conference that actually started on Wednesday. Each day they share through the website (link below) a number of video presentations of talks of varying lengths. each day’s videos are available for 48 hours. So, there is still a little time to catch up on the day 1 material, day 2 will be available for another day and day 3 is just launching now.

The videos vary between explanation of theory and research in the area of applying mindfulness in education environments and some that are very geared to providing demonstrations and simple practices of mindful practices.

The Mindful Education Summit Website
(Click on the link above and it will open a new tab or page in your bowser. You will simply be asked to share your name and email address to register, then getting full access to the videos.

A Force For Good

This powerful video accompanies my last post. Dr Daniel Goleman’s new book and campaign for developing a more compassionate world. It finishes with a powerful appearance by the Dalai Lama.

Could Emotional Intelligence help us build a better world and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals?

SDG

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) encompasses a number of skills that have been highlighted as being among the most important in an Industry 4.0 world – and therefore among the most important skills we need to help children to acquire during their education.

In turn, there is a massive task in the world to ensure that quality education is available to every child. This goal is driven most visibly through the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Bringing these two things together, here’s a conference video from the United Nations that actually explored the ways in which EQ can be harnessed in order to achieve the SDGs. It brings together some of the world’s leading experts on EQ, including Daniel Goleman.

Emotional Intelligence has been shown to foster empathy, contribute to violence prevention and peacebuilding post-conflict, improve interpersonal relationships and communication, make people more self-aware about their own feelings and the feelings

Source: Could Emotional Intelligence help us build a better world and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals?

Great School Leadership

Repeatedly, surveys and research have demonstrated that leadership is a more important defining factor between average and great schools than between average and great companies. I believe this is partly due to the fact that, unlike a company, there’s a far more significant element of ‘community’ about a school.

There isn’t a single template for what makes great school leaders. They come in all sizes, shapes and genders; introverts and extroverts and having taken all sorts of different paths to reach their roles.

Here’s a short post from Edutopia in which a blogger identifies what she believes are the key attributes:

Edutopia – What Makes a Great School Leader?

I can’t fault the three things she highlights; vision, community building and EQ. However, nobody should underestimate the point that comes through her personal experience in the last section so strongly – great school leaders care passionately about children.

What Really Causes Addiction?

This is a fascinating story that has got me really thinking about all the implications. It has enormous ramifications at the level of governments and nations, towns and cities, families, but also in terms of how people can be helped to avoid addictions in the first place, thereby having the potential to live far more meaningful and high quality lives. It has implications for how architects design buildings, how planners develop neighbourhoods and cities and

Huffington Post – The Real Cause of Addiction

I think it even has implications for those of us working in education. if it proves to be correct, then we will need to begin to ask ourselves questions about how we can bring children up to be more ‘connected’, to feel more of a tie with their fellow pupils and to deal sensitively with isolation that afflicts some pupils. Such isolation isn’t always obvious – there are always those people who may appear on the surface to be gregarious, social beings, but who really are insular and cut off from others at all but the most superficial levels. If true, then in education we’re going to have to give far more importance to emotional intelligence, interpersonal skills, development of empathy and emphasise bonding over competition.

This is really fascinating – so much so that I’m a little mystified that these findings haven’t been making more waves.

Not Happy to be Right

In Western countries educators can benefit from an enormous array of high quality research published every year by the education and psychology faculty of the very top universities to shape, guide and mould their teaching practice. In both India and now UAE my experience has been that such research is not really available in the local environment.

Once upon a time that would have been a significant issue and would have severely undermined the opportunity for developing education of truly international standards. However, in today’s ‘global’ environment, the issue goes away – or it should do! However, we then have to contend in large dose with the dreaded ‘NIH’ = Not Invented Here. This plagues every industry, every country, certainly I’ve seen evidence all over. It comes along with chronic “Yes, but …….” syndrome.

This is one of the principle reasons why as an educator motivated at least partially by a sense that education today (as much as when I was a child) fails to make the grade – most particularly, fails to equip young people with the skills and competencies they need to fulfil their potential in the world in to which they will emerge as young adults, I have always endeavoured to expose myself and the educators around me to the very best of international research and thinking, regardless of where it may come from. I have always sought to encourage colleagues (and parents) to question their NIH and ‘yes, but…..’ tendencies.

Of all the aspects and areas of education that we are exposed to, maybe the one where I have taken ‘most heat’ is the issue of academics for Kindergarten classes and children. My view has always been that the evidence was more than strong enough that driving an academic agenda with the youngest children in our schools is like playing Russian roulette with their futures. For good measure, I also believe it is cruel and mind-numbing. Incidentally, this has also meant challenging primary school teachers who work with children in classes 1-3 when they bemoan how little ‘stuff’ children may have learned/ been taught before they arrived in their classes.

To all those educators who ever challenged me on these issues, to all the parents who treated me as though I was a cavalier and dangerous fool who wanted to jeopardise their child’s future, I urge you, please, to read this article:

Psychology Today – Early Academic Training Produces Long-Term Harm

In reading the article and seeing the weight of scientifically verifiable evidence stacked up I couldn’t find any joy in being proved right, no great desire to run up and down school corridors shouting “I told you so!” Rather, I found myself deeply saddened as I think of all the millions of children who are being tortured with heavy academics in their earliest formative years, who are literally being harmed in vast numbers and almost certainly denied the right to fulfil their learning potential.

The article makes very clear – vast numbers of these children gain no academic advantage over those given the freedom to play and be free of academic rigour at an early age, in fact in enormous proportions they do worse later. To me, of even more serious consequences are the findings that suggest lower emotional intelligence, social skills, self-regulation, interpersonal skills. As educators, how can we take any pride or consider ourselves worthy of respect when we deliberately and consciously do things that permanently harm and undermine children’s self esteem?

I’m sure there will be those of my fellow educators who will respond that they’re “simply giving the parents what they want.” I say here and now, this is a weak and untenable response. We wish to call ourselves professionals and to be respected in society. In my opinion, one of the things that marks out the true professional (educator, doctor, lawyer) is the courage to educate the client (in our case parents) what they need, not to simply give them what they ask for out of a layperson’s position of antiquated and false ideas and notions.

If a doctor wrote out regular prescriptions for a patient, knowing that what he was doing was killing the patient, would any of us consider that acceptable? Our ‘killing’ when we do the wrong things in education is less transparent or obvious – we may kill the soul, while the body still walks.

Not good enough. This article inspires me to stand up with even more courage for what is right for our youngest children.

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