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Mindfulness Can Mean More Than Meditation – Can’t It?

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I’ve been seeing a lot of articles recently about mindfulness in schools (When Mindfulness Meets the Classroom and More Evidence That Mindfulness Breeds Resilience), and, though I have successfully used short visualization techniques with students (see My Best Posts On Helping Students “Visualize Success”), I’ve been – and continue to be – a bit skeptical on the practical aspects of getting my students invested in meditation (which often seems synonymous with “mindfulness”). In addition, even though I’ve tried meditation a number of times over the years, I’ve also found that I don’t really have the patience for it. Given that experience, it’s difficult for me to find the energy to encourage my own students to try it.

However, my understanding is that mindfulness is designed to encourage attention and being in the “now” (see The Best Resources On The Dangers Of Multitasking).  I think I’m pretty good at doing that – I just find meditation a bit boring, and think that many of my high schoolers would, too (though many could use improvement at being more attentive – to more than just me – and in being in the “now”).

I began wondering what other techniques might qualify under the umbrella of cultivating “mindfulness.”  Vanderbuilt University, which says it’s also called “contemplative pedagogy,” has some ideas, including a reading technique that sounds very similar to “close reading.” It seems to me that encouraging student reflection (see The Best Resources On Student & Teacher Reflection) and metacognition (see The Best Posts On Metacognition), as well as self-awareness activities around self-control (see My Best Posts About Helping Students Develop Their Capacity For Self-Control) can also lead to similar results. I’ve also had students sometimes close their eyes and visualize a short text while I or other students read it to the class.

Unless I’m off-base, and I’m happy to hear that I am, it seems to me that proponents of “mindfulness” might want to intentionally expand the techniques and vocabulary they use to describe the practice, especially since research on meditation in the classroom does seem mixed (see Promising, But Incomplete, Results for Mindfulness and Why Mindfulness Is Overrated).

What do you think and, in particular, what specific techniques do you use in the classroom to promote attention and being in the “now.”

Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

One Comment

  1. I, too, was skeptical of mindfulness at first, and thought I wouldn’t be able to concentrate for that long. But with some instruction, I realized we are ALL like that. Mindfulness the way I have experienced it does not mean keeping your mind blank all the time or being totally focused on everything around you all day. It is more about finding stillness, quieting the constant and distracting chatter of my mind, and coming into awareness of what is happening in my life right now. It helps me find the wise voice that is within me. It allows me to recognize when I am moving away from fear, or believing something that might not be true, and to more thoughtfully move toward what I really need or desire. In my opinion, it is a fabulous practice for young people as they learn to navigate life’s complications and problems. Check out the comments under the article you cited on Why Mindfulness is Overrated for more helpful perspectives.

    Thanks for all you do, Larry. I always enjoy your blogs.

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