We are over the hump and heading towards half term (I know, gulp!). Similar to the rain, learning has not stopped this week! Year 7 have completed lesson 6/9 of their Mindfulness in School Project course, Year 8 are exploring cities and why some disappear, our Year 9 reenacted scenes from Romeo and Juliet and the Year 10 complete the last of their fitness testing and will now opt into activities that address their areas of improvement. Our Year 11 continue to investigate ways of structuring their Projects and Year 12 deconstructed ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’, looking at similarities between then and now and our Year 13 explored Chiang Kai Shek’s hypocrisy In History.
This week saw our first parent workshop and I was delighted to co-present with Lewis Keens. We shared our Well-being Framework, specifically making links to improve Well-being within our family. It was a joy to spend time with parents with such an open mind to tools we knew little of or in fact didn’t know existed when we were at school. To kick the session off parents were invited to participate in a five minute mindfulness practice… and this is what I would like to focus on for a wee while.
Mindfulness is such a buzz word these days. Celebrities are all doing it, podcasts are wide and varied, there are summits and conferences, and now we even have huge companies and sporting managers embracing techniques to enhance performance. At BSM we too promote Mindfulness, so much so that we offer every year group the opportunity to complete a course. I’d like to share my perspective on Mindfulness if you’d allow, and give you a little insight into how I think it may be useful to us as a community.
Firstly, although Mindfulness is commonly used around school, I would also like to give some air time to the other words that are widely used but don’t tend to feature on social media as much as the Big M word. These too act as tools to call on during our busy lives. Here we go: Gratitude, Savouring, Kindness, Measured of Well-being, Growth Mindset, Character Strengths, Sleep and rest, Journals, Physical Activity, Goal setting and Social connection.
Back to Mindfulness. Mindfulness isn’t easy or particularly enjoyable but what I have learnt is it is a tool (which remember is one of many) that helps to be in the present, respond rather than react and gives permission to take a break. Allowing time to build a bridge between what we think (mind) and what we feel (body) provides us with an insight that allows us to self regulate and lead a more balanced lifestyle. Don’t get me wrong, I still flip my lid and react rather than respond at times but at least I recognise I’ve done it now! Just as the London cabbie can change their hippocampus (the area responsible for navigation) by training for the Knowledge Test, we too can change areas of our brain by staying in the moment and focusing on the breath. (As a side note, if any of you are envisioning me sitting for hours in the lotus position in silence, I hate to burst your bubble but I can manage about 10 minutes and certainly not in the lotus position). BSM students find the same struggles as I do with Mindfulness but I am so impressed with their open mindedness and willingness to try out strategies that can help them with the challenges life throws at them. The Mindfulness in Schools Project is a course written by educators, psychologists and neuroscientists and it is also the course we use at BSM to introduce children to a technique that provides them with a tool for life. As with everything, some like it, some love it and some aren’t too keen. Mindfulness for our students simply means, being present, recognising thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations, nothing more really. Even the unbelievers would struggle to disagree that anything that allows children to connect these senses is a good thing. Lastly, the breath is used as the focal point simply because it’s always there so it’s easy to use.
My challenge for you this weekend is, wait for it… give it a try. There is a great app called Headspace which guides mindfulness very skillfully, no sounds of waves or hypnotic voices, just a guy talking you through a practice. Remember, this is one of 12 positive psychology strands we are focusing on so have an open mind and we’ll look at another one next week.
Have a mindful weekend folks.
Next week is Week B.