"The faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention, over and over again, is the very root of judgment, character, and will. . . An education which should improve this faculty would be the education par excellence"
William James, 1890
Mindfulness was introduced on a formal basis throughout the school in February 2011. It was felt that this practice had the potential to make a significant contribution to the learning and well being of the children and its introduction followed on from successful initiatives on the part of a number of teachers who had used mindfulness in a variety of contexts over the previous few years. These contexts have included P.E., Yoga, Thinking Time, Quiet Time etc.
Mindfulness meditation directly supports the aims and objectives of the Core Curriculum and of the Social, Personal and Health Education Curriculum. It also has the potential to enhance the child’s learning across all subjects.
Benefits of Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a secular practice which does not depend on, or interfere with, any belief system and is increasingly used in business, healthcare and education to improve attention and well being.
Mindfulness practices help students focus and pay attention. A few minutes of mindfulness practice can improve the learning environment.
The Association for Mindfulness in Education - http://www.mindfuleducation.org/index.html state that the documented benefits of the practice include:
According to the Mindwell Foundation - www.mindwellfoundation.org/schools :
Research over the past few decades has found that mindfulness training develops:
As such, mindfulness is a foundation for education; mindfulness provides the optimal conditions for learning and teaching and also supports all pedagogical approaches.
There are many links on the websites mentioned above for anyone who wishes to explore further.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness has been defined as the practice of bringing one’s complete attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis.
Mindfulness is paying attention here and now with kindness and curiosity. Examples of mindfulness practice include:
Current Situation in RMDS
Staff training, facilitated by Ananda Programmes - www.ananda.ie , in February 2011 introduced all staff to the techniques mentioned above and modeled various ways of working with children of different ages throughout the school.
Since then, all classes have been practicing mindfulness regularly with the recommendation that each class should spend between five and ten minutes daily on the practice. Opportunities for practice include when children return to class after breaks or transitioning between subjects. Teachers have a good deal of latitude as to how and when they do it as there is no one correct way to practice and different approaches will work with different ages of children.
The following are some approaches which have been used successfully in RMDS:
There is a lot to recommend the teacher personally leading the practice but there are also audio resources (see below) available on the network storage to facilitate other approaches. These may be most useful as an occasional refreshing change rather than relying on them on a regular basis.
Example of a mindfulness session:
Each September, it is worth spending a little time with the class discussing what exactly mindfulness is:
Any time you notice that you are thinking of something – just gently decide that you will think about that later and bring your attention back to noticing your breath
Until the class can maintain this for a few minutes unaided it is probably best if the teacher moves quietly around the room helping children with the correct posture and occasionally repeating some of the instructions above as needed. It is important that the teachers’ voice be calm, quiet and soft.
It is worth reminding children that they can do this practice anytime – and like any practice, the more we do it, the better we get at it. Ask the class to try it at home sometime – especially if they are tired or angry or fed up - and notice how they feel after it.
It has been agreed that all class teachers will include mindfulness on their timetables. It is very much easier for children to develop their skill and facility in mindfulness if it is embedded in their daily routine.
Integration of mindfulness across the primary school curriculum
Class Subject Strand Strand unit
J.I. & S.I. SPHE Myself
R.1 & R.2 SPHE Myself
R.3 & R.4 SPHE Myself
R.5 & R.6 SPHE Myself
There is considerable support for this initiative from the parent body as evidenced by discussions at the annual class meeting.
Staff have also embraced the culture of mindfulness and all staff meetings now begin with a Mindful Moment.
As personnel change over time there is a need to ensure that new staff members are supported in working with mindfulness and while there is considerable expertise on the staff presently it is possible that in the future some further staff training may prove useful. The deputy principal has taken responsibility to monitor practice and policy in this area. He is also available to staff to model a mindfulness session in the classrooms.
Books in staffroom:
Audio resources on Network Storage:
Appendix 1 contains some more examples of approaches.
Review - This practice will be reviewed regularly.