Saturday, September 27, 2014

Food for Thought: Empowering Students to Take Ownership of Learning

Dear all,

For me this was the best week in my short time at ISHCMC.Iit had nothing to do with what I have been doing. This feeling is completely due to the spirit that our community has shown this week. It has been a week when we have truly walked our mission. Everywhere I have sensed energy, engagement and empowerment. Not only in assemblies and activities but at the core of our business, the learning. This has all been possible through your support for our students and allowing them to take responsibility and demonstrate the skills that you have been teaching. Both the secondary and upper primary assemblies were perfect examples of this release taking place......and in both cases I doubt that us adults would have done a better job.

As I said in the staff meeting on Tuesday, we have done incredibly well with our accreditation and to add to this, on Friday, we heard from the PYP that all the MTBA have also now been achieved. Hence across all three programmes we are ready to look forward not back. The IB will now not be visiting us this year.

This weeks Food for Thought is a few ideas about giving power to your students in the classroom. From walking around I know that many of you are already doing all of these things and more, which is great. But it is also good to be able to read an article/ post and say, "I'm already doing all those things, now what should I do?" And that's when we start to push back the frontiers of learning in our classrooms and move further to believing we can be the best school in the universe.

Have a great weekend,


Empowering Students to Take Ownership of Learning

Giving power to my students? Won't that mean school days full of texting, non-educational movies and zero learning? Maybe not ...
Empowering students is not the same as abdicating control of your classroom. The ASCD’s journal Educational Leadership definesstudent empowerment as “student ownership of learning.” That is a good way to look at it – helping students take control of their own education. But how do you do that?

Let Students Choose

Homework Assignments

Give them a page of math problems, but let them choose any 10 to complete. If you usually do written book reports, allow students to write a traditional report, film a book review, or create a comic-book-style summary of the major events. You can’t do it for every assignment, but why not try it occasionally?
Tests (within reason)
Make up an essay test with three different questions and let students choose which one to answer. Or create a test with 20 short answer questions and ask them to pick 10. Some teachers even let their students choose between a long multiple-choice test, a short multiple-choice test plus a brief essay, or a long essay-only test.

Engage Students in Evaluations

Take five minutes at the end of a class period for students to respond to the following questions:
  • What did I learn today?
  • What do I still have questions about?
  • Could I use this knowledge to take a test, complete an assignment, or accomplish something in my life?
This makes them responsible for their own learning in a very concrete way.
Self-Review / Peer Review / Teacher Review Cycle
Take an essay, lab report, or other comparable assignment. Create a rubric for it. When the assignment is due, provide students with the rubric and ask them to grade themselves. Then give each student another copy of the rubric and have them evaluate a classmate’s paper. Then collect the assignment and use the rubric to evaluate it yourself.  Have students compare the three completed rubrics – the self-evaluation, the peer evaluation, and your evaluation – and ask questions.
This can help students recognize where they may be too hard (or too easy) on themselves and it may help you recognize attitudes in yourself that impact your grading. Average the results of the three rubrics to get a grade so students realize their self-evaluation actually matters.
Student Feedback
Consider having students evaluate you, the course, or a specific assignment. Maybe students really liked a book you planned to get rid of, or maybe students felt they rushed over material they needed more time to study.
While you will always get jokers who suggest no homework or pizza every Friday, you may find some interesting ideas as well, and students feel heard.

Put Students in Charge

Learn Students' Goals
Ask students what they want to get out of your course or this school year. Students may be uncomfortable – they are used to being told what to do – but if you push past their joking to get real answers, you might discover that some students genuinely want to learn, and even those without a passion for your subject may be motivated by goals like raising their GPA or getting into college.
Solicit Input on Class Activities & Homework
Next ask them: how do we get there? Invite their input on class activities, homework schedules, etc. Write down suggestions without arguing with them.
Once students have had a chance to share, you can provide an alternative perspective: “Yes, I’m sure you’d like to have no homework all year, but we have to get through this textbook and there isn’t enough class time, so we have to have homework.” Maybe you can find a compromise.
For example, Sarah was a high school honors English teacher. The class required reading a lot of novels, but her students felt overwhelmed. After gathering student feedback, Sarah was able to adjust her schedule. Rather than homework every night, she gave students due dates once a week when larger sections of the novel were due. This allowed students to plan their workload and still kept the English class on track.

Broaden Students' Sense of Responsibility
The fastest way to empower students is to make their work matter in the real world. Try service learning or project-based learning. By creating an environment where their effort will impact other people, you can help students recognize the tremendous power they can have, even while they are still students.
Having students write an essay on “why I shouldn’t do drugs” is boring and the kids won’t care. Turn that essay into an assignment to film an advertisement that will be posted on the Internet and screened at a school assembly and watch the difference in student attitudes!
At times, empowering students can feel like a risky move. But if you can bear with a little bit of chaos, you may end up with more engaged, interested, and empowered students as a result! 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Food for Thought: Cultivators of Curiosity

Dear all,

This weeks Food for Thought arises from a mini survey that I heard about that had taken place through ToK classes and involved student questioning. The Grade 11 students were asked to note the questions they asked in classes. In their feedback session two weeks later only one question had been asked that was not about clarifying information. Now, I might have the statistics wrong but even if the number of questions is less than 10 this would point to lack of curiosity, deep thinking and possibly engagement in their learning. I know that several teachers have expressed concern about our students lack of ability, as they grow older, to ask questions that reflect curiosity and deep thinking. Perhaps that is because they are not truly engaged with their learning.

This video is approximately 10 minutes and encourages us all to cultivate curiosity as the "seeds of real learning," in the way we teach and engage our students. The theme of encouraging inquiry through active, blended learning  is certainly one that should resonate with all of us at ISHCMC.

This article reinforces the importance of questioning for students


Why It’s Imperative to Teach Students How to Question as the Ultimate Survival Skill

"Friday March 14 is the 135th anniversary of Albert Einstein’s birthday, a good time to think about the importance of asking questions. This was a big theme for Einstein, who told us, “The important thing is not to stop questioning,” while also urging us to question everything and “Never lose a holy curiosity.”
Einstein understood that questioning is critical to learning and solving problems. If he were alive today, Einstein would see a world in which questioning has become more important than ever before. But he might also be left wondering why, for the most part, we still don’t encourage questioning or teach it to our children.
Let’s start with the growing importance of questioning. Perhaps the best evidence of this can be seen in today’s high-tech world. The leaders of Facebook, Amazon, Google, and a number of other leading companies are known as consummate questioners who constantly ask, Why should we settle for this? and What if we try something different? A number of the top executives in Silicon Valley were educated in Montessori schools, where their curiosity was given room to roam at a young age.
This has served them well in today’s dynamic tech market—because their well-honed questioning skills help them analyze and solve problems, adapt to change, identify fresh opportunities, and lead companies in new directions. Indeed, asking the right question is often the starting point of innovation. In writing my book, A More Beautiful Question, I traced the origins of many breakthrough inventions and “disruptive” business start-ups—everything from the making of the cell phone to the birth of the internet, along with the launches of the companies Netflix, Nest, and Dropbox—and found that each began with a person pursuing an insightful question no one else was asking at the time. The questions led to answers that, eventually, have led to billion-dollar paydays. It has been said that, in Silicon Valley today, “questions are the new answers.”
If anything, the ability to ask insightful questions will be even more critical tomorrow than it is today. As change continues to accelerate, tomorrow’s leaders—and the larger workforce—will have to keep learning, updating and adapting what they know, inventing and re-inventing their own jobs and careers through constant, ongoing inquiry." 
Here is an interesting site about questioning with a list of blog posts and discussion forums for those who want to go deeper.  
Tuesday's meeting will be in the MPR. The subject has had to change to reflect Cognita's quality assurance expectations and hence we will be looking at the Cognita Evaluation Cycle and how that fits with our professional growth model.

Have a good weekend,


Saturday, September 13, 2014

Encouraging Active Learning

Dear all,

This week's Food for Thought focuses on encouraging active learning in our classrooms that again aligns perfectly with our mission and building an achievement culture in an environment where students are energized, engaged and empowered through constructing their learning.

I am not going to excuse the increased length of this week's post because I believe spending 40 minutes-1 hour a week thinking and reflecting upon classroom practice is a fair expectation for a professional who wants to grow.

The two videos talk about the "why" of allowing students to become active in their learning but from slightly different perspectives. Eric Mazur should certainly encourage some of us IB Diploma teachers to reflect upon our dominant pedagogy, whilst Shelley Wright further emphasizes why the direction we are trying to move teaching at ISHCMC is so empowering for all concerned.

Following the videos I have included two short readings that provide some strategies and ideas for creating active learning and ensuring it is successful. As the IB programmes stress through Trans-disciplinary and Approaches to Learning Skills, it is important to deliberately foster and monitor group work and collaboration and not assume it takes place naturally.

Hope you find this useful,

Have a good weekend,


Video 1: Professor Eric Mazur; Harvard Professor (13 minutes)

Video 2: Shelley Wright, Canadian teacher (15 minutes)

Peer Learning
Associate Professor Alice Christudason
Department of Real Estate, School of Design & Environment / Associate Director, CDTL
Many institutions of learning now promote instructional methods involving ‘active’ learning that present opportunities for students to formulate their own questions, discuss issues, explain their viewpoints, and engage in cooperative learning by working in teams on problems and projects. ‘Peer learning’ is a form of cooperative learning that enhances the value of student-student interaction and results in various advantageous learning outcomes.
To realise the benefits of peer learning, teachers must provide ‘intellectual scaffolding’. Thus, teachers prime students by selecting discussion topics that all students are likely to have some relevant knowledge of; they also raise questions/issues that prompt students towards more sophisticated levels of thinking. In addition, collaborative processes are devised to get all group members to participate meaningfully.
Peer Learning Strategies
To facilitate successful peer learning, teachers may choose from an array of strategies:

  1. Buzz Groups: A large group of students is subdivided into smaller groups of 4–5 students to consider the issues surrounding a problem. After about 20 minutes of discussion, one member of each sub-group presents the findings of the sub-group to the whole group.
  1. Affinity Groups: Groups of 4–5 students are each assigned particular tasks to work on outside of formal contact time. At the next formal meeting with the teacher, the sub-group, or a group representative, presents the sub-group’s findings to the whole tutorial group.
  1. Solution and Critic Groups: One sub-group is assigned a discussion topic for a tutorial and the other groups constitute ‘critics’ who observe, offer comments and evaluate the sub-group’s presentation.
  1. ‘Teach-Write-Discuss’: At the end of a unit of instruction, students have to answer short questions and justify their answers. After working on the questions individually, students compare their answers with each other’s. A whole-class discussion subsequently examines the array of answers that still seem justifiable and the reasons for their validity.
However, peer learning may encourage the presence of ‘freeloaders’—team members who fail to fulfil their team responsibilities, but are awarded for assignments or presentations the same (high) grade as their more responsible teammates. Freeloading may be minimised by using peer ratings to assess individual performance of team members, or conducting a ‘post-test’. There will then be two levels of accountability: the individual and the group.

Critique sessions, role-play, debates, case studies and integrated projects are other exciting and effective teaching strategies that stir students’ enthusiasm and encourage peer learning. Students thus have diverse opportunities to experience in a reasonably ‘safe’ and unconstrained context (while perhaps being evaluated by another group and/or the teacher), reactions to complex and ‘real’ problems they may face later in their careers.
Successful Peer Learning
For peer learning to be effective, the teacher must ensure that the entire group experiences ‘positive interdependence’, face-to-face interaction, group processing, and individual and group accountability. ‘Positive interdependence’ emphasises the importance and uniqueness of each group member’s efforts while important cognitive activities and interpersonal dynamics are quietly at work. As students communicate with one another, they inevitably assume leadership roles, acquire conflict-managing skills, discuss and clarify concepts, and unravel the complexities of human relationships within a given context; this process enhances their learning outcomes. Thus, students’ learning extends far beyond the written word and even the given task.
Research indicates that peer learning activities typically result in: (a) team-building spirit and more supportive relationships; (b) greater psychological well-being, social competence, communication skills and self-esteem; and (c) higher achievement and greater productivity in terms of enhanced learning outcomes. Although peer-learning strategies are valuable tools for educators to utilise, it is obvious that simply placing students in groups and telling them to ‘work together’ is not going to automatically yield results. The teacher must consciously orchestrate the learning exercise and choose the appropriate vehicle for it. Only then will students in fact engage in peer learning and reap the benefits discussed above.
Felder, R.M. ‘Active and Cooperative Learning’. (last accessed: 18 June 2003).
Johnson, D.W.; Johnson, R.T.; & Holubec, E.J. (1993). Circles of Learning. Edina, MI: Interaction Book Company.
Kaufman, D.B.; Felder, R.M.; & Fuller, H. (June 1999). ‘Peer Ratings in Cooperative Learning Teams’. Proceedings of the 1999 Annual ASEE Meeting, ASEE, Session 1430’. (last accessed: 18 June 2003).
Nelson, C. (1999). ‘Critical Thinking and Collaborative Learning’. Tomorrow’s Professor Msg. #173. Center for Teaching and Learning, Stanford University. (last accessed: 23 June 2003).
Shaftel, F. & Fair, Jean (eds.). (1967). Effective Thinking in the Social Studies. Washington, D.C.: National Council for the Social Studies.

Nurturing Collaboration: 5 Strategies

When collaboration goes wrong, it can be toxic for learning and classroom culture. We are all familiar with the scene: a group of students that is supposed to be completing a collaborative project has splintered off into dysfunctional factions. Maybe it's one student who has sullenly separated her- or himself from the rest of the group, or maybe the group has become two non-communicative teams with separate visions. Sometimes these conflicts lead to resentments that have the potential for long-term damage to the classroom community.
I wrote about the power and potential of collaborative projects and peer feedback. 
(extract from previous blog post: Despite these difficulties, I believe that it would be a huge mistake to teach in a way that did not emphasize collaboration. Each year, as a result of different collaborative experiences, my classroom is transformed from a random collection of individuals into a supportive learning community. The collective effort and exchange of ideas lead to final products and understanding that would not be possible if students were working in isolation. These collaborative relationships between students are the result of intentional effort, careful planning, modeling and facilitation. I am frequently reminded that collaboration is a learned skill.

Why Emphasize Collaboration?

Learning is a social process, and the learning process is deepened when ideas are challenged and learners are pushed to produce work that surpasses their expectations of what they can do. That said, working in groups is a continually challenging process. It is important that students aren't forced to work together on projects where collaboration isn't necessary or beneficial to the final product.
Collaborative projects are a strategy to shift the focus away from the teacher as sole authority, evaluator and audience for student work. This democratization of the classroom provides multiple opportunities for learning beyond traditional content. Collaboration makes our classrooms places of exploration and exchange where students gain deeper knowledge of themselves, their potential and their roles in a community.These opportunities work to democratize the classroom and provide opportunities for learning on multiple levels.
Facilitating collaboration is one of the many aspects of teaching that requires skillful planning, a high degree of awareness, and on-the-fly decision making. Of course, even with the best preparation, the messiness of learning and the fact that we are all humans will cause unforeseen challenges to emerge!)
Below are five strategies that can help nurture successful collaborations.

1. Model Feedback

On the days when my students have come to class with a draft of a project that's ready for feedback, I'll reach out to a couple of students on the side before class starts. I then start class by calling on these students who have consented to share parts of their project. After each excerpt, I ask the class what they notice or what stands out. These affirmations set a tone for appreciating each other's work. After we have a list on the board of pluses (+), I then ask the class if they have questions (?) for the author. Asking for multiple questions instead of critiques helps me to reinforce the idea that, as authors and creators, it's important to solicit feedback and that everyone has the right to decide which feedback is most helpful for them.

2. Be Aware!

The talented nonviolence trainer George Lakey, author of Facilitating Group Learning, first introduced me to the idea of "internal weather" within individuals who are part of a group process. When I have groups working on a larger project, I maintain a constant awareness of the dynamics and the physical language of individuals around the room, even when I am far away from a group. I make mental notes about which groups are communicating effectively and which groups are dominated by one or two individuals. I take note of who is sitting separately from other group members. I often have groups work on Google Docs that are shared with me and color coded to represent the contributions of different students. A quick glance at a doc can give me a sense of a group's status.

3. Provide a Clear Structure

When students are giving each other feedback on a draft or collaborating on a larger project, I always provide clear structure and expectations. I may tell them, "You need to insert four comments on your partner's doc -- two things that are working well and two questions that will help the author to improve the piece." I recently gave students a peer review sheet asking them to give feedback on:
  • Four things that are working well
  • Three specific ideas for improvement
  • Two specific questions for the author
  • One source that you recommend for the author

4. Use Tech Tools to Simplify the Process

If technology is available, the right tool can simplify collaboration and give students easy access to the work of their peers. That said, inappropriate tech choices can stop a project in its tracks. Google Docswikis and blog posts all have the potential to give students access to each other's work. Audio and video projects are often edited on one machine. In these situations, I strategize -- or have groups strategize -- different roles that can contribute to the final product.

5. Be Ready to Provide a Jump Start

Even with careful planning, collaboration can go really wrong -- really quickly! In these moments, I am quick to step in and provide help for a dysfunctional group in finding a way to move forward. This may mean facilitating a conversation about delegating tasks, conflict resolution, providing tips or sources for research, or offering affirmations and helping to establish a positive tone within a group.
I am constantly in awe of the different ways that my students, who come from so many different backgrounds, deeply engage with one another. Whether they are debating an issue, editing a podcast or planning a skit, these young people regularly teach me about the many ways it is possible to learn from and create with those around us.
In what different ways do you facilitate and nurture collaboration?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Food for Thought: Presentation Tips for Teachers

Dear all,

This weeks Food for Thought is by Garr Reynold's and relates to the pedagogical path that we are all moving along. This TED focuses on the way we present information and structure our lessons. It refers constantly to how we should engage students, no matter what their age. Walking around school it is clear that some of what is talked about is already entrenched in our practice but there is still much we can be reflecting upon in our own classrooms. Are we guilty of causing student death by PowerPoint? Do we still talk too much? Do our students leave our classroom feeling energized and engaged or bored?

Even for those of you whose classrooms are a hive of activity and action there is content here for you to think about. Reynold's refers to Nicholas Negroponte's quote, " Good Education has got to be good entertainment," and I would agree that this is part of the formula, but I would add, 'that leads to measurable learning outcomes and deeper understanding'. Hence, for those of you who already feel that your classroom creates the environment encouraged by this video, I would ask you to reflect upon the question; how are you measuring and recording the learning and understanding of your students from the activities you are creating? Simply put, how can you demonstrate student learning at the end of  each class?

Enjoy and have a good Sunday.


Monday, September 1, 2014

3 Simple Things That Will Make You 10% Happier

Ever been really stressed? So stressed you nearly freak out?
This happened to Dan Harris… in front of 5 million people.
On June 7th, 2004, Dan was a news correspondent on ABC and he had a panic attack on air while reading the news:

He knew he had to do something. His career was in jeopardy.
By coincidence, he was soon assigned to cover stories about religion. This set Dan on a multi-year quest talking to people of faith — and total quacks.
But it ended up introducing him to something that helped him get his head straight and, as he likes to say, made him 10% happier.
What was it? Meditation.
Feeling skeptical yet? Thinking of hippies, beads and chanting? Actually, that’s how Dan felt too.
But it turns out his discovery wasn’t the least bit mystic — in fact it was quite scientific.
I gave Dan a call and we talked about meditation and the book he wrote about his journey: 10% Happier.
And here’s how the neuroscience behind a 2500 year old ritual can help all of us become 10% happier.

You Don’t Have To Be A Hippie And Live In A Yurt

Dan’s now the co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America.
What’s the first thing this Emmy-award winning journalist has to say about meditation? It has a huge PR problem.
Meditation suffers from a towering PR problem, largely because its most prominent proponents talk as if they have a perpetual pan flute accompaniment. If you can get past the cultural baggage, though, what you’ll find is that meditation is simply exercise for your brain. It’s a proven technique for preventing the voice in your head from leading you around by the nose… There’s even science to back this up.
So what is science learning about meditation? A lot. Here’s Dan:

There are actually tons and tons of studies on meditation. But you can find one-off studies that show almost anything, right?
So what happened when the Journal of American Medicinerecently looked at more then 18,000 citations on the subject?
Meditation demonstrated clear results in helping people with anxiety, depression and pain.
Other studies are showing it can help with decision-makingcompassion — and it might even reduce your cravings for chocolate.
And Dan’s not the only one who’s realized this:
  1. The SuperBowl winning Seattle Seahawks meditate.
  2. Google has someone in charge of teaching meditation.
  3. 12 minutes a day of meditation makes US Marines more resilient in war zones.
Looking at the research a while back, I said meditation is one of the ten things people should do every day to improve their lives.
(For more on the science of meditation, click here.)
I know some of you are saying, “Great. But what does it do, really?
Meditation and mindfulness are two things we hear about constantly but few of us can really define what they are and what they do. That’s about to change.

No Robes And Chanting Necessary

We all have that voice in our head. Our internal narrator. And he’s usually a jerk.
A nonstop running commentary of wants and needs, second-guessing, regretting the past and worrying about the future.
Dan explains:
The voice comes braying in as soon as we open our eyes in the morning, and then heckles us all day long with an air horn. It’s a fever swamp of urges, desires, and judgments. It’s fixated on the past and the future, to the detriment of the here and now. It’s what has us reaching into the fridge when we’re not hungry, losing our temper when we know it’s not really in our best interest, and pruning our inboxes when we’re ostensibly engaged in conversation with other human beings.
Harvard professor and author of Stumbling on Happiness, Dan Gilbert, has shown that this sort of mind-wandering makes us miserable.
In fact, a recent study showed men would rather get electric shocks than be alone with their thoughts. Yeah, really.
This is where meditation comes in.
It’s not some magic incantation; it’s a bicep curl for your brain that can tame the thoughts in your head.
By teaching your brain to focus it can allow you to not get yanked around by your emotions, to be able to respond rather than react.
And the results are real:
A 2012 Harvard study showed:
In the mindful attention group, the after-training brain scans showed a decrease in activation in the right amygdala in response to all images, supporting the hypothesis that meditation can improve emotional stability and response to stress.
And after 8 weeks of regular meditation these changes were visible even when the subjects weren’t meditating.
A 2011 Yale study showed:
Experienced meditators seem to switch off areas of the brain associated with wandering thoughts, anxiety and some psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia.Researchers used fMRI scans to determine how meditators’ brains differed from subjects who were not meditating. The areas shaded in blue highlight areas of decreased activity in the brains of meditators.
(For more things scientifically proven to make you happier, click here.)
Some people don’t like my fancy brain pictures. They’re still saying, “That wouldn’t work for me.” You’re wrong. Here’s why.

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

People give tons of excuses why they can’t meditate. Dan has heard them all by now and most don’t hold water.
1) “I’m too busy to meditate.”
You can see results in 5 minutes a day. You don’t have five minutes? And how long have you been reading this post for, Mr. Busy?
2) “It won’t work for me. My mind is too crazy.”
Ah, “the fallacy of uniqueness.” Dan says he had the attention span of a 6 month old Golden Labrador. It’s worked for him and many many others.
3) “I’m not a Buddhist.”
I asked Dan about this when we chatted. Mindfulness meditation is secular:
The form of mindfulness meditation that has been studied in labs is completely secular. It’s called mindfulness-based stress reductionand you don’t have to join anything, you don’t have to wear any special outfits or believe in anything. It’s secular and scientifically validated.
4) “I need my anxiety. It drives me crazy but it’s the reason I get things done.”
I was curious about this one, too (you think someone who writes blog posts like this doesn’t have a voice in his head? C’mon.)
Dan always lived by the motto, The price of security is insecurity.1Worrying kept him on his game. But it also made him miserable.
But then Dan asked his meditation teacher, Joseph Goldstein, what he thought of worrying.
Here’s Dan:
He said “Yes, you have to worry because that makes sense in order to function effectively. However, on the 17th time when you’re worrying about that same thing, maybe ask yourself one simple question: ‘Is it useful?’2
At some point, you have thought it through sufficiently and it’s time to move on. What I have learned how to do as a result of meditation is to draw the line between what I call “constructive anguish” and “unconstructive rumination” and that’s made me a lot happier.
You won’t lose your edge. You can still worry a bit. But when it gets out of hand ask yourself, “Is this useful?”
(For more lifehacks from ancient times that will make you happier, click here.)
At this point many of you are saying, “Okay, okay, meditation is good. But how do I actually do it?
That’s up next. And it’s crazy simple — but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

How To Meditate

And here’s how he explained it to me:

It really involves three extremely simple steps.
One: Sit with your eyes closed and your back straight.
Two: Notice what it feels like when your breath comes in and when your breath goes out, try to bring your full attention to the feeling of your breath coming in and going out.
Third step is the biggie. Every time you try to do this, your mind is going to go crazy. You are going to start thinking about all sorts of stupid things like if you need a haircut, why you said that dumb thing to your boss, what’s for lunch, etc. Every time you notice that your mind is wandering, bring your attention back to your breath and begin again. This is going to happen over and over and over again and that is meditation.
Personally, I like to think of it as the toughest and most maddening video game in the world. Dan agrees:
It’s not easy. You will “fail” a million times but the “failing” and starting over is succeeding. So this isn’t like most things in your life where, like if you can’t get up on water skis, you can’t do it. Here the trying and starting again, trying and starting again, that’s the whole game.

It works. And meditation doesn’t cost anything. All you need to do is be breathing, and breathing is something that’s always with you and never stops.
And if it ever does stop, well, you may have more urgent problems to deal with.
(For more on what the happiest people do every day, click here.)
So how do we tie all this together?

Sum Up

You can still see Dan on Nightline and Good Morning America but luckily he’s not having any more panic attacks.
Is meditation going to give you magic powers? No. Even the Dalai Lama loses his temper.
Seriously — Dan asked him during an interview.
“Is your mind always calm?” I asked.
“No, no, no. Occasionally lose my temper.”
“You do?”
“Oh yes. If someone is never lose temper then perhaps they may come from another space,” he said, pointing toward the sky and laughing from the belly, his eyes twinkling beneath his thick glasses.
But research says meditation can make you less stressed and more happy. Here’s what Dan told me:
The bad things in my life are still bad but I am not making them worse than they need to be by adding on a bunch of useless rumination. We assume that our happiness is derived from external circumstances, like how much money we’re making, if we had a happy childhood, if we married well, whatever. The radical proposition of meditation is that happiness is self-generated. You can develop your happiness muscle the way you develop your biceps in the gym. That is hugely, hugely empowering and a comforting notion.
5 minutes a day. That’s all it takes to give your happiness muscle a workout.