Sunday, January 27, 2019

Food for Thought: What are you dreaming about in 2019?

Thought that I would post a slightly different topic for this week's Food for Thought that you might find interesting. It does relate to education and in part to what we are encouraging through increased student agency and our Studio programmes. We are providing the opportunity for students to discover passions and to some extent this relates to future aspirations/ goals or even dreams.We all have them, but most of us can never remember them, or live them, DREAMS. There are hundreds of books published about interpreting and living our dreams and almost as many TED talks on the topic, but what are dreams? Some people share their dreams like Martin Luther King and they change the world, others like Thich Nhat Hanh dedicate their lives selflessly to their dreams. (This link is to an article about Thich Nhat Hanh, 92, who is regarded as many as the father of Mindfulness who has returned home to Vietnam to spend his last days in his country of birth)

So what are dreams? Here are a few theories from a TED Ed talk, Why do we dream? As you will learn there are many theories about why we dream and it is clear that capturing some of that dreaming may benefit us and greater society as well.

The problem for so many of us is that we can't remember our dreams. Hence, my interest in this article from AEON which talks about research and how we are beginning to understand more about capturing what we have been dreaming about, a term known as lucidity.

"Aside from the sheer joy of being able to bend an imaginary world to your will, there’s a range of additional psychological benefits to lucid dreaming. For one, it can help with nightmares: simply knowing that you’re dreaming often brings relief during a nasty episode. You might also be able to use dreams to process trauma: confronting what’s haunting you, making peace with an attacker, escaping the situation by flying away, or even just waking up. Other potential applications include practicing sporting skills by night, having more ‘active’ participants for studies about sleep and dreaming, and the pursuit of creative inspiration. With practice, our dream state can feel almost as vivid to us as the world itself – and leaves you wondering, perhaps, where fantasy ends and reality begins."

Do you remember your dreams? When do you dream most? Have you had dreams come true? What are you dreaming about for 2019? Do you encourage your students to pursue their dreams?

Hence to end a brief post, Why Millennials should follow their dreams. This quote in the post I found to be the most interesting:

“Family, friends, society push you away from your dreams because there is a lot of risks associated with pursuing them, and they say it’s unrealistic – but they only say that because they can’t imagine doing it themselves, you should not let that reflect on you.”

Should the quote have started Education, Family, friends and society in general......?

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Food for Thought: Mindfulness in the Classroom

On Friday both assemblies started with two excellent sessions of Mindfulness lead by Katie and Susie. Although different in format both sessions transformed the atmosphere in the Primary MPR and Secondary gym, engaging students and ensuring they were focused for the assemblies that followed. We know that Mindfulness works and so do thousands of people worldwide, but there are still skeptics who continue to doubt and ask for proof. This week I was sent this brief : Mindfulness in the Classroom:Learning from a School-basedMindfulness Intervention through theBoston Charter Research Collaborative that provides research that shows the positive impact of Mindfulness on students performance and behavior in the classroom. As you will note, quotes from research like this one below further supports our mission, as it completely aligns and contributes to our definition of empowerment.

“ Self-control refers to the skills involved in planning, controlling, directing, and sustaining one’s attention, emotions, and behavior. These abilities are positively related to reading, math, and linguistic abilities, […] as well as the ability to process social situations more accurately. Consequently, school-based programs which promote self-control may be particularly promising in boosting academic performance and social intelligence." - Bauer, et al., 2018

The brief is only 15 pages long. Eight pages are the brief itself and it is an easy read. However, I would encourage you to read the whole report because the last 6 pages are dedicated to providing suggestions and links to materials supporting the rationale regarding Mindfulness in schools, recommendations for Integrating Mindfulness in the Classroom and links to Mindfulness Resources that include a very comprehensive Mindfulness toolkit. 

The short conclusion of the brief is: 

"In this BCRC study, an eight-week mindfulness program reduced students’ perception of stress and increased students’ capacity for sustained attention (an element of self-control). The benefits of the short-term mindfulness intervention described in this paper should motivate further research to examine whether a longer intervention or the ongoing practice of mindfulness in the classroom would yield larger and sustained benefits for students. Still, these promising findings suggest that students may benefit from mindfulness practices as part of their school day."

Here is the longer Executive Summary:

"Mindfulness-based practices have been promoted as a promising way to reduce stress and anxiety in students and improve their academic and behavioral outcomes. Using surveys administered to middle school students attending schools participating in the Boston Charter Research Collaborative, we learned that greater self-reported mindfulness correlates significantly with better academic achievement and behavioral outcomes. These results encouraged us to further assess if a schoolbased mindfulness intervention could improve students’ sustained attention, and therefore, their self-control. We implemented a randomized controlled trial with 6th grade students at a partner school to study the impact of a school-based mindfulness intervention on students’ sustained attention and perceived levels of stress. Students either participated in the mindfulness intervention or a coding training as part of the study. Students assigned to participate in the mindfulness intervention received eight weeks of mindfulness instruction, while a control group of students received training in computer coding. About half of the study participants also participated in brain imaging before and after the eight-week program. We found that students assigned to the mindfulness intervention condition showed a reduction in perceived stress and modest but significant improvements in sustained attention. These students also showed a reduced response of the amygdala, a brain structure associated with emotion and stress, to negative stimuli. Together, these findings suggest the potential value of mindfulness interventions for alleviating stress and enhancing sustained attention. This paper reviews the findings from this study, in addition to other literature on the role, function, and helpfulness of mindfulness in education. Further research is needed to understand whether regular practice of mindfulness in the classroom could produce sustained improvements in academic and behavioral outcomes. We conclude the report with some recommendations and considerations for bringing mindfulness practices into the classroom."

Mindfulness is going extremely well at school and it is clear from the assemblies that more and more of the students are participating properly however we can always improve by knowing more about this important tool for developing well-being in our students.