Mindful Teaching

Today we hear a lot about a term called mindful learning, but what about mindful teaching? If “the role of the teacher is to facilitate learning,” as Sir Ken Robinson says, then wouldn’t that involve a mindful approach to teaching? If teaching is such a creative profession, why aren’t more teachers getting creative in the classroom?

Being a mother is a lot like being a teacher, just on a much larger scale. Therefore, when I look at my teaching style, I believe it resembles my mothering style pretty similarly. Watching my daughter grow and learn I absolutely agree that children are natural learners. We as parents and teachers are there to mentor, stimulate, provoke, and engage their passions, but this process involves so much more time and energy than the stereotypical lecture-based course in typical college courses.

I loved the segment of Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk when he says, “The arts are not just important because they improve math scores, but they also speak to parts of a children’s being that are otherwise untouched.” This statement particularly resonated with me because I have always been an artist from a very young age. When I was in kindergarten and beginning of first grade I was sent to a private school with very strict rules. Not only did I get in trouble on a regular basis for being too fidgety and disruptive in class, but my parents were forced to remove me from the school after they refused to put me on ADHD medications. I specifically remember my first grade teacher ripping an assignment out of my hands when I refused to circle items and instead drew stars and hearts.

When I transferred to public school, I was placed in a first grade classroom with a teacher who was miles ahead of her time. Mrs. Montgomery had a class rabbit and in the spring we hatched and raised baby chicks and ducks in the classroom. Thinking back on it, I don’t know how she was able to get a bunch of first graders to focus on anything else, but she did!  I also had the opportunity to audition and was accepted to an after school gifted art program. It was through this program that I was able to find an outlet that engaged my inner creative side.

Given our current educational culture of standardization, it’s really no wonder that so many students are treated for ADHD or difficulty focusing in class. When teachers don’t teach to the individual, all individuality and creativity gets lost in the shuffle of standardized tests and lectures and then we sit here wondering why student aren’t learning.

So, now that I have gone on and on about becoming a more creative teacher and how it stems from me being a mother, what have I done in order to be a more mindful teacher? I had my college students color. And they loved it. :-)


Networked Learning

I have not always been a huge proponent of the use of the internet, specifically online social networks, within the educational process. If you would have told me a couple of years ago that I would be helping to institute an Instagram assignment in the lab that I am a graduate teaching assistant and would be designing my dissertation project research on the use of social networking sites as motivators to worksite wellness interventions, I would have said, “What is Instagram?” and “I already have Facebook.”

Sometimes I think that it is especially difficult for those in older generations to foresee the future of education. If we are expected to teach the younger generations then it seems only intuitive that we listen to their interests and adapt to them, not the other way around, which seems like a pretty backwards of doing things if you think about it. The typical practice of lecture and then regurgitation of information has been pressed upon most children within the typical educational system by those who are older than them. Instead, let us learn from our students and embrace the technology and what they have to teach us about more interesting ways to learn. With student’s hands practically glued to their cell phones, we need to stop trying to get them to put their phones down and quit forcing them to step away from their online communities and instead encourage them to lean into the digital world and the realm of educational content that exists at their fingertips.

Regardless of generation, the vast majority of those who go online think the internet has been good for them personally. Therefore, I feel that it is important that the educational system continue to evolve and to push the outer limits of what is possible in education. If experiential learning is considered education, then why not networked learning?