Teachers are busy. They are busy building learning opportunities for students. Teachers plan, execute and reflect. They want to create engaging environments where students learn. It doesn’t always work. A recent report published by the Grattan Institute, suggests up to 40% of school students in Australia may be unproductive in any given year.
Unproductive behaviours such as idle chatter, avoiding work and being inattentive in class are signs of a disengaged student and these behaviours are costing our kids their education. However many aren’t even aware of the price they’re paying. All a disengaged child sees is a boring class that’s too easy, too difficult or not relevant and they’d rather be somewhere else.
It can be different
Students are busy. They’re busy growing. Children are learning who they are, where they belong and which of their contributions are valued. Along the way, they’re also gathering content knowledge and skills. Subjects such as English and History may seem irrelevant to a student focused on a degree in Biochemistry. Yet these subjects offer communication and thinking skills to study the behaviour of cells and nature of matter. Similarly, Physics and Economics may seem immaterial to a student focused on becoming a pro athlete, musician or master builder. However these subjects offer principles and processes to recognise patterns and plan for the future.
The key is perspective
Teachers and students can get busy building mindful connections. I’m using the word busy deliberately. Often when reading an article about how to increase student engagement we feel the weight of yet another ‘thing to do’ burden. Teacher’s wonder what else will be lumped on their plate.
- What can I do in my already busy day.
- How will I find the time for more work?
- Where can I find time to learn another new practice to boost my students’ engagement?
I hear you
Time is a precious commodity. We need to be mindful of how we spend it. This applies to both teacher and student. Generally, we’re happier when we’re devoting time to something we find valuable. If we’re mindful, we’re more likely to use time wisely because we’re aware of what we’re doing. The act of being mindful takes no extra time. It is simply a different way of being aware. Right now, I’m suggesting we can be mindful of internal motivations and use this information to BE engaged.
Think about this for a moment. Teachers and students can be mindful of their perspectives and in doing so carve time into busy schedules. The ideas I’m about to share take no extra time, they simply ask you to consider a different perspective.
What does Engagement look like?
Students are more engaged when
- Learning is meaningful – students see how the learning is relevant to themselves and their lives
- Learning is achievable – students believe they can successfully complete a task or understand a concept
- Learning is autonomous and supported – students feel as though they have choice and a measure of control over their learning while also knowing help is available.
- Learning is collaborative – students feel as though they are connected to ideas and people beyond themselves. They see their work has value and is valued.
- Learning leads to mastery – students recognise learning means more than a grade on page. They see the progression of their learning and opportunities that result from that progression.
Gallup have a student poll that measures these areas. They ask key questions to determine the extent to which a student feels their needs are met. These questions focus on value, safety and recognition. For example;
- I have a best friend at school
- I feel safe at school
- I have an opportunity to do what I do best each day
- I have at least one teacher who excites me about my future
If you look at the relationship between these questions and the factors required for student engagement it becomes obvious, the more a student can answer yes to questions like these, the more likely they are to feel engaged.
Time for a Mindful Strengths-Based approach
Now I’ve reached the crux of this post. We can use mindful practice to increase student engagement without adding any extra time burdens. Teachers can be mindfully aware of their talents and the talents of their students. Student can be mindfully aware of their talents and the talents of their classmates (and teachers). In this deliberate understanding, connections are made. Teachers know what each student needs and contributes. Students know what they need and contribute. An emphasis on recognising needs and contributions provides an environment where each person feels safe, understood and valued. This is an environment where learning thrives. When you know what you and others need, it is easier to recognise the relevance in learning because you feel valued, give value and see how collaborative relationships contribute to life. Collaborative learning is possible because everyone is using a shared vocabulary that fosters recognition of talent. Each person knows the value they bring to a project and talents are shared for group success. Students have autonomy in their learning because everyone realises there are different ways to reach the same successful outcome.
The Key is Strengths, The Practice is Mindfulness, The Process is a Story
Mindfulness practice helps a person recognise the links between their thoughts, emotions and behaviours. This recognition helps them develop talents into strengths that can be consistently, productively and successful applied. Experiences of success, build stories of success and as these stories are shared, connections are made. When a school adopts a mindful, strengths-based narrative, they put in place a system where each student and teacher can be part of the creation of a wider experience library. This gives a sense of belonging and ownership. Students and teachers feel part of a community and this creates a space for engagement.
A useful start is Gallup’s StrengthsQuest. This is an online assessment administered by Gallup that helps teachers and students identify their core talents. The next step is to learn how to mindfully apply those talents in teaching and learning. There are many helpful resources on the StrengthsQuest page however, if you would like a personalised approach that addresses your specific needs you may like to speak with a qualified coach and trainer. I’d love to be of service.
If you would like to implement a mindful strengths-based narrative in your classroom or school, contact Nicole to learn how. She is a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach, Trained Meditation and Mindfulness teacher and has more than 17 years classroom experience as a Secondary School English Teacher. Nicole offers 1:1 coaching, group workshops and interactive seminar presentations. She can tailor a package to meet the specific needs of you and your school. Contact Nicole today;
e: firstname.lastname@example.org m: 0425 209 008
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