University of Manitoba professor of Education, Thomas Falkenberg is deeply involved in education for sustainable well-being. I recently read his article, "Teaching as Contemplative Professional Practice" in which he explores the benefits of mindfulness and ongoing self-awareness in the teaching profession. Training ourselves to be aware not just of our practice and strategies or our interactions with students, but of our own personal experience as individuals. He suggests that teachers should develop an awareness of their own world view and moral sense, have an understanding of our current patterns of behaviour and engagement, then develop habits of presence and awareness in the moment to align our behaviours with our goals in light of our moral obligations.
The author makes the connection between metacognition and our available "psychic energy" suggesting that we need the latter to perform the former. He also suggests that we can grow our available store of psychic energy through practice. If you're uncomfortable with the notion of "psychic energy" just think of it as energy. We know when we are too tired or too wound up to focus. Finding energy is probably more about conjuring, redirecting, and controlling the energy we have, developing the skills of metacognition and self-regulation, perhaps, increases our store of energy (do we produce more? are we simply using it more efficiently?)
My awesome teaching partner, Cari Satran, wrote her Masters on meditation in the classroom and contributed a chapter to a book Falkenberg edited on sustainable well-being. We guide our students through mindfulness meditations a few times each week and find a marked difference in their demeanor afterward. We use the opportunity to have students become aware of their own physical state, their mental and emotional state and draw their focus into their breathing. Then we do some visualizing, encouraging students to imagine their best work, their best achievements, and anticipate the feelings that accompany such great work. We bring it down to the steps forward that will happen today, in the next period, and have them set goals for themselves. Falkenberg might use the phrase "accessing psychic energy" to describe what we are doing with these meditations. Whatever you want to call it, it is well worth doing.
When I was studying education psychology in Newfoundland, one of my professors shared some relaxation strategies that I also use with students. Focusing on the contrast between tense and relaxed muscles, we learn to recognize the physical manifestations of stress and also how to relax what needs relaxing. Meditation and relaxation serves to connect the mind with the self so the whole child is present for the learning time ahead.
Would love to hear your thoughts on meditation with students, using relaxation techniques to develop control over self, can we afford the time it takes to do this? Or is this an investment in improved function in the future?
Falkenberg, T. (2012). Teaching as contemplative professional practice. Paideusis, 20(2), 25–35.
Satran, C. (2014). Meditation in the classroom: One teacher’s practice of promoting physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. In F. Deer, T. Falkenberg, B. Mcmillan, & L. Sims (Eds.), Sustainable well-being: Concepts, issues, and educational practices (pp. 173–187). Winnipeg, MB: ESWB Press. Retrieved fromhttp://www.cityuniversity.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Sustainable-Well-Being-2014.pdf#page=181