Mindfulness isn’t really a term we hear all that often – and honestly it’s something I did not really know anything about. However I came across a really interesting article about primary school’s actually teaching this concept of mindfulness to children in Sydney. Mindfulness is a simple form of meditation, and a way of being in the present moment and learning to be confident in how we approach it. The article mentions that children are told that “it’s a way of being brave and facing yourself” – what a great concept and thought process for young children to have!
This is not just for those children who have anger problems or behaviour issues either. All children can benefit from being taught these skills. It teaches children how to respond to things – both in themselves and around them, instead of just instantly reacting. It can also be an instrumental skill in their teenage years, helping them to navigate peer pressure, and shows that real choices come from self-awareness. What’s even better is that these schools have taken what the children have learnt from these mindfulness classes, and used it to underline everything they do from the classroom to the playground. The technique STOP is designed to help children notice their feelings, rather than just reacting.
Sense the body
Tune into breathing
Seems like a mantra we could all use in our daily lives, and one that I think can definitely help children succeed at school and in life. Check out the link below for the full article – it’s a really great read about a truly interesting concept.
This week I was working in a Year 3 class, and the kids were so excited to be back at school after two weeks of holidays, their giant smiles were infectious. This positive response to going back to school is something that really only happens in these junior years of primary school (maybe year 5 and 6 if you are lucky!). As the kids come in they are excitedly talking with their friends about the movies they saw, the laser tag birthday party they went to, and where their footy team is on the ladder now. One of the main activities most teachers do (myself included) after a break like this is talk with the students about what they did over the school holidays. I heard lots of great stories, from how much they loved Inside Out and The Minions movie, to the high scores they got at ten pin bowling, to how late Grandma let them stay up when they went for a sleep over. Some were detailed (like getting a full list of everything they ate and drank at the movies) while others were more vague (“I went to Coles”). What gets me every time though, is those kids who when you ask what they did over the holidays, they shrug and say “I did nothing”. There are always a handful of these kids in every single class I have ever taught in.
Truth is, it might not be that they don’t remember what they did, or that they did “absolutely nothing” all holidays. It may be more the fear of then having to write it all down. These children think that the less they say about what they did, the less they will have to write down. These are the kids who need that bit of extra prompting, and while it may feel arduous, asking questions like “What did you do at your friend’s house?” “Who else was there?” “What games did you play on the Xbox?” “What did you eat for lunch?” it is these questions that help get kids thinking about what they are going to write next. If we ask question, after question, after question, eventually we get something (no matter how small) to work with!
As someone who truly disliked mathematics during my own schooling years, it always surprises me how much I enjoy teaching it now. Whether it's just the feeling of 'I know exactly what it's like not to understand what your math teacher is saying', or it's the joy of helping kids who are in the same position I was. Or maybe I just like teaching it because I feel like I finally get it now. After 13 years of schooling, and another 4 years at university, it finally clicked.
I remember struggling to remember my times tables in Year 4, and my parents practising with me endlessly. We had the flash cards, and they would ask me random times table questions while I was watching TV or while we were in the car. But no matter how much we practised, I could just never remember that 6 x 7 was 42. I would dread the multiplication line up game our teacher would make us play, and at the time it felt like we played it EVERY SINGLE DAY. The whole class would be split into two teams, and when you got to the front of the line it was your turn to play. One child versus another, we would have to yell out the answer to the times table question asked by the teacher. Whoever got it right kept playing, whoever got it wrong was out, and had to sit disappointedly with the other kids who couldn't remember their times tables. Naturally, I would cringe every time we played this, because I already knew I wouldn’t be able to get the answer quickly enough. I would be sitting out first go, watching the same kids get all the way to the end and win. In Year 5 and 6, I struggled with division, fractions, place value and decimals. By high school there was algebra, where A + B always equalled something different, and by the time they got to trigonometry I had simply stopped listening. By Year 10 I still had no idea what I was doing, would copy the answers out the back of the text book, and would get anywhere between 30 – 65% on my tests. I did enough to get by and pass, but I hated every second of it. By high school, none of my math teachers had time to explain the basics to me, and I was so far behind – it felt impossible to catch up.
I have met many students over the past few years in the same place. Some are in Year 2 or 3 and already feeling lost, while others are in year 7 and starting their high school journey feeling ‘behind’. I hate to think of how many other children are out there feeling the exact same way – feeling embarrassed that they don’t know the answers, feeling dejected about maths before they even try and feeling frustrated that they just can’t seem to remember their times tables.
It is for this reason that I love tutoring, as it gives you a chance to not only teach these kids, but also motivate and encourage them to keep trying and to stay positive… they WILL get there eventually. So keep the encouragement levels high at home, and continue to tell children that even if they don’t understand something right away, if they keep working at it they will. Keeping in a positive head space can be the hardest part, especially for young children. As a tutor its part of my job to keep cheering from the sidelines, telling these kids “you can do it”, “keep trying” and “don’t give up” – and it’s an aspect of my work that I take very seriously.
So… as a parent keep the encouragement and support high at home, and kids, know that it does get easier, and you will get it eventually. Stay positive, keep trying and be confident!
Lauren is the owner of MPT, a primary school teacher, tutor and Mum to a nearly 2 year old son.