The Pedagogical Role of Mindfulness

September 25, 2014

Excerpted from Vanderbilt University’s Center for Teaching:

“Mindfulness and contemplation fosters additional ways of knowing that complement the rational methods of traditional liberal arts education.  As Tobin Hart states, “Inviting the contemplative simply includes the natural human capacity for knowing through silence, looking inward, pondering deeply, beholding, witnessing the contents of our consciousness….  These approaches cultivate an inner technology of knowing….”  This cultivation is the aim of contemplative pedagogy, teaching that includes methods “designed to quiet and shift the habitual chatter of the mind to cultivate a capacity for deepened awareness, concentration, and insight.”  Such methods include guided meditation, journals, silence, music, art, poetry, dialogue, and questions.

“In the classroom, these forms of inquiry are not employed as religious practices but as pedagogical techniques for learning through refined attention or mindfulness.  Research confirms that these practices can offset the constant distractions of our multitasking, multimedia culture.  Thus, intentional teaching methods that integrate the ancient practice of mindfulness innovatively meet the particular needs of today’s students.”

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At Walden School, we cultivate a mindful approach to our work and we nurture our students’ capacity for reflective and deliberate awareness, attention, and understanding. This fall, Director of Studies Terra Toscano gave each classroom a copy of Rana DiOrio’s book “What Does It Mean To Be Present?” Teachers and students at all grade levels are reading this book together and opening dialogue about cultivating consciousness. Listening to one’s inner voice, making peaceful transitions between busy activities, and savoring little moments each day are all part of the practice of being present.

Pre-School Director Tina Riddle gives a concrete example of teaching mindfulness in the Pre-K program: “In mindful eating, children use all of their senses to experience their food. Mindfulness teaches them to be aware of their hunger level, helping them to gauge when to begin eating and when to stop eating. It is a healthy approach to eating which allows children to fully enjoy their food.”

Look for centering activities in a Walden classroom and at assembly; observe the silent breathing of a child before s/he begins the next job; read a Walden student’s journal if you are lucky enough to be asked. Walden School believes in the importance of nurturing a child’s natural wonder and we look for ways every day to connect with and focus on the learning that is happening right now with each child.

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