Who: Grade 7 pupils.
What: A test based on what they’d studied in class. Some of them had been present during class sessions. Some of them had been off in a loop of unknown thought vacations.
I knew that the two-hour test would prove to be interesting.
How: Before we began, I brought out the Tibetan Singing Bowl. I held it and reminded them that mindfulness oxygenates the brain and helps them to concentrate.
We listened to the tone. Three times.
And I reminded them to maintain the silence, that if there were questions, simply to raise their hand and I’d come right over. Silence was a way to offer respect to others who were trying to concentrate.
Upon finishing, they were to quietly stay in class and to respect others still working.
I sent the listening accommodation link to a select group who’d be able to hear the texts read to them through the magic of youtube video clips and their obliging teacher.
The exams were passed out.
Silence was a blanket that kept us all warm and focused.
All except for Y, who had barely occupied his place in class for the past few months. I approached him half a dozen times to try to re-connect him to his exam, encouraging him to do the parts that were easy for him.
Y touched the page with a pen barely 8 times – 8 marks out of 100.
Y knows English but he doesn’t feel the desire to interrupt his progress in his favourite cellphone games. The few times he was able to disengage, he had this to say about the exam: ‘I don’t want to do it’ or ‘I don’t care’ about his resulting mark.
This is the very child who could turn his life around with a little effort in mindfulness. He has a good mind but doesn’t apply it to classroom studies. Why does he come to class if he checks out almost immediately to re-enter his world of gaming? What I observe is the same behaviour in all his classes, according to the reports of his mother and his homeroom teacher. This is an intelligent child who only a few months ago, could be seen using his phone in order to listen to the exam texts, and with the self-discipline to write an exam.
I will be meeting with Y and his mother in a few weeks. Perhaps there’ll be an opportunity to turn ‘I don’t care’ into ‘This sounds interesting.’
As Simi Levy says – the role of the Mindfulness teacher is to “lead the concentration around by the nose. Don’t give it a chance to careen off into a side-street, which it will whenever given a chance.” Wise words.
How many other students were off in dreamland? I applied first-aid as necessary, in the form of my presence, encouragement, guidance. Then, half-way through, I rang the bowl once more – inviting pupils to re-focus and breathe.
In such situations, the sound of the bowl and its vibrations offer the teacher a chance to reconnect to balance and a renewed ability to radiate calm attention to the pupils.
We teach by our presence.
Offering ourselves a moment of mindfulness is a gift to all. Being calmer, more open-hearted offers comfort to others, whether they be in stress, or denial, or self-recrimination.
May we remember to offer ourselves the gift of mindfulness today and every day.