WD 40 for Education #MindfulnessForLife

Mindfulness is WD 40 for Education!
Mindfulness has been described as being WD 40 for Education — Why so?
If we take a look at what it says on the tin, perhaps we’ll find some clues. Well, WD40 ‘Stops squeaks’, ‘Drives out moisture’, ‘Cleans and protects’, ‘Loosens rusted parts’, &, ‘Frees sticky mechanisms’.

For me it’s the last two claims that in this context have the most resonance, although all have some merit.
In Chapter 5 of my book I go into the whole area of Mindfulness and Education in particular detail, but this piece today is also based on my recent work in the field with Head Teachers, their schools and Mindfulness.
Schools kill creativity
This comes from the title of a famous TED talk given by Sir Ken Robinson in 2006. It currently has 34 million views.
The core of his argument is a simple one. Given the challenges we face creativity is as important as literacy in the education of our children and the education system needs to recognise and act upon this simple truth.
However, he didn’t just call for the reform of how we educate young people for the future — Their future in work and in life — In fact he called for a complete transformation and the key to this transformation in his view was not to standardise education, but to personalise it.
To build achievement on discovering the individual talents of each child. To put students in an environment where they want to learn and where they can naturally discover their true passion.

Without the passion to learn, the creativity, the resourcefulness and the resilience, how are we going to prepare children for a future that we really have no idea what it’s going to look like?
How can we prepare a child starting school today for a world of work where they are still going to be in employment in 2070?
Mindful Hacks
Mindfulness can and already is playing a key apart in transforming how we approach education and the notion of Hacks as part of this is both a defining and driving force.
To Hack is to improve — To get to know something — To think outside the box. To Hack is to collaborate — To be agile — To be responsive. To Hack is to be playful — To change the way things are done — To be prepared to fail, &, as Ken Robinson has also said:

“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original”.

To Hack is to move away from rigid hierarchies — To adopt a problem based, problem-solving approach — To be transparent — To be accountable — To take permission to act on new opportunities.
Why is this so important?
I believe this is important, particular to the future of Education, because it is this skillset and this mindset that is exactly what is needed by the next generation and the generations to follow, to take them from the known to the unknown and make it their own!
Imagination is the source and creativity is the impetus for every form of human achievement and how we educate for the future has to step-up to the plate and create the conditions under which both can flourish.
No more linearity, conformity and batching young learners. No more aiming too low and succeeding.

We need to reset the bar
And I believe introducing Mindfulness into education practice and into schools will help us to reset the bar and aim high.
Where Mindfulness practice has been introduced in schools, in the UK, the USA and Canada for example, in the classroom they have found:

  • a lowering in levels of cortisol (the stress hormone)
  • improved attention and concentration
  • a calmer classroom and happier children
  • improved maths scores — go figure? &
  • more collaborative learning, more sharing, less falling out.

Whilst outside the classroom parents report that their children are sleeping better.

That sounds rather like it might be ‘stopping squeaks’ & ‘loosening rusted parts’ then at the very least!
Meanwhile a recent study of four-year-old children in China who had undergone Mindfulness training in the classroom, found that it had dramatically improved levels of self-control.

MindUp
In the USA and Canada, a MindUp programme has been introduced into schools, with the support of the Hollywood actress Goldie Hawn and the neuro scientist, Dan Siegal.
This programme follows a curriculum of up to 15 lessons, designed to teach the children about the brain and become more aware of their thoughts and emotions. In essence, to begin to learn how to learn and develop the ability to be aware and understand their own thought processes. This is encouraging children to think about thinking, or to give it its technical term -Metacognition.
The research, which is now taking place on the effects this is having, has found that as a child’s awareness develops they gain a better control over their own thinking and the ability to direct their Attention to improve their learning. Whilst stress levels naturally reduce and the child becomes a more confident, happier, independent learner, generally more positive in their outlook — so, perhaps we could say here that Mindfulness is ‘driving out moisture’ and ‘freeing sticky mechanisms’ too?
And in the UK?

In the UK meanwhile a ‘Mindfulness in Schools’ project has been offering eight week programmes and Tonbridge School in Kent and Hampton School in Middlesex, were the first British schools to include Mindfulness in their curriculums for all 13–14 year olds.

This is an older target age group than in both the USA and Canada though, where the MindUp programme has typically been introduced at around the 4th or 5th grade and has also included introducing ‘Three Minute’ breathing exercises and keeping ‘Gratitude Journals’.
The Big Takeaway

The big takeaway from all this is I feel, that children who are taught to be Mindful — To pay Attention in the present, intentionally and without judgement, are better positioned to succeed both in school and in later life.
They are getting the inside track on developing an emotional and social skill for living smarter, happier and healthier lives — They are developing their resourcefulness and building their resilience — They are clearing their minds, focusing their Attention and tapping into their creativity and ingenuity.
How many adults do you know who would really benefit from all that?
A Mindful Revolution?

As I said in the previous post we’ll be looking at the five steps to a Mindful Revolution in the last newsletter in this short series, but one of those steps is quite simply to put day-to-day Happiness at the heart of every policy decision.
I would go further and suggest that we also consider the real value of Happiness as part of this and we must invest early in the lives of our children — the ‘clean and protect’ part? — so that they can indeed grow-up to become independent, creative, collaborative, resilient, resourceful, productive and happy adults, able to contribute fully both economically and socially!

In the next post, we will be looking at some top tips for Mindful Living. I hope you’ll be able to join me. In the meantime you can catch-up with the podcast series on both iTunes and YouTube. Just search for, ‘From Mindfulness With Love’.
You can check-out the book on Amazon and you can also follow the continuing journey Uncovering Mindfulness too on Twitter @TheMindfulBook.
So until the next time, take care and Be Mindful!
Paul :)