Most people spend the majority of their time rushing around getting to the next thing without having a moment to themselves. This is certainly the case for most teachers in schools where the unrelenting expectations for performance give little space for reflection. So the academic year rushes by following the same process year in year out with pupils reacting in the way they normally do through the year.
The pattern is more or less set and can be traced each year, small changes are really the only option as a large secondary school takes a lot of effort to steer towards an alternative direction. Incremental change is often the best that can be achieved in most schools which is great if the common objective is known and understood by all on board.
I wrote about a school “Happiness Scale” recently where the teachers and pupils felt proud to be part of a happy school that was always constructive, encouraged learning and felt good to belong to.
It struck me that few teachers and pupils have time set aside to ask the question, “is this a happy school”, “am I proud to be part of the school”, “do I feel like I belong in the school”, “does this place encourage me to explore learning, help me to be creative and do I feel valued”?
Fundamental questions that teachers and pupils should ask of themselves, but there is typically no opportunity to ask as everybody is following the preordained timetable. Rushing from one class to the next to learn the detailed syllabus for the detailed test and exam results.
There is too little or no time set aside to stop and reflect unless somebody takes the initiative with their pupils and indeed themselves to call time.
It is well known that taking a moment on a regular basis to reflect, to focus on the now is very beneficial. It is something few of us actually do because we are always busy or reaching for a mobile phone if there is a pause in the normal frenetic day.
So why should schools encourage their teachers and pupils to regularly stop and simply reflect even just for a moment?
Intellectual growth and learning is clearly a key aspect of school and if this was all pupils ever did at school there would be a lot of basket cases. To balance this schools have (sadly diminishing) time allocated to sports, physical activities where pupils can run around and let off steam. There are also regular breaks in the day were children and staff can play, laugh and joke with each other which helps with their emotional balance and then there is the other bit.
The spirit the thing that drives us all, our essence and tells us what is right. How often to teachers and pupils get the opportunity to invest in themselves to reflect to catch a moment of peace to close ones eyes and clear the mind, to be conscious of the now. The balance of ones intellect, body emotions and spirit is fundamental and is often out of kilter with the demands of modern life but there is really no need for imbalance, it is a matter of awareness and taking the moment to reflect on the present.
Sounds obvious that we all need balance and it is clear that excess of work without the opportunity to play and engage ones emotions, body and spirit ends in discomfort or stress and generally not being on top of one’s game. So as a teacher calling time is not only a great lesson to teach pupils so they can reflect on how they really are, it is an essential aspect of learning and working regardless of sector or profession. Schools have the opportunity to encourage mindfulness and wellbeing and focus on the now which will lead to greater contentment for pupils and teachers in school and at home.
Eckhart Tolle “the Power of Now” explores this wonderfully in his book in particular in respect of ego and just capturing being. It is clear to me that reflection and capturing the now for children is something that will help them immensely and all those under pressure in school who typically don’t get the chance to reflect. Taking a moment in the class to reflect in silence will not be easy to start with but it will catch on once a few of the pupils experience and feel the benefit.