I am reading a book called “The Attention Revolution: Unlocking the Power of the Focused Mind” by B. Alan Wallace. Wallace argues that many of us are suffering from a chronic inability to focus, to give one thing our undivided attention. He argues that the ability to focus our attention is something that needs to be explicitly learned, but is actually something we assume develops naturally. We are mistaken. What develops naturally, particularly in our chaotic lives (and our even more chaotic schools) is our ability to try and survive, multitask and think about as many things as possible! Wallace believes this is not only unhealthy, but ultimately means we can’t do anything well:
“We can’t study, listen, converse with others, work, play or even sleep well when our attention is impaired.”
There is a movement in schools to try and bring more mindfulness into the way things are done. I wonder if we need to take a harsher approach. Many people I have spoken to about mindfulness in schools are actually seeing it as another thing, something else to add to the workload, another aspect of our already overloaded days and curricula. Perhaps we need to be more realistic and take steps to remove some of the mindlessness of schools, and then hope to bring in some mindfulness!!! As Wallace says,
“The more we practice mindlessness, the better we get at it – there’s no better way to kill time. Our lives just pass on by, without our noticing it.”
I urge educators to look at everything they do and try to find things to remove, to strip away… to simply stop doing. Ask yourselves why you do some things and if you’re not convinced by your answers… stop doing them. When your days and weeks seem to have a little more time and space you can then start to do everything else more mindfully, with more actual attention. So can your students.