Just Pay Attention

Kids in Savasana

As a teacher, I’ve said the two words that probably every student dreads hearing and every teacher wished they didn’t have to say — pay attention. We say the words, but exactly what is heard. Do our students understand fully how to pay attention to do what is being asked? Most likely, not.

How do we learn to ride a bike? How do we learn to swim? How do we learn to roller skate or make our grandmother’s famous lemon cake recipe? We are taught. Someone takes the time to teach us. We practice it over and over until it becomes part of who we are. So much, that even after years of not doing it, our body and mind remembers.

What does it mean to pay attention and do we as adults even do it? If not, how can we truly expect our children to do so. The definition of attention: notice taken of someone or something; regarding of someone or something as interesting or important. Synonyms: awareness, notice, observation. The definition of mindfulness: the practice of maintaining a non-judgmental state of heightened or completed awareness of mones thoughts, emotions or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.

To pay attention, to be mindful is a skill that MUST be taught AND practiced. If not, the words pay attention are simply that — just words. Requiring a child to pay attention involves much more than the request to do.

Let’s say that on your way to work, you decide to grab a cup of coffee and a bagel. You’re sitting at your favorite coffee shop about to dive into the deliciousness, when your phone rings– you are late for a meeting that started 5 minutes ago and you are 10 minutes away. You jump in your car and start driving. STOP – where is your mind in this moment? What are you thinking about? Most likely, your mind is thinking about the meeting or how you could have forgotten about the meeting — something along those lines. Maybe even on the coffee or bagel you did not get to finish. Point is, that you are probably not paying FULL attention to driving your car — you are on autopilot and you are NOT paying attention.

Kids are no different. We all have situations that come up, disappointments, surprises, hurts, joys – all are natural life experiences to be expected. Mindfulness is the key to unlocking the potential to give our undivided attention to what we are doing in each moment. A mindfulness curriculum helps to teach children about the brain and emotions. How the two work together to produce either a reaction or a response. The curriculum also teaches kids about self-kindness, empathy, mindful movement, mindful eating, and fosters creativity and individuality. Self-awareness and self-regulation are two goals that most teachers want when we use the words, pay attention. The cool part about all of this, the practice works for teachers and students. Adults need this just as much as the children.

With a strong and steady mindfulness practice the classroom can be a place where students and teachers learn, grow, and thrive together.