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My work teaching developmental English at Broward College opened my eyes to the failure of our K-12 educational system in America. Many of the students who had high school diplomas could not do something as simple as write a complete sentence and had no idea what an adverb was. Most had feelings of low self-esteem and were blaming themselves for their inability to pass the English exam so they could be accepted into the college. So to help them relax and open their minds to learning I began including mindfulness and meditation practices into the classroom. Doing this I discovered that the students actually felt more confident and self-assured, and as an added benefit it seemed to help raise their level of self-esteem.

There are many methods that can be used to help students focus on and retain the information. For this article I will share one easy method I use before each of my classes: Simply get relaxed.

All students end up rushing to class whether the class is on line or on campus. They have a hundred other things running around in their minds from finding a parking space, logging on to the internet, the assignments they have to complete, the bills they have to pay, getting the children fed, and more. Yet, as faculty we expect the students to be prepared and ready to learn the second we start the class. That is a totally unrealistic idea.

Being a Zen Buddhist I have used many techniques to help me focus and quiet my mind. Thus I understood that my students needed to quiet their minds and focus their attention if they were to learn the material. So I revised a simple exercise, “Just Three Breaths,” that I had found in a great book entitled How to Train a Wild Elephant & Other Adventures in Mindfulness (2011) by Jan Chozen Bays, MD.

After several weeks of using my revised version of this exercise in my developmental English classes one of my students approached me with great excitement about her first presentation that she made in her speech class. She told me that she used the three breath exercise before she got up to present and it helped her stay so calm, cool, and collected that she just “killed” her talk! She was so proud of herself she was beaming with light and had a smile from ear-to-ear. I could see that this experience helped raise her level of self-esteem a little bit as well.

Since that time I have had hundreds of students tell me right after we’ve done this excise in class how calm, focused, relaxed and ready to learn they were. Many have even shared that they’ve used the technique at work when they felt stressed or anxious, before a job interview, while sitting in a traffic jam, or on line at the bank.

The entire exercise takes two to three minutes out of the class, but the lasting effect is immeasurable. I hope you’ll try it. The directions are below.

Three Breath Exercise

Read these steps aloud and do the exercise along with the class. After the exercise is completed get their feedback on how they feel and how it may help them during the class:

 

  • Shake out your hands to release the tension in them then place them comfortably in your lap or on the desk or table where you are sitting.
  • Close your eyes if you feel comfortable doing so as it will help keep out the visual distractions. If you are not comfortable with that keeping them open is okay as well. Simply focus your eyes on one small object.
  • Take three slow deep breaths counting one on the in breath and two on the out breath.
  • Be careful not to breathe in so deeply that it makes you cough.
  • Is everyone ready—then let’s begin.

Let me know how it works!

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

Reference

Bays, J.C. (2011) How to Train A Wild Elephant& Other Adventures in Mindfulness. Shambhala: Boston& London

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