Mindfulness in Adult Literacy programmes – My Experience, by Elaine Clifford
I would like to share my experience of using Mindfulness with some of the groups I work with. I started using Mindfulness after an In-service within Killarney ABE in December 2015 where one of the tutors presented a session about Mindfulness. Her words will always remain with me;
‘We charge our phones but we do not always charge our bodies and minds’.
Some of the groups I work with find it challenging to focus and concentrate so I decided to try Mindfulness with them. I discussed with the learners what I was hoping to do and they were happy to participate. These learners enjoy it so much they now remind me about our ‘relaxation time’ as I sometimes forget!
I start my session by asking learners to get into a comfortable position and to bring awareness to their breath and to how they are feeling today. I encourage learners to relax their whole body and to calm their thoughts and breath. I will read something for the group – this varies from week to week and could be from the Internet, a book or even a poem. This lasts for approximately three minutes. I ask learners to bring awareness again to their breath and to how they are feeling – is it different from when we started? I introduce some gentle movement (move fingers, toes, head from side to side) and we awaken our bodies and minds leaving us more open and ready to start our session.
It is not relevant with all groups but it is something which has powerful benefits for both you as a tutor and for your group.
Learners are more open to learning, they are calmer and, as one learner said, ‘it is like our warm-up Elaine for the class’.
Learner Quotes about their experience of Mindfulness as part of their programme:
‘We are told to continually stay in the present. Mindfulness helps this process. I find it difficult to concentrate but the mindfulness helps’.
‘Mindfulness means I can relax, get the tension out of my body, forget my worries, calm my mind and get ready to focus for my class. It helps me to forget all that is outside the classroom and get my mind ready for the class’.
Resources I have found useful:
• Headspace – App https://www.headspace.com/
• ‘Mind Over Mountains’, which offers insights and tips on living a full and authentic life by Susan Fitzgerald.
Mindfulness in Adult Literacy programmes – My Experience, by Jane Savage
I have been practising meditation for myself for many years and was similarly inspired by the In-service of December 2015 to try Mindfulness with my Learners. I have been using it since then with two classes of learners of different levels who have learning difficulties.
I take one group on Monday mornings and some of the learners in the group find the transition from being at home at the weekend to attending class in ABE particularly challenging. This was apparent from time spent in the bathroom or in the kitchen looking for a drink before class. Since beginning Mindfulness sessions this behaviour has ceased.
The Process I use
I put a mindfulness or meditation video from YouTube on the Interactive whiteboard or PC – there are many to choose from but my preference is for ones with images of nature, either changing or not. The music on these clips is very relaxing in itself and would often run for hours.
We light a candle and then go through the process of sitting comfortably (but not so as to go to sleep). I talk them through relaxing and letting go of any tension and worries or cares that they may have had before class. We close our eyes, put a smile on our face and try to be in the present moment, listening to the music or other sounds but not being distracted by them. I tell them that this is a time and a space especially for them.
After 3 or 4 minutes I say that I’m going to ring a bell after which we open our eyes and wiggle our fingers and toes. I ask how everyone feels and always get a positive response.
Both groups of learners (and their instructors) say they look forward to the mindfulness practice and have asked me to include it at the beginning of class.
As mentioned above, any negative behaviour before class no longer occurs and I find the Learners can now focus on their learning better.
I find the positive energy in the classroom improves the group dynamic but, as Elaine has mentioned, it is not necessarily appropriate for every group so use your discretion.
Quotes about Mindfulness in class