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Teaching and Learning

Mindful Classrooms: Incorporating Ultra-Brief Focus Activities

Want to learn more about mindfulness? Join the CETLS Campus Culture group at our upcoming session, Mindfulness and Contemplative Practices as Part of a Culture of Care on April 11, 12 pm – 1:30 pm.
In a previous blog post, I shared a brief overview of mindfulness for faculty. In this post, I share suggestions about how to make your class mindful – practically speaking.

Being faculty at a community college is different from being faculty at a four year college. We exist in the same structures as many academic institutions and people expect many of the same things; however, at community colleges, a majority of our students are the least wealthy and least societally supported populations. BMCC is special because of this. It offers a warm, supportive and safe place for nearly everything they have not had from tutoring to a food pantry. Mindfulness, then, can be a soothing addition for faculty who are surrounded by stressors and for students who do not have tools to manage stress or anxiety.

But what is mindful work?

Mindful work requires that you think about 7 parts represented by B.R.E.A.T.H.E. In short, BREATHE means:

Body
Reflections
Emotions
Attention
Tenderness
Habit
Empowerment

I didn’t come up with the acronym or method behind it, but I love it. Patricia Broderick devised this method and has tested it in practice.

At BMCC, I teach hybrid classes with 50% face-to-face and 50% online, which is a preference based on the requirement that students will have to learn some things online at work in the future. Online materials related to mindfulness therefore become a part of my course curriculum. Each week, students participate in 1 hour of online content and assignments and 1.5 hours of face to face activities and content. I offer 1-3 minutes mindful activities with alternating online and classroom content. I make sure to have activities at the beginning and end of most classroom sessions.

On this Trello, I’ve outlined supporting materials around the method of ultra-brief mindfulness that I have been using in my classes. You can click on any of the Trello cards to expand them and see the details. The materials are drawn from different online mindfulness tools and a few are my own. Most of the recordings and readings take less than 5 minutes. This results in what I call “attention and focus training,” not mindfulness per se. These course modules can be spread over 15-18 weeks.

Below is a map of the course content and a guide for how to read it:

Notation

Activities and content are noted as:

  • (o) for online; or
  • (c) for classroom

Activities and content are also noted as:

  • direct (d) teaching, where students are aware of the mindful concept; or
  • subtle (s) teaching, where students experience mindfulness in the context of perhaps another assignment

At various points, I review (r) the BREATHE framework.

Weeks 1-2

Body (c/s), Body (o/d/r), Body (c/d/r), Body(o/s)

This generally covers the first 2 weeks, reiterating Body multiple times. When I provide the overview of BREATHE several times, this covers about 95% of the students. In particular, I find 20-30% of students will be lost if I do not cover it for two class periods, because some students begin attending in class #2. Getting out of the gates with most students connected with this material is essential.

Weeks 3 – 16

Week 3: Reflections (c/d), Reflections (o/d)

Week 4: Emotions (c/d), Emotions (o/s)

Week 5: Attention (c/d), Attention (o/s)

Week 6: Tenderness (c/d), Tenderness (o/s)

Week 7: Habit (c/d), Habit (o/s)

Week 8: Empowerment (c/d/r), Empowerment (o/d/r)

Week 9: Body (c/d), Body (o/d)

Week 10: Reflections (c/d), Reflections (o/d)

Week 11: Emotions (c/d), Emotions (o/s)

Week 12: Attention (c/d), Attention (o/s)

Week 13: Tenderness (c/d), Tenderness (o/s)

Week 14: Habit (c/d), Habit (o/s)

Week 15: Empowerment (c/d/r), Empowerment (o/d/r)

Week 16: BREATHE (c/d/r)

This course map is a general guideline and it is evolving with my research. Over the course of three semesters, I recommend that you make mindful activities 10%, then 30%, then 50% of your class. I look forward to talking with others who are interested in studying the impacts of ultra-brief mindfulness and/or entrepreneurship.

 

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