Reposted for the benefit of your students and your own well-being: If mindfulness, according to Jon Kabat Zin (You Are Only Alive In This Moment), is “Moment to moment, non-judgmental awareness, cultivated by paying attention,” it begs the question,” how do we remove judgment from our classroom environments?” In a world of winning and losing, state benchmarks, and national and international comparisons, judgment seems like a necessity for productivity. This is simply not reality in my opinion.
Relaxed awareness, according to many studies, one of which is called Flow, is the optimal state for learning and for experiencing happiness. Harsh criticisms in education only leave a few at the top, and the rest of the student body to struggle unnecessarily.
When a student can see comparisons as measures by which to strive for, and not internalized judgments, which could lead to a lower self-opinion, then they are ready to be in a state of relaxed awareness. When we truly desire to achieve this state of being present, we must address this nasty habit of judging others and ourselves. As teachers we need to create “non-judgment zones,” where different personality types can coexist, mingle, and be productive in their own ways.
Any new skill can appear overwhelming when starting at the novice level. Any new curriculum a teacher tries to incorporate into his or her already busy teaching schedule may seem impossible.
I have personally been in education for more than fifteen years, and have been introduced to many different teaching systems, modalities, curriculums, and methods. Recently I attended a professional development training which was more than reminiscent of one I had over a decade ago and cued me in on how to remove the shadow of judgment from my classroom. I was re-educated about personality types, using the terms Driver, Amiable, Analytic, and Expressive.
Personality types have been used to improve education by informing the teacher about their students’ strengths, weaknesses, and overall sensibilities for a very long time. In Ancient Greece, the Four Temperaments were considered medical science. Today, successful organizations, including professional sports teams and mega corporations, utilize these same ideas to achieve a more balanced and productive work force. My last training reminded me to look at my staff and students as individuals who are truly of different designs.
Especially when attempting to guide people in the subtle art of meditation, remember to encourage non-judgment of the self by acknowledging everyone’s uniqueness, instead of forcing individuals to become like someone else. It is important to build on what we already have, and not on top of the illusion of something we are not.
From my general perspective there are very directed leadership people, philosopher types, artists, and social balancers. One can go in-depth on this or simply have fun with it all and use it as a way to acknowledge everyone’s unique community rolls and learning styles. I recommend using any of them; in fact, a personality test using four colors, seems like one I will try with my class. Many kids I’ve worked with over the years really like these types of non-graded assessments. Recently, they informed me, that out of four animal personality types, I am an owl and not a wolf, dolphin, or peacock.
When differences are recognized a student can begin to work from their own true self, and to build on what they already have. This starting point is so essential to meditation training because the cornerstone of mindfulness is non-judgment.
I’d like to wrap up this seven part series by reminding all teachers to create “non-judgment zones.” One way of removing judgment is to acknowledge strengths through differences. There are many personality test options out there, and just about any one of them can provide a classroom with a good discussion. Perhaps the owl in me sees the wisdom in cultivating a mindful-classroom by celebrating, and not judging everybody’s differences.
Nicholas Philliou, 7th grade humanities teacher in Durango, Colorado