Fractured Reflections of Teaching

Much of our natural human perceptions of reality rely on us dividing society into smaller pieces, sections, concepts, and ideas. For example, humans, as society or the world as a whole likes to see our body in relation to the gym or exercise; compartmentalize healing to a hospital, work at the office or studio, religious practice to a church or temple, family remains at home, and personal time or enjoyment with vacation or weekends. The field of education is no different. We have classrooms for different activities. Even the learning that takes place in those contexts is different. Some procedures and actions are welcome in some environments while others are not. Sometimes there are strict rules and guidelines and at other times these rules can be bent and lead to a freer atmosphere. And this is without even taking into consideration that students and people have different learning styles. In addition, teachers have different teaching styles and strengths, but are also held accountable to reaching all students in all contexts through this fractured system.

Enter the process of teacher evaluation. Over the years education has had it’s share of ridicule including a having a corporate answer of competition to a compression of that to socialism such as the means of regulation coming from all stockholders. Both, have their arguments that support and also contrast each other. Nonetheless, we as a society, nation, state, and school district, have adopted a formal system of evaluation to support both arguments by using the Danielson Model in conjunction with the PERA (Performance Evaluation Reform Act) of IL. Yet, again, another fractured reflection of what is happening in schools.

First off, I do not have any problem with any type of formal evaluation or regulation, as good teachers will always prevail. Nevertheless, many excellent, good, and solid teachers are worried and scared of evaluations, as any tool or system can be miss used and interpreted, regardless the tool and process. So, enter the (fractured measurements of the) Danielson Model… In general, teachers are to be held to the complex standards and activity of teaching as divided into 22 components (and 76 smaller elements) clustered into four domains of teaching responsibility: 1) Planning and Preparation, 2) Classroom Environment, 3) Instruction, and 4) Professional Responsibilities. Although this is an extremely fractured and detailed reflection, let me just focus on the whole right now regarding the teacher and student. I will give more arguments addressing the smaller components and elements in the future about each main domain/responsibility and its smaller elements. For now, stay focused on the general whole teacher and/or student.

A system that does address the whole is the practice of mindfulness. Interestingly, it was also a cover story February 3, 2014 in TIME magazine. In general, it covers a perspective and experience of one person learning a technique to quit the mind and pay closer attention to the present moment. It outlines many befits and pitfalls of the practice such as large companies using it as a focus tool, rewiring your brain for self-help with regards to working through emotions. In this article, mindfulness has many claims and even is connected to being more mainstream, as it is being introduced to schools through some government research funds and sponsored by congressman. Regardless, of what you believe, I have used, and now teach my middle school students this practice and have seen some interesting changes take place.

Let’s try to combine these fractured pieces into a full mirror and connect these concepts to being a better teacher or student. The practice of mindfulness can help teachers address the 4 main domains of the Danielson Model include planning and preparation, classroom environment, instruction, and professional responsibilities. Within the planning and preparation domain, mindfulness allows a teacher to have more knowledge of the students by observing and noticing subtle body movements and speech with non-judgment. This keen observation also enables and supports logical and rational instruction. Therefore, being more prepared, flexible, and engaging in relation to the domain planning and preparation.

Mindfulness can also mend and address the domain of classroom environment. For example, when the teacher or student has a clear, calm, and balanced mind created by the practice of mindfulness the environment will be one of respect and rapport. It will also establish a culture of open learning, create clear procedures, and support positive student engagement and behavior. Furthermore, communicating with students, using open questioning discussion techniques, and engaging students, while being flexible and responsive are also main benefits of practicing mindfulness that address the instruction domain. Lastly, mindfulness can help support authentic reflection and overall professionalism covering the professional responsibilities domain.

Basic mindfulness suggestions and practice for pasting together the fractured nature of life within the classroom to address the basic 4 Danielson Evaluation Domains:

  • Sit still for 60 seconds. Observe your feelings of uneasiness and wanting to move.
  • You don’t have to sit still… Slow down and take your time. No need to rush through activities. Just pay closer attention to your actions by deliberately slowing down.
  • Notice your breath. Pay attention to how it moves in and out. No need to alter or change it. Just observe.
  • Try to notice your body position by observing sensations such as temperature, clothes, air moving, or sounds.
  • Try to detach from your thoughts and emotions. Think about your thoughts. Notice what and how you are thinking.
  • Do all the above without judgment. Just observe and notice.

If you must change your thoughts or emotions, replace them with compassion and gratitude. Send yourself and others forgiveness, happiness, and love… In doing so your fractured stressed life and classroom just might become more whole through noticing the interconnectedness of teaching and learning.

More details about commenting mindfulness to the four domains of the Danielson evaluation model coming soon.


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Preparing the soil for mindful teaching…

Before I begin to explore and explain the benefits, difficulties, and uses of mindfulness and awareness such as the P.A.U.S.E. technique in education, I feel I need to communicate my perspective, and general philosophy (prepare the soil). Let’s begin with defining mindfulness and awareness (planting the seeds). There are many ways to perceive and understand both of these terms. This is my working definition, so everyone knows the basics I work from. Mindfulness is purposely paying attention with non-judgment and can also be understood as general awareness of self and others. There is a spectrum with focus and fine concentration being at one end of the spectrum and open perception of everything being on the other. Furthermore, I will be taking mindfulness from the Western psychological perspective, proposed by Ellen Langer (1989), explaining that it can be dividing into four domains such as novelty producing, flexibility, novelty seeking, and engagement. Together these domains describe a person’s relative openness to experience, willingness to challenge strict categories, and continual reassessment of the environment and their reactions to it.

Novelty producing is the measure of propensity (natural tendency) to develop new ideas and ways of looking at things.

Novelty seeking is the measure of propensity (natural tendency) to explore and engage novel stimuli. It refers to a tendency to perceive every situation as “new.” This type of person is likely to be more interested in experiencing a variety of stimuli, rather than mastering a specific situation. This is one of two awareness domains of mindfulness.

*Engagement refers to the propensity (natural tendency) to become involved in any given situation. An individual who scores high in engagement is likely to notice or see the “big picture.” This is the second “awareness” component of mindfulness.

Flexibility is the belief and understanding in the fluidity of information, and the importance of welcoming a changing environment rather than resisting it. Flexibility in this case refers to someone who can view a situation from multiple perspectives and recognized that each perspective has equal value. The flexible person operates as though reality were in a social construction subject to continual re-evaluation.

To continue and prepare the soil, I also need to explain I hold a combined philosophical, overlapping theoretical, and conceptual framework that would be nice to know before I go further (diagram below). Obviously, mindfulness is on component. Another large concept is stress and burnout, which is normally measured by emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and sense of accomplishment (Maslach, 1996). Additionally, making educational or classroom decisions are mostly based on cognitive dissonance theory (Festinger, 1962) and choice theory (Glasser, 1985). Together these theories outline a process, which includes a person weighing options of thoughts, beliefs, and experiences to make a decision that is based on collaboration, self-worth, and positive outcomes. Lastly, the eastern philosophy of perception and meditation with regards to mindfulness practice such as following the breath and noticing sensations is the last major overlapping component.


 This framework gave me the lens for my research on Vipassana Meditation and Teacher Decision-making (Glogowski, 2012) to uncover the 3-phased Awareness (Anicca) Perspective Decision-making Process. Phase one is basically the standard cognitive decision-making where we face a stressor, weigh the options (thought and emotion), and make a decision, or act, but arguably re-act. Phase two is where mindfulness takes place with adding focus and awareness of you, others, and the surroundings to the present moment. Finally, in phase three the eastern philosophies come into play such as equanimity, detachment, impermanence, ego, and responding with compassion. The overall process is outlined in the below diagram.

3 Phases

Ultimately, these outlined settings (theories), background (framework), and process allowed me to create the P.A.U.S.E technique to remind people (teachers and students) how to respond verses reacting to situations. The word PAUSE is an acronym. The “P” stands for pause liter- ally. It reminds one to slow down, take time, think, and feel. The “A” stands for awareness, that includes using all senses to take in the surroundings, situation, people, and self against a backdrop of impermanence. The “U” stands for understand, which means working through equanimity and balancing all the elements brought in through awareness with an objective of detachment and non-judgment. The “S” stands for sensations and self, which is a reminder to monitor the breath and body sensations while working through equanimity. The “E” stands for empathic engagement, which is a reminder to connect with other people while making decisive action and engaging. The below is what I have posted in my classroom and teach my students.

The PAUSE Technique:

P – Pause – Slow down, Think

A – Awareness – Anicca (Impermanence) Self, Surroundings, Situation, and People

U – Understanding – Balancing, Detachment, and Non-judgment

S – Sensations – Breath and Body Sensations

E – Empathic Engagement – Reminder to connect and help other people

I teach and use this technique in all of my 6, 7, and 8 grade classes as a bell-ringer activity or is an end to my vocal warm-ups. I explain that the exercise goal or focus is to help support mind training over the body through increasing awareness and attention by staying as still as possible while noticing breath and sensation without judgment. Eventually, they can do it by themselves without my guidance. For more details about my general educational philosophy they can be found here. Also, more about a similar organization doing similar work – mindful schools here.

References – Seminal Authors

Festinger, L. (1962). A theory of cognitive dissonance. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press.

Glasser, W. (1998). Choice theory: A new psychology of personal freedom. New York: Harper Collins Publishers.

Glogowski, J. R. (2012). Vipassana Meditation and Teacher Decision-Making. Dissertation Abstract International, 73(10). (UMI No. AAT 3510201), From Dissertations and Theses database.

Goenka, S. N. (2002). Meditation now: Inner peace through inner wisdom. Seattle, WA: Vipassana Research Publications.

Goenka, S. N. (2005). Vipassana meditation, guidelines for practice. Seattle, WA: Vipassana Research Publications.

Goenka, S. N., & Hart, W. (2000). The discourse summaries: Talks from a ten-day course in vipassana meditation. Seattle: Vipassana Research Publications.

Langer, E. J. (1989). Mindfulness. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley Pub. Co.

Maslach, C., Jackson, S.E, & Leiter, M.P. MBI: The Maslach Burnout Inventory: Manual. Palo Alto: Consulting Psychologists Press, 1996.


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The overall direction is set!

This past week, I attended and presented some research at the Illinois Music Educators Conference. I found out that most educators are worried about evaluation reform because every session that had the word: Evaluation, Danielson, Data Teams, or Student Growth in the title was crammed with people. So much so, that I could not even attend one of them. In the future I hope to connect the effects of mindfulness and awareness techniques to address the evaluation tool most schools are or will be using (the framework: and meeting the terms of the PERA (Performance Evaluation Reform Act) law ( regarding indicators/proof of student growth as determined by the state and school district. Thus, my direction is set.  Image

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Discovering thought?

I have had many people ask and told me I should write about my research, classwork, and results of mindfulness work regarding my P.A.S.U.E. technique. Maybe this is a start to sharing new ideas.

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