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Saturday, 27 September 2014

Evidence versus Mindfulness?

In the run up to her highly anticipated series of concerts at the Hammersmith Apollo at the beginning of September, Kate Bush released a statement appealing to her fans to put down their mobile phones at her gigs. Bush wrote on her website: "I have a request for all of you who are coming to the shows. We have purposefully chosen an intimate theatre setting rather than a large venue or stadium. It would mean a great deal to me if you would please refrain from taking photos or filming during the shows. "I very much want to have contact with you as an audience, not with iPhone's, i Pad's or cameras. I know it's a lot to ask but it would allow us to all share in the experience together." 

This really struck a cord with me. I have been guilty of this myself, filming and photographing events rather than engaging in them directly. I realise now that the result of this was that instead of 'living in the moment' I had merely become a spectator in my own life.  We are it seems creating and encouraging a culture of distraction where we are increasingly disconnected from the people and events around us. 

Sadly this phenomenon is not limited to the smartphone or even just to technology. We are increasingly distracted and some may say obsessed by recording everything from concerts, our holidays, days out, the list is endless. This takes the form of photographs, videos and written and typed notes. Evidence has become king!

My daughter recently gave birth to my second Grandson and I was truly blessed and honoured  to be her birthing partner. She had a very nice midwife who delivered the baby safely and soundly, she was competent and committed to her job. However.  I couldn't help but notice how much time the midwife spent typing up notes throughout the labour. She didn't have to leave the room to type up the notes as computers are installed in each delivery room. But whilst this meant she didn't have to leave the room she still wasn't actually 'living in the moment' and caring for her patient, she was distracted. At one point whilst my daughter was having a contraction the midwife was at the computer typing furiously, she then looked over her shoulder briefly to say 'Keep breathing through it!' I couldn't believe what I was witnessing. 

The midwifes job it appeared to me at that moment had changed from caring for the mother during labour to making copious notes for evidence and recording data. I am sure that is the total opposite of what this and any midwife would like to be doing. They do, I am sure, go into their profession to care for people but both they and the mothers under their care are being deprived of this due to societies constant need to record everything! 

This then got me thinking about teaching, a profession like most teachers I am passionate about. But despite my years of experience I find myself caught up in this drive to record and evidence everything! Ofsted love evidence which can be seen from numerous school inspection reports on their own website:

 'The quality of written marking is inconsistent, and too few opportunities are provided for students to respond to the advice given.'

Does marking and evidence in books improve or enhance the learning? And if it does is this then outweighed by taking the focus of teachers away from the important job, teaching!

Mindfulness is one of educations latest buzzwords:

'Mindfulness involves learning to direct our attention to experience as it unfolds, moment by moment, with open minded curiosity and acceptance. Rather than worrying about what has happened or might happen, it trains us to respond skilfully to whatever is happening right now be that good or bad'  The Mindfulness is Schools Project

Have we been forced away from living in the moment with our pupils? Experiencing learning together? Seeing what develops in them and ourselves? Do we need to be more mindful not just for the pupils but for ourselves in our role as teachers? After all the evidence is in the pupils themselves not what they have written or recorded in their books. The proof of the pudding as they say is in the eating!