What’s Taught in the Classroom

Getz Class Practice

Post by Soryu Forall

I have visited many classrooms to teach mindfulness in schools. I have paid close attention (paying attention is my specialty, after all) to what the teachers tell the students. I’ve noticed a pattern, something generally true in all the classes I’ve joined. By and large, teachers teach the same two points most often. They ask the students to focus, and they ask the students to relax. They teach these two subjects more often than any others.

“Focus” is voiced with the phrases,“Pay attention,” “Let’s begin,” “Eyes on me,” among others, and also simply by saying a certain student’s name who isn’t concentrating.

“Relax” is voiced with the phrases, “Settle down,” “Calm down,” “It’s okay,” among others, and also simply by saying a certain student’s name who isn’t calm.

I was very happy to find that mindfulness is already the most-taught subject in public education.

But tellin’ ain’t teachin’.

Teachers rarely teach their students how to focus and relax. No teacher would merely tell their students to understand math. Mindfulness, the basic skills required for learning, must be taught like other subjects, with careful instruction and time for practice.

Students need instruction in order to learn how to focus and relax. They need time to master these basic skills. They need time to practice these basic skills exclusively.

If we give students a chance to learn the foundational level of learning, all learning will be more effective.

There are two levels to teaching any subject.

The first is teaching the students to focus and relax. “Focus” means that students are able to pay attention to what’s most important to their learning at a given time, and then investigate it. “Relax” means that they are able to settle their bodies and calm their minds in order to work with the various challenges that school offers.

The second is teaching the subject, whether it is language arts, mathematics, science, or any other.

Students who have not yet learned to succeed at the first level will never succeed at the second.


Teachers know this. That’s why they tell their students to focus and relax, or some similar message, more often than they tell them anything else.

When we practice mindfulness, we concentrate on only the first level. As is the case with every subject, the students will not suddenly be able to succeed. They will not magically be focused and relaxed, able to concentrate, deal with stress, and listen attentively and sympathetically to others. They will need practice and time, just like they do for any other subject. Mindfulness is not magic. It is the opposite of magic. It is good old hard work, so it is highly effective.

Give your students a chance to learn the foundational level of learning.


What’s Taught in the Classroom

2 Responses

  1. Thanks for providing a clear and concise framework for thinking about mindfulness in the classroom. While some students are able to figure out on their own how to focus and how to relax, I can’t just assume that of all my students – it is indeed my responsibility as a teacher to provide explicit instruction, modeling, and practice.

    Joyce August 22, 2015 at 4:30 pm #
    • Bingo! These can be hard skills for all of us to learn. When I look back, my favorite teachers were the ones that were honest about life challenges and modeled healthy ways to move through them. Sounds like the kids are lucky to have you in their class!

      Denise Casey August 24, 2015 at 1:08 pm #

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