Getting Children’s Attention
By Catherine Rosasco-Mitchell
After he stabbed his high school teacher with a butcher knife over a low grade, Jason Haffizulla pleaded “temporary insanity.” The judge ruled him innocent. It struck me how two years later the Gainsville Sun focused on how Jason “Climbing to the top after Setback” becoming valedictorian. Jason never apologized to the teacher and his obsession for academic excellence wasn’t just from the pressure he put on himself. When asked what happen Jason said, “My mind just went bananas.” The mental health of Jason and many struggling children is related to our cultural values. Today child suicide, depression, violence in schools and obesity cases are higher than ever before and congress is starting to ask why?
Attention is a hot topic in schools because teachers (and schools) are judged according to grades. However congress is re-evaluating the laws of “no child left behind.” Leaders of schools are being introduced to research in brain and behavioral sciences recognizing emotional and social health crucial for peoples’ success (Goleman, 2006).
“Reading and math, reading and math,” vibrates in the hallways of a school atmosphere. As these values hum beneath the minds of teachers stress rises… and so does the need for new doors to open up in what we teach as important. Essential to getting attention, ishaving attention inside to what is truly valuable.
The design of the nervous (the brain and body) is to learn from both a sound heart and a clear mind. Conditioning tips for children’s attention to improve academic skills include shortening lessons, keeping routine, and being consistency. But conditioning children’s minds to solely focus academic skills is like clipping the wings of hawks, simply to reach their eggs. Neuro-anatomists agree, “We are feeling creatures that think, not thinking creatures that feel” (Bolte-Taylor, 2006). As “feeling creatures” we embody emotions and thoughts that tickles the fibers of every muscle. Teaching the whole child opens eyes to how physical sensations literally show who is attending and what makes them soar.
Attention: A Two-way Road of Internal and External Influences
To be fully present, we must “Know Thyself,” as Socrates says. “Knowing thyself,” means not being carried away by external influences or internal urges. Nor does this knowing lose perceptive in the mists of emotional or physical challenges. Being fully present is being aware enough to step back from one’s reactions and the biofeedback of physical sensations sensing stress. Then drop into what can maintain a sense of ease; separate from the demands of external influences. Perception expands and common sense clears up what is valuable and what needs to be disregarded.
The human body teaches us how to know thyself by mirroring responses through motor patterns. The character of a behavior imprints into physical actions of motor patterns. Motor patterns, unlike motor skills, form perception and the way we think. Frown and notice your perception. Every conditioned thought imprints into a physical action. It is the sensations to a reaction that gives tangible feedback to the brain of how we behave. To be aware of this biofeedback from these sensations, and know our selves better, attention must be directed inside.
On way to learn how sensations from physical reactions affect confidence, curiosity, or self-control is to teach awareness from the body to the brain. Learning how our bodies affect our brains is learning from what I call the “body brain.” The “body brain” is the river of life, a flow that influences outcomes regardless of awareness. If attention is directed to the quality of a sensation internal perspectives are clarified thus external influences are viewed differently. Awareness from the character of a sensation clarifies personal perception. For example: sensations trigger when curiosity is inspired, and starts to fade as curiosity fades. Knowing how to handle self-control, regardless of the circumstance, is easier when one sees both inside and the situation.
Attending to the movement of sensations reveals how the body’s condition relates to attitudes or moods. Sensing the connections of the mental processes, physical sensations, and spirit of inspiration takes practice. Movement can sense more layers of a psyche’s process than any other vehicle.
Children need to move, more than just exercise to think. A petite third grader kept moving to a table in the back of the room. The teacher had to keep reprimanding her for getting out of her seat. The desk was too tall so she instinctually went to a shorter table. The nature of how children function demands movement whether they are aware of it or not. Movement grabs attention; senses needs and explains children’s action. Children may do something unacceptable without realizing it. Teachers or parents discipline without realizing what is going on inside children’s bodies. If the little girl had self-awareness she could have explained her needs to the teacher. Instead she was sad and frustrated from being reprimanded thus grades, emotional well-being and health get affected.
Young children need structure, but also need to know themselves. The learning involves a healthy heart and a sound mind. For the vitality and service our children will bring to the world, let’s help them bring who they are.
(Free lessons on awareness, from the body to the brain, can be found at: www.WellnessThroughMovement.com)