Using Mindfulness and Empathic Imagination in Teaching the Story From Day One
I’d like to share with you what I learned from teaching a middle school class called “The Story From Day One,” which integrated mindfulness and visualization exercises with the language arts curriculum.
We often teach myths as merely literature, divorced from the cultural, spiritual, and historical context. But we pay a price for this approach. It limits the depth of meaning students can derive from their study.
Combine this with the narrow focus on the now that social media can foster, and students easily feel isolated on an island of self, cut off not only from their contemporaries, but from a sense of the continuity of life. They have little grasp of how their lives today emerge from yesterday.
Suggested Myths to Teach in Your Class
In my Story From Day One course, we read several myths from around the world, of creation, of tricksters and of heroes, including:
- The Haida (Native American) “The Raven Steals The Light,”
- West African tales of Anansi the spider, or the epic of Sunjata,
- The Sumerian epic of Gilgamesh,
- From Europe The Odyssey and Beowulf, and
- The modern Maori story Whale Rider.
Integrating Mindfulness with Academic Content
Start lessons with a mindfulness exercise so students can calm and clear their minds, better understand how their inner lives affect their outer ones, and notice how they respond to words, stories, and other people.
After mindfulness practice, ask questions that challenge assumptions and reveal what was hidden, so each lesson becomes the solving of a mystery. For example, before teaching a class on language or vocabulary, ask:
How can words (mere sounds or collections of marks on a page or device) mean anything?
Do words have meanings, or do people give words meanings?
Imagine a time when words were almost magical, when to give your word was deeper than a legal contract today. If you felt your words were like magic, how would that change how you spoke? (Share this old Eskimo poem.)
To read the whole post, please go to Mindfulteachers.org.