Good learning environments begin with increased self-awareness

Our colleague, Greta Wiklund Lind, has written a really nice reflecting text about an experience from the student programme.
It has been published at Mid Sweden University’s web.

You can read the translation of the text below:

Good learning environments begin with increased self-awareness

I scroll through the pile of green post-it notes like a deck of cards and put them on the desk. The notes will be used in the evaluation of an exercise in self-knowledge. The students will be asked three questions: how they felt before the exercise, how they experienced the exercise, and how they feel afterwards.

Bumps, sighs, laughter and restlessness, the air vibrates of different energies. Some students put their heads down on the desk in front of them, others swing on the chair. A couple of students wander around without aim. The time is quarter past two and it is the last lesson of the day. I stand at the whiteboard with a colleague from Mid Sweden University (MIUN) and the class teacher. The teacher’s shoulders are raised. She stares intensively at the students and seems to be looking for something. She stops and looks at a student whose face is hidden under the hood of a jacket.

  • Take off your jacket, you do not need a baby blanket, says the teacher.
  • I need it to feel calm and safe, answers the student.
  • Take off your jacket now, the teacher repeats.

The teacher’s approach can be seen as a reminder of the importance of the research project MIUN is here to carry out with the main purpose of developing good learning environments with inclusive education. According to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (§28) and the School Act (§5: 3), children have the right to education and security, both of which can be seen as a central aspect for learning and development. The students have five minutes break between the lessons, says a girl who sits next to me. She tells me that it is difficult to find the right books and to sit still and focus so long every day. New results from the Swedish Health Authority about students’ health habits show that too many children and young people are too inactive. The results also show that the well-being at school has decreased and stress increased.

I associate these switches with the Swedish skier Charlotte Kallas´ description of how she skis in different tempos and adjusts her work according to her own abilities and the surroundings. In general, she believes that it is important to find and utilize the position for rest and focus on what is good and fun in order to cope. As a teacher, it is important to be aware of when students have a steep uphill slope and give them tools to continue. When the work is less challenging, the students can work for a longer time at a lower tempo. It is also important to help students find time for recovery and create positive energy in school work. By supporting the development of cognitive, emotional and behavioral abilities: self-awareness, self-control, social awareness, relationship competence and responsible decision-making, students can gain a better understanding of their learning process. These competencies can, in turn, constitute a base for better adaptation and school performance as a result of more positive social behaviors, less stress and improved test results and grades (Greenberg et al., 2003).

In the final exercise of the day, students are encouraged to turn their attention towards themselves. The teacher also participates. Some students close their eyes to block the surroundings, others put on their hoods or pull down their caps. Resting your arms on the desk or looking down on the floor are also strategies to maintain focus on yourself. I guide the students through a body scan, an exercise to increase awareness of breath, posture and relaxation. One instruction at a time, step by step, to find the mood of the body and mind. The breathing slows down and shoulders relax.

The classroom echoes empty and I am left with a green post-it note in my hand. It says:

  • Before, I felt stressed
  • During the exercise, I can rest
  • Afterwards I am calm and focused
2019-05-04T11:46:40+00:00 May 4th, 2019|