Monday, 16 November 2015

Reflections on terrorism and student needs

This past horrific weekend in Paris has reinforced for me the need to ensure our student of the future is able to cope with the present moment including spontaneous and unpredictable situations. More than ever students will be faced with crisis situations which may threaten their life whether through terrorism or natural causes such as extreme weather.

Terrorist attacks and mass shootings in schools across the world will lead to stress on students placing their minds and bodies on high alert. More than ever they will need strategies and tools to help them cope, bounce back and keep moving forward.

Over the past few years there has been a ground swell of interest in teaching mindfulness and stress relief techniques across the world with positive research beginning to emerge. Many programmes are focused on helping students who are facing family crisis, post-traumatic stress, violence and tension.

The Mental Health Institute of New Zealand lists the benefits of mindfulness as:
·      the ability to better understand the relationship between thinking, emotional experience and physical action, helping us to respond appropriately to stimuli instead of reacting impulsively. This is illustrated by the following model:


·      repeated mindfulness practice can lead to positive life changes, including reduced stress and anxiety; reduced chronic physical pain; a boosted immune system; the ability to cope with difficult life events, such as change or the death of a loved one; the ability to deal with negative emotions; reduced insomnia; increased self-awareness to detect harmful reactive patterns of thought, feeling and action; improved concentration; a greater sense of happiness and wellbeing; and reduced addictive behaviours.
·      Furthermore, it has been shown to result in positive change in the structure of the brain, and even have a positive effect on physical problems such as hypertension and heart disease (Mental Health Foundation, 2011).

We have introduced mindfulness into our classrooms with a focus on post-traumatic stress after the earthquakes and also for general well being. We have introduced it in a low-key manner using an expert and a weekly time slot. We view it as a common-sense life style habit.

Students of the future will need to develop a high level of social intelligence and social responsibility.  Early years will be focused on facilitating relationship building, interpersonal skills and collaboration.  Developing high levels of values, positive attitudes and transdisciplinary skills may be more important than content knowledge.

The teacher of the future will in essence, become a life coach encompassing a pastoral care role and mentoring role. They will know their learner’s needs both academically, socially and emotionally helping them to navigate through constant change.
They will be skilled in mindfulness, stress release techniques and will teach aesthetics, that is, how to be in the now and appreciate nature and real life beauty.

Sound far-fetched? Or, in line with future focused thinking. We can read articles that outline the new futuristic teacher roles such as:

Learning pathway designer
Competency tracker
Pop-up reality producer
Social innovation portfolio director
Learning naturalist
Micro-credential analyst
Data steward

See Exploring the future education workforce: New roles for an expanding learning ecosystem; sourced at -

However, no matter our title, I believe teachers will be/are becoming nurturers, facilitators, filterers, motivators, advisers, guides who will know their learner’s needs academically, socially and emotionally helping them to navigate through constant change.

One of the first mindfulness programmes in the US was the Quiet Time Programme a stress reduction programme now used in many schools. Within four years of the introduction of the programme suspensions fell dramatically, attendance rates climbed to 98 percent and grade marks improved markedly. Importantly both the students and the staff practiced the meditative mindfulness activity daily.

Mindfulness, growth mindset and resilience building are all becoming a natural part of our students day which is a great start towards growing calm, considered, centred students who can cope with spontaneous and unpredictable situations such as terrorism, and rise above adversity.

One of the primary ironies of modern education is that we ask students to “pay attention” dozens of times a day, yet we never teach them how. The practice of mindfulness teaches students how to pay attention, and this way of paying attention enhances both academic and social-emotional learning.

(Saltzman, 2011)

Teachers of the future will be highly flexible, with a broad academic knowledge and diverse skills including social-emotional, technological and mentor coaching skills. 

For this reason professional learning for teachers, now, should have a strong focus on well-being techniques such as mindfulness, growth mindset and stress release to ensure we are the all-round educationalists that will be needed in the future.

I believe, the human element of a teacher can never be replaced and needs to be nurtured and equipped to cater for educating students in an increasingly unpredictable world. 

A paix soit avec vous



  1. Hi Lyn,

    Great post. Last week was NZ Psychology Week and so I've also been reflecting on these topics myself. Angela and I attended a seminar at our children's school which was superb and covered many topics, including dealing with stress, sleep and other topics. Your post has added a lot to this topic.

    I wonder if the discussion in terms of curriculum needs to turn to using mindfulness as an element of the Thinking key competency? You could argue that 'mindful' contributions to problem solving, or group discussion also yields benefits in terms of Participating and Contributing effectively also.

    I guess at the end of the day, it's important to 'do' as well as to 'be' and in schools I think we focus primarily on the former; whereas the latter is so important - how do schools create time and space for the children to 'be'?


    1. Hi Rob, lovely to hear from you. The evening you attended sounds a great model we could all follow for a parent education session.
      I like your idea regarding mindfulness being an element of the Thinking KC and it also fits Managing Self.

      I agree, allowing children "be" time can be a natural part of their school day, especially in a play based curriculum in the early years. I think our playgrounds could provide lots of "be" time if we provided many different sorts of nook & crannies & experiential areas instead of modular play equipment. Food for thought ...

  2. O yes, how could I forget that KC (lol!). The idea of 'being' rather than 'doing' isn't knew and I think it also has an interesting connection to being values-based.

    One area I'm interested in is goal setting from a values perspective, which encourages this. If we are focussed on how we want to 'be', then these conceptual toughstones become guides as well as goals in themselves.

    Of course I also think there is a place for achievements and tasks/skills/etc. as goals to... make sense?

  3. Yes, that is why it is important to set personal academic as well as behavioural goals.