Finding Focus in a Distracted World

We live in a distracted world.

If you are reading my blog, chances are that you probably have a long to-do list that you need to get to but for some reason you have landed here. Every minute of every day we face obstacles that attempt to distract us from those things that we need or want to do. Our cell phones are constantly going off, our email is binging, there is always something that can take our focus away from the task that needs to be completed.

In searching through my RSS feed I found this short video series that addresses focus, attention and our emotions, with a specific lens toward teaching. In the videos, Daniel Goleman is interviewed by Edutopia related to his new book Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence.

These are some of the key ideas from the videos:

• Understanding the importance of the emotional atmosphere of the classroom is critical due to the impact the emotional centres of the brain can have on the learning centres of the brain. Students need to feel safe and calm in order for learning to take place.

• There are different types of focus that students need to learn in order to be successful. The first type is inner focus which deals with controlling their own thoughts. The second type is empathy which involves being able to think about the needs and feelings of others. The third type is outer focus, which involves being able to place yourself within a larger system or organization and understand your place.

• Effective learning requires being able to place your attention on a topic or concept for a sustained amount of time. This is not the normal for students today because they have grown up in a highly distracted world. This means that students need to be taught strategies for paying attention and monitoring there attention.

• There are many simple strategies that can be utilized to help teach students how to focus and pay attention including basic breathing exercises. As students brains grow and develop, new developmentally appropriate strategies can be introduced.
• Our brains need time to process and recover between sustained periods of learning. The brain needs to restore its glucose levels! Activities like recess, playing, walking all help the brain to reset.
• Kids learn focus and emotional management through modelling by parents and teachers. As a teacher it is important to explain to students the importance of social emotional learning.
How are we helping our students to learn how to pay attention and focus?
Are we providing students with times to reset their brains between sustained periods of learning?

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