FLOW is my #OneWord2017. It will guide my growth personally and professionally all year long!
I’ve committed myself to the 365 Day Meditation Challenge with Insight Timer which I blogged about here. I’m going strong at 35 consecutive days! With an ACES score of 4 from childhood, it’s empowering to finally ‘get it’ that the answers I’ve sought outside of myself are actually within me, waiting to be found and released. It seems so simple and I’m realizing it actually is, once you connect into yourself. Building my own resilience by removing the barriers that keep energy and knowledge stagnating, both within myself and between myself and others, will allow health, happiness, leadership and service to flow. Detached observation and awareness through daily mindful meditation helps me connect into my power. I highly recommend the 20/20 Meditate for Peace guided meditation course–20 days of meditation, 1 minute per day for 20 days–by Michelle Zarrin. I’ve found a supportive and unique PLN community to support my quest in the Insight Timer Community (app).
What are those experiences that we LIVE for as teachers, the real reasons we spend our lives in service to kids and community?
1) We live for the relationships we form with kids — relationships that we know change us and, more importantly, change students’ lives, in both the present and future. Relationships are a flow of energy and information. Relationships provide the connection, acceptance and belonging that all humans need to thrive. Check out this video .
2) We live to see our student learners experience ‘flow’ or being ‘in the zone.’ When we see that look of deep concentration or joy or excitement on students’ faces, we know we’ve hit the bullseye in unit design. I want to help teachers design learning with neuroscience and flow as the driver. (See chart below)
3) We live to see learning opportunities flow between school and community, school and city, school and the world. Instead of students being isolated in school until age 18 and THEN moving into the real world, learning should flow between students (& teachers) and the bounty of human and other resources in the world. Learning takes place anywhere and requires all of us. We must approach learning as part of a connected ecosystem–not just a ‘school thing.’ Check out @LRNG
When you experience flow, you are free from your own thoughts, worries, and fears. You are ‘in the zone’ as they say, completely immersed in the process, skill, or activity. You feel free, joyful, and in my experience, as ONE with your curious and vibrant inner learner. You experience wonder and hope, and an intrinsic desire to continue learning. Some of my most cherished memories as a teacher were witnessing (and knowing I was a part of) a student meeting his or her inner learner for the first time–seeing that student gain a new and more curious perspective on life, and maybe even a new friend.
Flow was coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a pioneer in positive psychology. Here is his Ted Talk: Flow, the secret to happiness. He argues that achieving flow state is a key part of happiness. By entering the state of flow you increase your productivity and creativity, and you feel happy. Here is another excellent resource article about his work. Flow can occur in diverse contexts, including art, music, dance, reading, conversation, storytelling, and more according to Csikszentmihalyi in Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.
Flow Model Chart
This chart holds potential for teacher learning and instructional leadership. What if we collected data from students about when they experienced each of these feelings or mental states and in what setting/type of learning experience? (See flow research that has already been done.) Four positives and four negatives. What if that data could help us be more aware of relationships between learning experiences and mental states so that we became more intentional and effective designers of learning?
Learning Design: What’s our Goal?
How would unit planning change if we approached it by designing for student mental states. Research (others’ and our own), standards, relationships, neuroscience, technology and pedagogy are tools we use to engineer our students spending as much time as possible in the four positive mental states. When I plan PBL, I do it because I know it has a higher chance of getting kids into flow and a positive learning state. However, I don’t specifically plan with flow and brain science research. I am planning PBL to get kids involved and creating. I’m thinking of the processes and timelines. What if I thought of the mental states I wanted and didn’t want and planned accordingly. Would things turn out differently? Questions to ask ourselves as we shift to neuroscience-based instructional leadership:
- What characterizes learning experiences that get kids in the zone?
- Have we determined the main things we do in our schools that trigger apathy, boredom, worry, or anxiety in OUR kids–so we can decide as a staff to steer clear from as much as possible? (Ask the kids!) Same for flow.
- What schoolwide programs support flow states for students? teachers? parents?
- How do we teach so that kids reach the flow state of intrinsic engagement, focus, and happiness–the core of their very being as a learner? (Start by, you guessed it, asking the kids)
Technically, to be considered FLOW, the experience must meet 6-8 certain requirements. More on that in a future blogpost. There is much to this flow research that can lead us to better learning design. I challenge you to explore neuroscience as a leader and learning designer. Consider investigating with your staff what it is you do, schoolwide–in classrooms, that causes kids to feel apathy or feel
Consider investigating with your staff what it is you do, schoolwide–in classrooms, that causes kids to feel apathy or flow. Ask kids. Ask teachers. Then do everything in your power to design for flow and not apathy. Apathy is very common. Notice, too, that apathy is the opposite of flow. One of my favorite neuroscience/mind science authors is Dr. Daniel Siegel. I recommend his books. I have a huge stack of them on my desk that I’m working my way through.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and connect into my journey. It means a lot to me. I’d love to have a conversation with you. I value your ideas, thoughts, and questions.