A.24: Better Breathers are Better Learners
Reviewed by Craig Wynne, Hampton University, VA (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Chair: Asao Inoue, University of Washington, Tacoma, WA
Speakers: Emily Beals, California State University, Fresno, CA, “Compassionate Habits: The Implementation of Self-Compassion and Mindfulness Meditation within the Writing Classroom”
Jeremiah Henry, California State University, Fresno, CA, “Piecing Together Peace: A Grammar and Rhetoric of Mindfulness in the Writing Classroom”
Jennifer Consilio, Lewis University, Plainfield, IL, “Transforming Mind, Body and Writing: Incorporating Mindfulness and Yoga into the Writing Classroom”
Respondent: Susan Naomi Bernstein, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ
When I first heard about the call for panel reviews in Kairos, I was excited for the opportunity. When I got ready to attend the first panel of the conference, my excitement morphed into anxiety. To put it politely, I remembered that my attention span was not all that great. I have a tendency to fixate on some of the details given in these presentations and start thinking deeply about those details that require me to work that much harder at staying focused.
As I sat down for the session, I took my yellow legal pad out, ready to scribble notes furiously at everything the presenters were saying. When Jeremiah Henry gave his presentation, he highlighted Burke’s dramatistic pentad and how it related to the theoretical and practical tenets of mindfulness as pertains to the classroom. I found myself writing down the quotes from Aristotle and from Diana Hacker and Nancy Sommers (2010), as well as violently drawing diagrams of his connections between rhetoric and peace.
The second presenter, Emily Beals, qualified herself as a master teacher of reiki (a naturally healing form of Japanese medicine) and discussed some of the practical applications of mindfulness that she incorporates in her writing classroom. She had us engaging in meditation and mindful breathing. During this mindful breathing exercise, something happened. I didn’t stop taking notes entirely, but I found that my obsession to get everything down on paper had been removed. I now found myself following her presentation by listening. I stayed in the present moment, which is a mindfulness practice I attempt to engage off and on.
The third presenter, Jennifer Consilio, had us engaging in a series of breathing and stretching exercises. I’m a kinesthetic learner (learning by physical exercising versus breathing), so I found this to be quite helpful. She talked about how she integrates yoga into the classroom. While my yoga experience is quite limited, I could see its benefits. After the exercise, I was more relaxed during the sessions and was more capable of taking in the ideas presented. I felt connected when one of my fellow participants asked a question about encountering student resistance to the practice—a question that had entered my mind just before my colleague asked it.
As I went through the experience of becoming more relaxed, it reaffirmed the underlying theme of all three presentations: mindfulness is an important tool in helping students develop confidence and agency in their writing. I have practiced mindfulness meditation in my personal life, and I have seen its benefits. I have also begun class sessions by having my students engage in mindful breathing at the start of class. While some have been resistant, most have enjoyed the exercise and feel more capable of engaging in the day’s activities in their relatively relaxed state.
Hacker, Diana, & Sommers, Nancy. (2010). A writer’s reference, 7th ed. Boston MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s Press.