This week Tom interviews Jade Song from Time to Teach about how mindfulness can be incorporated into eLearning.
Can soft skills and emotional intelligence be integrated into digital learning programs? How does Blend integrate this into projects? Have a listen!
The Blend Podcast EP14 - Mindfulness in Education
Jade Song, Tom Payani
Welcome to the blend podcast with Tom and Brendan discussing all things e learning digital marketing, design and entrepreneurship. The podcast is brought to you by Blend interactive content. Find us on LinkedIn or www.blend.training.
Tom Payani 00:23
Right. So today, we have got a little bit of a different situation. Brendan is not around. So I'm very, very lucky to have Jade Song with me today from time to teach. How you doing today Jade?
Jade Song 00:37
Hi, everyone, everybody out there listening. This is Jade. I'm doing very well actually here in Shanghai. And thank you for having me.
Tom Payani 00:46
No problem, no problem. So today we're gonna talk about different things. But I think a good starting point is to talk about your new project called time to Time to Teach. Can you give us a little bit of information about that and a summary of what you're trying to do?
Jade Song 01:04
Yeah, for sure. Great question there. So time to teach is basically a website that I've created very recently, to gather a group of educators who are looking to be more mindful in their everyday practices, to be mindful in their daily lives, and maybe bring some of that mindful embodiment into their teaching as well as educators.
My website takes the form of a blog, I write about my own journey as a mindful educator starting from when I had experienced a lot of anxieties, a lot of stress from work, being an educator, and how mindfulness has helped me throughout my journey. This is my 10th and 11th year, as an educator, as an international teacher. And I used to just post little bits and bobs here and there on Facebook, and on WeChat. That's what we use here in China.
Then people started messaging me and saying, ‘Hey, you know, this is really useful stuff, great techniques, why don't you try and put it onto a blog’. So at that time when I had all of this feedback, I was like, ‘Nah, you know what this is, this is not worth it. You know, I'm happy just putting small bits and pieces here and there.’
This is not for anything commercial, or I just didn't see the point of it, right, until a year ago. I think it was about a year ago, when I hit the 100th blog. So I wrote 100 days, from day one to date, day 100. I hit the 100 mark, and I thought, Oh, wait a second, I have 100 blogs on my own mindfulness journey. And people keep on telling me that this is helpful stuff for them.
Sometimes, people would even message me and say, ‘Hey, I haven't seen you updating your blog. What's going on?’ So I kind of just had that little bit of motivation to say, ‘Hey, you know, let's celebrate the success. Let's celebrate this moment, you know, I'm just recording all of that journey for myself.’
That's where the idea of starting that website came from. I'm also very much into educator-nerd stuff. look at a lot of websites, and I read up on a lot of frontier pedagogy, articles that talk about where education is headed, obviously, elearning is a big part of it. A big trend coming up. Yeah, and I write a lot of my own articles about what my take is on these educational reforms.
Tom Payani 03:51
So if I could just jump in then. Have you always tried to integrate mindfulness into your classes and into how you teach?
Jade Song 04:04
Wonderful question. Thank you. Yeah, of course. Of course. It wasn't until quite late, though. I would say maybe three years into my personal practice, I able to feel more confident in bringing that into my classroom. And lots of, I think lots of reading, for sure. Lots of research, lots of my own practice contributed to that motivation of bringing it into the classroom, because it just helped myself.
To relieve that stress and anxiety. But I didn't feel like I was ready to bring it into the classroom until a couple years ago.
Tom Payani 04:49
And in what ways did you actually bring it into the classroom? Can you give some examples?
Jade Song 04:55
Sure, Three areas. The predominant one is just being that mindful embodiment yourself - your projection of your voice, the pace of your voice, how you interact with your students, how you are aware of your own emotions, as you are teaching or experiencing the classroom with your students. experiencing that learning with your students. It's more about being aware of your body, your presence in the classroom, how you move around the classroom, for example, how you pace your speaking, when you pause, when you listen, how you actively listen, kind of bringing that sense of calm energy into the classroom, this would be the predominant I think area of it in terms of teaching it, obviously, in a school setting.
I teach it in my classroom, when I teach English. So I teach it to my students explicitly, we do breathing exercises and yoga movements, we some little bits of meditation, moments of silence, that sort of stuff, practising kindness, practising empathy explicitly.
Also, I hold after-school clubs with students from I would say, four to five, all the way up to 17-18. So the K to 12 range with Upper School, I tried to incorporate it into their programme. With lower school it is a lot of games, a lot of mindful movements. So it looked very different with different age ranges.
Tom Payani 06:44
Have you found that it works across all ages?
Jade Song 06:48
Well, that would be my question for you, do you think it might work for all age ranges? Or do you think it might work for certain age ranges? What do you think?
Tom Payani 06:58
I'm not a mindfulness teacher or anything like that. I try and practice it on a personal level as much as I can. But my guess would be I'm sure there's certain exercises you could use across the board.
I don't see why not. Obviously, you're going to teach your 16 year old something different connected with mindfulness than a four year old, but I think any child can start to learn and understand about what being present means - being still with themselves.
Jade Song 07:25
Thanks for sharing that with me. And thanks for sharing your understanding about mindfulness. That's really good. I would say my younger learners have definitely benefited more from that experience, they're able to explicitly demonstrate lots of angles of mindfulness back to me.
To show me that they've learned and they've taken it on board, whereas high schoolers, you know, there's a certain mindset, they're at a stage where hormones take control, so maybe it doesn't reach as big a crowd as I hope.
It also depends on how I teach it, what aspects I teach and the frequency of everything, so it's a lot to take into consideration. But we're getting there. And I think this work is extra meaningful, at this time of age, right, with so many uncertainties and challenges for anyone really, whether it's teachers or students and how they manage their own mental health, and mental well-being very important for them to feel empowered and feel like they have the tools to do so.
Tom Payani 08:41
What would you say is your long-term goal for Time to Teach? Where do you want to be with this in the future?
Jade Song 08:50
Yeah, thank you for that. I think my intention has always been to reach out to a wider community, whether it's educators, parents, kids, or even just the general population, whoever is interested in taking away some strategies.
It could be as simple as just some strategies, breathing exercises to incorporate into their own lives. So I guess, dialling it back a little, the intention would be to gather that community who is interested in using mindfulness, to elevate to propel whatever it is they're looking for in life, and to feel their their greater purpose.
Tom Payani 09:41
Starting any business, you've got to try and build that tribe, build that community. From what I understand you offer a toolkit for educators in terms of how to integrate mindfulness into their classrooms, but how are you going to build that community?
How are you going to grow it, especially in these COVID times? What's your strategy there?
Jade Song 10:02
I've been asked that a lot, because recently there have been organisations who have come to me and asked if I was planning to turn this into more of a business.
To strategize like you said, right. To reach out to the bigger community, I just be honest, I haven't really thought about the intricate details as of yet. I think it's about talking to like-minded people, putting the word out there, putting the website out there, for people who are interested, who are open to starting dialogues and are open to look at collaborating and working on something like this together.
So my personal goal is really to gather that community, to reach out to that community and share what I've learned from my own experience with them. And hopefully, having some educators bring this back into their own schools, into their own learning communities will be able to benefit more people.
However, like you said, I haven't really thought as much as to how to do that yet. So your advice, or anything suggestions to me would be very helpful.
Tom Payani 11:20
I've got a bias because at Blend we're focused on elearning. What I was sort of getting at with that question was that it would be interesting to hear your thoughts on do you think what you're offering could work online and digitally? Could you share those resources and that toolkit in an online space, rather than face to face?
Jade Song 11:43
I've been taking this course from mindfulschools.org. This is an American NGO that does a lot of extensive work on bringing mindfulness into schools, they have developed their own mindfulness curriculum, which teachers can take and incorporate into their own school.
So for me that information is accessible. There's lots of websites that have free resources online. But I think what you're asking might be if the material that I have right now, might I somehow be able to put online? Is that your question?
Tom Payani 12:30
Yeah. Does it work just as effectively in an elearning environment?
Jade Song 12:34
Do I think it might work as effectively? I can't tell you because I haven't tried it. I would love to look into if we can bring some of that online, whether it's a toolkit or any kind of maybe animated, interactive content that we can do with educators or with children.
We can definitely look into that - how I'm seeing it happen is really through an interactive setting, either on Zoom, led by teachers or little videos that we could maybe develop to make it into a classroom routine.
Or it could be some workbooks, gratitude journals, tools that teachers can take away. A lot of that is already very much available online, free for teachers, educators, and the wider population to get online already. So whatever we do will have to be something different than what's already out there.
Tom Payani 13:47
Do you think that mindfulness and emotional intelligence, soft skills etc. are becoming more and more integrated into the education system? Do you think schools and teachers and local governments are now starting to understand this is an important skillset that we need to allow these kids to acquire?
It's not just about teaching traditional subjects, we need to help them in this more intangible way that hasn't been officially done in schools before? Teaching them these soft skills, teaching them things like mindfulness, do you think there's been a change of mentality across the education system? Or do you still think there's quite a long way to go in that respect?
Jade Song 14:29
Absolutely. That's a great question. Being a curriculum developer myself, (that's my day job), I develop integrated curriculum, I develop international curriculum. And to be very honest, it's written into it - what you've just said.
Mindfulness wouldn't be, but emotional intelligence and tangible soft skills, all of that is written and quite largely emphasised in all of the curricula that we're trying to incorporate - whether it's in the British, or Chinese, US or Australian curriculum.
These bigger states, I would say, providers of curricular - I can tell you that it's all written there. And the documents, even from documents from 10 years ago, state issued documents, it's all there. The contradiction is that the need for good grades to get into good schools, and that need for academic excellence, the dominance of academic excellence taking over is also there.
Right, I think we're where this is going would be, the government would still be the government, you know, they're looking at what society needs, they're looking at trying to make sure they cover everybody in their public education, they're looking for entertainment, they're looking for results, that's not going to change for a while, because of just how society is right how power is how the economy is, and that's just going to be how it is.
I'm so grateful for and happy to see is that these practitioners and frontier teachers are doing the best they can to incorporate the soft skills, the emotional intelligence, the social emotional learning into their everyday teaching, into their everyday responsibilities.
So it'll be wonderful to receive more online resources or any kind of resources that's backed up by science and that's backed up by the government and school leadership - integrated into the curriculum that right now is academic heavy, that puts most of it most of its focus on academic rigour.
Tom Payani 17:02
Do you think that we can create a system where soft skills and emotional intelligence can be married alongside academic-heavy curricular? (where you're hot-housing kids, teaching for tests, teaching for grades) Can these things live together?
Jade Song 17:20
Absolutely yes. What I'm seeing right now is that the suicide rates are at their highest, at least in countries like China, Korea, Japan. These high stress countries, suicide rates are high, mental health issues are rising.
What I'm seeing is all of that is going to reach a certain point where educators or parents or administration is going to realise we need to do something about this. And then that's going to propel soft skills, and how do you manage your your emotions etc?
How do you build resilience and grit? How do you look at life with a growth mindset? What I'm seeing right now is people are happily letting this go until it becomes absolutely necessary. However, back to your question, I absolutely see a way of marrying the soft skills, the intangibles, the emotional intelligence into the curriculum, which, you know should already be a part of the curriculum.
For many years, it's being labelled as the hidden curriculum, whereas it should be a part of the curriculum. Just because it's not assessed or doesn't get you into top schools does not mean it's not a part of the curriculum. It is still essential, it is just the fact that the structure is not in place. It still contributes towards a student's career development.
Tom Payani 19:09
Do we need a systemic change from the top? Or is this a case of individual teachers and practitioners integrating mindfulness into their own classes in any way they can?
Jade Song 19:20
You're reading my mind here, because that was the exact point that I was going to bring up. You can't rely on any administration, changing any of their minds at your school leadership.
I can tell you, there's only one school that I know of around the Asia Pacific area that actually incorporates mindfulness into their curriculum, and that is UWC. And that is the only school that I know of.
So if we're looking to wait for that change, or wait for that radical change from up top, I think it's going to be a long way off. If we go bottom up, and try to reach out to more educators who are willing to make some changes in their priorities or are open to just try some strategies into their classroom and be patient and open minded and compassionate about seeing some changes - that will definitely help.
Tom Payani 20:31
If one wants to learn more about you, they can find you at Timetoteach.com Is that right?
Jade Song 20:39
Tom Payani 20:44
All right, brilliant. Thanks a lot for your time Jade. I hope to catch up again soon.
Jade Song 20:49
Of course. Absolute pleasure. Thank you, Tom, for having me.
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