This is easy!

“… when we realized we just need to change our words (mindful speaking) to make our statements more accurate, we discovered it was magic . . .”

But what about your classmate . . . ?

This is easy‘ are three words that have the power to bring learning to a dead stop! I have always disliked this statement, but never really considered making this a lesson until I read Tracy Zager’s book, Becoming the Math Teacher you Wish You’d Had (2017). In her book she writes about how she had a discussion with her class about this statement, asking how it made people feel and what they really meant when they said, “This is easy”. 

So I decided to try this out for myself. I called a class meeting and we all sat around the outside of the carpet. I said, “When we start our math lesson I am often hearing students say, ‘This is easy,’ and I am curious to know how those words make you feel’. Just as in Zager’s class, my students started say:

  • ‘It makes me feel bad, like I am not smart’
  • ‘Sad’
  • ‘Like I am not good at math’
  • ‘I stop trying’

So I told my students that I had just read a book about this statement, ‘This is easy’ and the teacher said that what this really means is:

  • ‘I’ve seen this before’
  • ‘I feel confident about this math’
  • ‘I understand this math’

I wrote these statements up on chart paper and asked my students what they thought about these statements. Are these statements more accurate than, ‘This is easy’? How would it make our classmates feel to hear these statements instead of, ‘This is easy’?

My class began a process of awareness, reflecting on how our words impact our classmates. Everyone in our classroom takes great pride in being a ‘Mindful Classroom,’ so when we realized we just need to change our words (mindful speaking) to make our statements more accurate, we discovered it was magic! I never hear ‘This is easy’ anymore, yet I often hear, ‘I’ve seen this before’ or ‘I understand this math’.  This is a ‘magical’ lesson! Try it for yourself.

What is Mindfulness over Matter?

“Our daily classroom practices include daily mindful breathing, explicit teaching of what thoughtful listening is . . . community building exercises and deep conversations about holistic learning . . .”

Mindfulness over matter is my space to practice what I preach. A space that reflects that learning comes from passion, creativity, and play. Through mindful listening and thoughtful and responsive teaching I construct and reconstruct my professional practice to meet the needs of the students in front of me.  Our daily classroom practices include daily mindful breathing, explicit teaching of what thoughtful listening is (what it looks like and feels like), community building exercises and deep conversations about holistic learning (such as sleep habits, healthy eating and exercise).

 Building a learning community where it is safe to be vulnerable, take risks and believe that there is more than one way for us to get to where we want to go. There is not always one right answer, one path, or one way of being.  My recent focus on math lends itself so well to the mindful classroom. The standard used to be summarized in pragmatic terms: ‘Being good at math means you answer the teacher’s questions fast, right, and easily’ (Zager, 2017).  However, mindfulness over matter is the concept of providing access for all students to creatively engage in meaningful hands on learning experiences in a classroom that values risk taking, persistence, and courage. We believe there are many ‘right’ ways to get to an answer. Learning takes patience and time, and grappling with concepts. This is not ‘easy’ but it is a worthy challenge.