It is my first time to know the terms “mindfulness” and “mindlessness”. I am happy to find these two terms perfectly summarize my previous learning experiences: learning actively and learning negatively. Langer’s article provides us a clear definition of mindlessness, which is to “act like automatons who have been programmed to act according to the sense our behavior made in the past, rather than the present”. This reminds me a true story of myself. When I was in primary school in China, my six-year math teacher always gave us a lot of assignments before final exam and these assignments were actually repeating the same questions over and over again (since some of these questions would be present in the final exam). I was so familiar with these questions and I even did not notice that some of the number was changed in the exam. I lost points because I wrote down answers without thinking—I recited them due to repeating them over and over again from my assignments. I am not the only one lost points due to this reason- half of the class did the same thing with me. It sounds ridiculous that people do their exams without thinking, but if their education based on feeding knowledge without thinking and participation, the results of their learning is nothing.
After reading Langer’s papers, I start to think about was there any way helps me to learn mindfully in my previous experiences? The answer is yes. The first method I think of is to insert some jokes that related to the lecture. One of my English teachers likes to tell us some jokes during his lectures since he believes that students will lose their attention every 15 minutes. But most of his jokes related to his lectures such as misuse of a word or misunderstanding between different cultures. He used these “mistakes” to tell us that one English word may have various meanings and encouraged us to explore the usage of each new word. In this way, he turned a boring recite work into a fun learning process. Besides, in analyzing characters in literary masterpiece, he also likes to inspire us to assume each character’s inner activity and even play this character. This largely stimulated our interests in learning classic literary. The second method is to make the lecture compact and easy to follow. One of my physics teachers had a fast-space in his class, which means the sections he talked that day were closely related to each other and each section was actually the transition for the next one. So there is no much time for students to distract. What I felt was once you got into it, you just kept involving in it. Also, he was good at using analogy to explain physics terms, which was really easy to understand and trigger students’ interests. The third way is to do a group project. One of my group projects in high school was to find out a topic we interested ourselves and try to use all kinds of methods to solve this problem (such as library, ask teachers and internet). This work is like to combine interdisciplinary study and connected learning. During this process, each of us figures out how to use ways outside classroom to learn. Similar with peer-relationship in connected learning, we shared information we collected each day and how we get it, and to inspire each other to explore possibilities. In addition, as what Langer talked in the paper, we always felt we know very limited in this topic that time and we were encountering something novel every day. Therefore, each of our team members approached our project mindfully each day.
For teach mindfully in the future, it may be helpful for teachers to keep students’ curiosity by providing more options in doing a project/option, more probability when introducing a concept, and more perspectives in explaining a statement. As both Langer and Ken Robinson talked about, how to teach students with different cultural backgrounds is also important for students to learn mindfully, and is worth for each teacher to consider before giving the lecture.