In these lockdown times some of us find ourselves with greater stretches of uninterrupted time than we have experienced before. Managing our attention and focus will lead to the greatest improvements for teachers and students both in and out the classroom.
The actual terms ‘focus’ and ‘attention’ are sadly poor terms for what they can really do. They are unduly technical and dry. They connote task completion and work. As teachers we want to inspire students to experience our lessons, not to just do stuff. To experience a lesson requires kindling a spirit of learning and curiosity, to nourish or guide or unleash intellectual endeavour however it might be found. Over the past three years I would say this:
1) Aim your lesson at students who want to experience the lesson.
In other words, aiming lessons at a ‘hidden-middle’ leads to bad stuff despite its prevalence in some classrooms (the must/could/should brigade). Put the most earnest at the heart of the class and let their intellectual excitement be an example to others. I am lucky to be in a school that allows me to do so.
This is not always possible in our own lives though. Our contemporary world demands attention. Social media – that inevitable bane of life – exists to destroys focus. Everything on social media is presented as significant and worthy of our time. Each post, each story garners our focus (and hopefully, eventually, our money).
I am not immune to the issues of social media. I try to manage social media in my own way. Therefore I recommend:
2) Delete FB from all but one of your devices and keep messenger.
Many people like me use messenger to keep in touch with friends and family. FB does not help with that. Deleting FB and keeping messenger has been very helpful.
But even if we aim to manage the attention of ourselves and other through our lesson-ambitions and our social media management, we still need to roll through the day’s chores. Despite keeping a blog for 12 years (advertisement free!), my stomach drops at marking or reading demands.
In this, ToDo list apps have proved to save me.
I have organised over the past ten years because I am not organised in my spirit. Some people do not have systems to be organised because they gravitate towards systems and routines. I do not. Yet I have not missed a deadline for a decade or suffered the stress of a missed-task. To-Do list apps have help me with that. I am retiring my latest one, Wunderlist, and have started using a new, and admittedly upgraded one, TickTick. More on that soon.
Yet in terms of managing attention and focus, I call upon you to focus on that famous quote by Andredy De Priex:
3) That which is essential is invisible to the eye.
That which inspires our attention and focus is not an adult-needs model or curriculum (although that helps for some). Instead, the aim for actualisation, the engagement in dialect of real problems, and the debate of philosophical ideas is the heritage that so many of us need. Such words and concepts are invisible to the eye, but their vitalisation of young people will be clear to see.