Popping the bubble

I have recently discovered a nice little app called Headspace, which offers guided meditation sessions. This is the first time I’ve ever tried meditation and so far I am really enjoying it. I do a 10 minute session every morning, before I do anything else, and it really seems to help me focus and mentally prepare for the day ahead. It gives you a little feeling of calm and centredness that you take with you through the day (if my 20 year old self could read this she would die laughing). The first 10 sessions of this particular app are free and are aimed at beginners, so the creator talks you through the process, gently telling you what to focus on through the session. And then, while in the car on the way to a lesson in a middle school, I started wondering about the value of meditation in class.

I often find in my lessons that students, of all ages, treat English as an abstract concept, as an empirical subject like chemistry, or maths, where one plus one equals two, where a question is asked and an answer, the only possible answer, is given. Job done. Over the years this has become one of my biggest frustrations. It results in fake exchanges, a complete lack of curiosity, restricted progress, boredom. The default mode (and I totally understand this, it is perfectly natural) is Italian. English exchanges are prepared, framed, and presented on a platter. And then we can all go back to talking “properly”, in our own language. As if English only exists in that little bubble, but the real world, real communication, is outside that bubble. We enter the bubble, form the “correct” response, and then leave again. I end up with exchanges like this:

Me: What did you do at the weekend, Giulia? (ok, boring question, I know!)

Giulia: I went to the cinema.

Me: Oh really, how nice, what did you see?

Giulia: (visibly flustered, does not respond, and when pushed, replies in Italian, “I didn’t really go, I just thought that was the right answer”)

Me: …

Anyway, to get back to the point about meditation, I wondered if following a guided session in English at the start of a lesson, just for five minutes, might help to focus students’ thoughts on English, to open a door to English that otherwise remains closed; in other words, to enter an English “headspace”. I haven’t tried it yet, but I would very much like to.

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