Communication studies professors Marne Austin and Terri Russ are redefining learning through their implementation of mindfulness in their classroom setting.Professor Austin said she defined mindfulness as a commitment to always being present in the current moment.“Mindfulness is a practice of presence and of radical presence with each other,” she said. “It means that we must strive to be present to ourselves in our own lives. This requires purposefully slowing down to be here entirely in each moment.”After noticing the negative effects that many cultural trends have had on learning, Austin said she chose to implement mindfulness in her classes.“So often in our culture and society we pride ourselves on business and like to pretend that we are very good at multitasking,” she said. “Studies are showing more and more is that multitasking can’t actually happen effectively. If we are doing multiple things at once it means it’s only getting a fraction of our attention. It’s no wonder that we are losing our connections with each other and the things that we’re doing if we’re only partly present.”Austin uses two main mindfulness practices in her classes: breathing exercises and compassionate listening. These practices allow students to slow down and open themselves up to endless educational possibilities, she said.“In class we start by pausing,” Austin said. “The idea is that there’s nowhere else we’d rather be, nothing else we need to do, except be here and we can trust that we have this inherent brilliance and that we all matter and have something to offer.”Austin said she has noticed a great change in the classroom as a result of these small enhancements.“Students have more courage and feel safe to ask questions,” she said. “The energy shifted. When we were able to divorce our being from the things we said and the questions we asked, then anything could be said and learned.”Russ said she begins classes with what she calls a “mindfulness moment,” often employing use of freewriting.“Just write for the next 10 minutes,” she tells students. “Don’t stop writing. If you don’t know what to write, [then] write ‘I don’t know what to write.’”Professors tend to feel crunched for time to teach everything they need to during class time, so the idea of giving up a few minutes for a mindfulness exercise can seem risky, Russ said. However, Russ said she finds this to be a worthwhile use of class time.“It allows not only for more focused discussion, but also deeper discussion,” she said. “So the cost-benefit analysis of that is that I end up gaining some class time by taking away some class time.”Implementing mindfulness into their daily lives helps students focus outside the classroom as well, Russ said, so long as it doesn’t become another item on an increasingly long to-do list. She said she has even given a keynote address titled “I’m Too Busy to Be Mindful.”“We’re very task-oriented as a society,” she said. “We like our checklists. We like to know exactly what we’re going to do [and] how to get things done. Mindfulness, then, becomes another task. By making it another task, we think ‘I’m too busy to be mindful.’”Mindfulness is said to improve focus and productivity, but Austin and Russ agree that it goes beyond this.Mindfulness‘ positive effects go beyond simply improving one’s focus and productivity, Austin said.“When you start practicing mindfulness, you do it personally because it’s this self-care, but it’s through this that you transform the world around you,” Austin said.Tags: classroom practices, meditation, mindfulness, teaching methods
‘Very natural’ Despite its economic advances, South Korea remains socially conservative and Human Rights Watch says discrimination against women and minorities is widespread.Jang said her family suffered; as well as autism, her sister has intellectual disability — conditions some blamed when they were growing up on their mother’s supposed “sins”.The mother struggled to cope and received limited help from the government or community, and eventually the disabled sister was placed in an institution where Jang alleges residents were mistreated.Soon afterwards their mother left the family and her father sent Jang to live with her grandparents.”When I realized my mother had left, I was very sad, but on the other hand, I also thought it was a very understandable decision,” Jang told AFP in an interview.Her mother’s experiences, and those of her sister and herself, made feminist campaigning “very natural” to her, she added.In 2011 she dropped out of the prestigious Yonsei University — an unconventional decision in a competitive society where college degrees often define lives.Then, 18 years after the family split up, Jang took her disabled sister out of the care facility to look after her herself.Jang’s 2018 documentary “Grown Up” follows their first months living together again, and on YouTube Jang has consistently called for people with disabilities to live in the community.Last year Jang joined the left-wing Justice Party and in April this year was among six MPs from the group elected to parliament in a vote that President Moon Jae-in’s Democratic Party won by a landslide.But Jang’s bill will struggle to become law. “For a long time, parliament has existed as an institution made up of middle-aged, able-bodied men,” Jang said. Jang stands out in a legislature where 83 percent of MPs are over 50 and only 19 percent are women — a figure that would place the South at 116th in the latest Inter-Parliamentary Union global ranking.Now she is taking on the country’s deep-seated patriarchy and religious conservatism — including powerful megachurches that condemn homosexuality — by drawing up a new anti-discrimination bill.It would ban favoritism based on sex, race, age, sexual orientation, disability or religion as well as several more unusual criteria such as criminal history, appearance and academic background.However, over the past 13 years six attempts to pass broad anti-discrimination laws in South Korea have all failed. Topics : ‘It’s a sin’Religious beliefs hold much sway in South Korea, where churches remain an important political space and many evangelicals oppose gay rights.Pastor Kim Kyou-ho, who leads the campaign group Counter Measure Committee for Homosexuality Problems, insists the Bible says homosexuality is a “sin”.”If anti-gay people’s human rights and freedom of speech are violated in the process of protecting the human rights of sexual minorities, we cannot call this democracy,” Kim said.About 40 percent of the country’s parliament is Protestant, according to the United Christian Churches of Korea, and few politicians are willing to challenge the religious lobby.Of 10 MPs who signed Jang’s bill last month, only two are from the left-leaning Democratic Party, whose support is crucial.Activists say the Democrats have failed women, with three party heavyweights currently accused of sexual misconduct, including Seoul mayor Park Won-soon, who took his own life earlier this month.Jang was one of two female lawmakers who declared they would not attend Park’s government-run funeral, and instead called on officials to take action against sexism.Moon, a former human rights lawyer who once pledged to be a feminist leader, supported an anti-discrimination bill during his ill-fated 2012 presidential run.But during his successful 2017 campaign he said he “opposed” homosexuality and that “social consensus” was needed before legalizing same-sex marriage.Jang, though, insisted rights issues could not wait.”The essence of politics lies in making choices, and taking responsibility for your actions and words,” she said. When Jang Hye-yeong was 13 the strain of caring for her disabled sister tore her family apart.Her autistic sibling was placed in a care home for almost two decades, while another sister was sent away to a boarding school, and her mother left the family.The experience turned Jang into a disability campaigner — and singer-songwriter and YouTuber to boot — who was elected to parliament in April as one of South Korea’s youngest MPs, aged just 33.