Schools

Mindfulness in Education: Oppidan Mentoring

Mindfulness in Education

The Building Block to a Happier Future

We were delighted to welcome Regina Zheng, a certified Mental Health Therapist & healthcare technology startup founder, to present to our mentors the strategies within mindfulness that she has developed as an Oppidan Mentor. The discussion centred on working with students in high-stress and high-pressure environments and we analysed in depth the importance of mindfulness as a concept within education and from there, the best approaches on how to incorporate mindfulness to within current mentoring relationships.

Children are increasingly worried about performance. They are highly aware of targets and ‘hoops’ they are expected to jump through. As educators, it is imperative to be aware and notice how this behaviour is displayed and how it manifests itself.

Regina argued that if students’ emotional needs are not met, then it is difficult for them to learn and to progress. Mindfulness, she says, is a tool that can help students explore both the cause of anxiety and aid in its reduction. Satisfying the need to express and let go of what is felt allows students to refocus and absorb new information better.

Regina’s main argument centred on the idea that society has deviated from the optimal state in which students are able to academically perform at their best. Many students are both over scheduled and over committed. It is important to teach mindfulness because the brain is a muscle that can be trained for optimal performance. However, when we rigorously academically  train it while negating other aspects, results will be lackluster. She quoted Bill Gates who poignantly describes his mindfulness practice as “learning how to pay attention to the thoughts in [his] head, [while establishing enough] distance from them to calm down.”

Scientific research findings support the assertion that mindfulness improves focus, reduces stress and boosts memory retention. Mindfulness is an important skill for mentor-mentee relationships, because it satisfies an emotional need that acts as a building block towards both higher academic performance and general wellness.

As educators at Oppidan, this approach is not simply paying lip service to a trendy new-age approach to pedagogy. This is the anchor for fundamental change and a cause for real development in the happiness and welfare of children.

The Magic Formula for Moulding Champions

“You can take direct credit in the correction of his perception about what he is capable of academically. This will be life-changing for him.”

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Described by The Telegraph as “the man with the magic formula for moulding champions” and a winning coach of a Wimbledon Tennis Grand-Slam, Richard de Souza – the inspiration behind the D7 philosophy we use in our mentoring - kicked off Oppidan’s mentoring workshops this January with two lively discussions on how best we can incorporate the D7 into our one-on-one teaching.

Using the same methods we implement in our teaching, Richard has quite the track record. He coached Jonny Marry to Wimbledon Champion in 2012 , took the former British No.2 Anne Keothavong to the brink against Venus Williams and is currently working with Evan Hoyt.

The importance of technical skills is obvious in many professions, sports or hobbies. You simply need to be able to hit a forehand to be good at tennis, formulate clarity in a meeting to be good at business, or know why a metaphor doesn’t use like or as to be a competent English writer. The importance of technical teaching should not be dismissed; after all, the grasp of technical subject matter is often attributed to the rate of progress that students see in improved scores through lessons or exams.

 What is often missed out, however, whether in the sphere of business, sport or in our case, teaching, is the mental capabilities surrounding how children learn and how they feel mentally about their education.

Unless there is a desire to learn, progress can never be fulfilled. Unless a degree of focus is apparent, a game plan showing how a child is going to improve is clear, or resilience is taught to help foster a growth mindset, then you can do all the technical teaching you want, all the percentages and the similes you can muster, but there will simply be no long-term improvement made at all.

It’s why children who seem to be making progress in tutoring sessions in fact quite often do badly in exams. Parent’s cognitive dissonance suggests that “they just always do badly in exams” as if it’s black and white and can’t be changed. The reality is that there has been no or little focus on the mental capabilities they have, and under pressurised scenarios, the technical teaching goes out the window and they fall down – time and time again.

The D7 is the formula to structure sessions and contextualise feedback to children; it creates an awareness of the extent of a child’s capabilities and makes sure that when the mentor is not in the room, the child has the tools to go about improving on his or her own. It fuels independence, a stronger sense of identity and an ownership to their learning. The system provides an opportunity for students to discuss their thoughts and feelings with regards to their education. This opportunity encourages involvement and allows mental clarity to form a clear game plan to help improve. Starting with a desire statement  - a clear admission of what you want to achieve – it visualises the aim of the mentoring sessions, clarifies the child and the mentor’s intentions and crucially allows the child to take ownership of the sessions.

The Oppidan Mentor combines both the horse and the cart. Once the mental qualities are in place, the technical teaching will then flourish.

Marina Oswald: Oppidan Client Manager

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/tennis/9667695/The-man-with-a-magic-formula-for-moulding-tennis-champions.html

Dealing with Maths Anxiety: How to Improve Performance in Maths

Dealing with Maths Anxiety: How to Improve Performance in Maths

…the relationship between anxiety and performance needs to be nurtured from a child’s early years, not kept a secret to be unveiled on an unassuming parent….”

Maths – an unavoidable, essential component of the world and our daily lives.

 I was mortified to be told at a Parents’ Evening ten years ago by an unenthusiastic maths teacher (in front of my horrified parents), that I was “number blind with whom there is very little hope”… Not the vote of confidence one would recommend for a 4th form student on the eve of their mock GCSEs. With almost immediate effect I was moved into a different class and engaged the support of a mentor. He lifted the numbers and equations straight off the page and into a mode that I could visualise and understand. Maths became beautiful and, as my engagement with the subject evolved, so did my performance.

It is now clear that maths anxiety (MA) had previously taken hold, and I was preventing myself from engaging with the subject at a deeper level. Maths anxiety is defined as a feeling of anxiety or tension, which occurs directly in response to solving maths problems and manipulating numbers in academic settings or in everyday life. It differs from test anxiety, although the two have been shown to correlate. MA may manifest itself at a relatively young age, as early as primary school, and shows gender differences, with girls typically being more anxious than boys. MA may be independent of maths ability – in other words, it is possible to be good at maths and still experience MA; however, MA and performance have been shown to be related, in that high levels of anxiety typically correlate with poor maths performance and an avoidance of maths.

One of the major questions surrounding the phenomenon of MA is of the direction of causation. Do high levels of anxiety cause poor performance, or is it the other way around? Determining the nature of this relationship is difficult; although researchers generally agree about the effects of MA on performance, less is known about the causes of MA. It has been proposed that this is a circular relationship, with poor performance and anxiety feeding into each other; some researchers theorise that lack of ability might be the major cause of MA, whilst others argue that the direction of causation runs the other way.  As such, an individual’s belief about their maths ability has great affect on their performance.

 It’s likely that this results in avoidance and lack of [desire to] practice, which in turn reduces performance in maths. High levels of anxiety also reduce working memory capacity in individuals who are asked to solve maths problems that they consider difficult. On easy tasks, which involve simple retrieval (e.g. knowing that 2+3=5), subjects with high anxiety perform as well as those with low anxiety. However, in non-retrieval considered more difficult that require complex cognitive processes, they are impaired. The growth versus fixed mindset approach has been well documented and the differences couldn’t be truer with maths anxiety.

 Maths anxiety and maths performance are certainly related, with all available research showing correlations between the two. There is increasing evidence showing how performance can intercede MA, to such a degree that a bi-directional relationship to maths must be recognised before any improvement can take place. This relationship between anxiety and performance needs therefore to be nurtured from a child’s early years, not kept a secret to be unveiled on an unassuming parents’ evening, or even swept under the carpet in the hope that hours of tuition will help mediate any anxiety.

 As MA and maths performance show evidence of a causal link in both directions, the relationship can be described as circular. It is therefore invaluable for a child with demonstrative MA to positively restructure and rebuild their self-image in the arena of mathematics, to one of capability and genuine enjoyment of the subject. In doing so, the circularity of perception and performance has the potential to be positively affected. This child-centric approach is one of the focused methods by which an Oppidan Mentor will realign the relationship between the self and academia.

 Once the gorge of geometry is crossed, and when one feels comfortable in the arena of algebra, the cosmos of calculus opens up; the World is one’s oyster – unlocked and ready to be discovered.

By Olivia Buckland

Olivia graduated from Cambridge University (English & Education) in 2018 and joined Oppidan in December. Olivia is Oppidan’s Partnership Manager and in charge of school and commercial partners.

The D7: Oppidan Education & a Wimbledon Champion

Mentoring exceeds tutoring.

Watch the video to find out why.

How many times have you heard your child say, “I’m bad at maths,” “I can’t revise,” “I freeze in exams”? The chances are, almost every day.

However much tuition a child gets, and I use the term tuition to describe technical, prescriptive exam help, this attitude will never change. They’ll remain frozen by the negative self image they have and they’ll forever think that being “good” or “bad” is something inherent. Their confidence and desire to learn will plateau; their technical ability may indeed improve, but there’s fundamentally a limit as to what they can achieve.

At Oppidan, we have the solution to this problem. Our mentoring provides the necessary change to the current binary approach of assessing children. By focusing on seven different areas within each lesson to help critically analyse where a child can improve, our mentors help your child throw off the fake self-image they have of themselves.

Oppidan mentors use the D7 as a resource to give structure and game plan to mentoring work. It allows the mentors to understand the dynamic of the student’s learning, offering a fresh form of gentle assessment for them to utilise. Over time, tracking the D7 realises tangible progressive results.

We have partnered with Richard de Souza, a sports psychologist and the creator of the D7 whose approach has led to winning a Wimbledon Grand Slam tennis championship. Together with Richard, we train our mentors to appreciate the nuances of each child’s learning and to follow the same techniques to allow for the same success that he has had.

Oppidan’s educational mentoring is an objectively unique product within the market and an approach, we believe, that is the future of one-on-one teaching.

Five Top Tips for Choosing the Right School

Visit the school: The only way of making an informed decision about your child’s education is to go and see the school for yourself. Meet the staff, the teachers and the matrons, chat to the students about what life is like there, visit the boarding houses and see the new facilities being built. Above and beyond any brochure, you’ll know straight away if the school seems the right fit. 

Ask the right questions: Aside from graduate prospects and league tables, it is vital to know what sort of education your son or daughter will be getting at that particular school. Does the school focus on independent learning? Does the teaching style transcend exam requirements? Is the focus directed on academia or on an all-round school life? The ethos of each school is different and it is essential to know your options before registering.

Manage your expectations: It is of paramount importance to be realistic about your child’s education. Pushing them towards schools that are too academic and watching them fail to gain a place can have long-term implications for that child; be fair to them and be realistic on what is achievable.

Be varied in your choices: Whether boarding or day, mixed or single-sex, forward-looking or traditional, having a focused ideal on the type of school you want for your child is to be supported. Try, however, to pick a diverse range of schools so that all eventualities, positive or negative, are covered.

Listen to your child: A child will directly or indirectly lean towards a particular school that you visit and their view must be taken into account. Children perform better in pre-tests to schools that they aspire to, and genuine enthusiasm for a school manifests itself decisively at interview.