Today’s feature is a book I have just finished reading entitled Focus-The Hidden Driver of Excellence by Daniel Goleman (2013). Many teachers will know of Goleman as the author of Emotional Intelligence. This later book also has many implications for the classroom and learning- although it is not a how-to book. The author discusses three kinds of focus: inner (self-awareness), outer (awareness of other people) and other (systems awareness). He also relates each type of focus to parts of the brain and explains in laypersons’ terms what is going on in the brain as we pay attention. Goleman shows the importance of “building the attention muscle” of the mind, using mindfulness exercises.
For me, one of the most interesting chapters in the book is Chapter 17: Breathing Buddies. The “Buddies” program was developed for some New York schools following the 9/11 attacks as a way to help traumatized children. This chapter expands on other similar programs that teach children cognitive control as the basis for paying attention and learning. Social and Emotional Learning programs (SEL), combined with mindfulness education are achieving learning benefits for children and have implications for us all. ( Google has developed a “mindfulness-based, emotional-intelligence course” called Search Inside Yourself.)
I am only touching on the book’s contents here, but let me stress that it is an extremely readable book. I intend to reread Focus again soon- this time with a highlighter in hand. The book is available online and in book stores. Daniel Goleman can also be found on Ted Talks and on Youtube.