Even though I am a yoga teacher on the side, as a first-year elementary school teacher it is rare that I can and the day feeling like I am truly practiced a large amount of mindfulness. But today was different.
I did what I usually do in the morning. I woke up, showered, made and eat breakfast and got to the school that I am an assistant teacher at. In the morning I put my lesson plans together and even got the flat ladder ready for when I would teach health last period.
Fast forward to the health class I teach to the whole third-grade. I am constantly gratified but the freedom my house around the curriculum. It allows me to fused together a wide variety of passions: pedagogy, curriculum, yoga, overall health and well-being, and the work I did all year in physical therapy that made me oh-so-aware of where my body stands in space on a daily basis.
For these two weeks my lessons are about proprioception. I begin by teaching the kids that large, impressive word. Then we do our first routine of health class: the check-in. For this check in because we were talking about how we move in the spaces we are in each student has to call out to an emotion word that represents how they’re feeling and Perritte with an action physically that also represents how they’re feeling. As the check-in progressed, we each acted our emotion in motion plus all the emotions that preceded them in the circle. When I was in my kids yoga teacher training I believe we called this “mudra vinyasa” and that term has stuck with me to this day.
Our second routine of health class is the yoga deck. The yoga deck, formally called “Yoga Pretzels,” is definitely the kids’ favorite part. The most well-behaved student (oh, hay positive reinforcement) gets to come up to the front, close their eyes and pick the card we use. Then, we all do the pose / breathing exercise / meditation / yoga game together. This week, the kiddos were being particularly rowdy so after they chose their card from the yoga deck, I chose one for them as well: Rainbow Meditation (i.e. a guided savasana). And wow, did that work!
The third routine we have in Health Class is Freewriting! I introduced Freewriting on the first day by saying that me and one of my best friends from middle school, T, freewrite together every Sunday night. We’ve been doing this for over seven years and create our own prompts and our own rules. I wrote those rules into this poster that I carry around with me everywhere.
After Freewriting, we do our activity. This lesson, on proprioception, involved me leading the activity I did for months and months for physical therapy. The thing with breaking your leg is that you kind of regress in terms of remembering where you are in space. The thing about physical therapy is that not only do you re-learn it, but you get even better at it! The thing about Third Grade is that these kiddos are constantly growing and their relationships to the spaces they occupy are constantly changing. Teaching proprioception as a skill is hard work. To make it easier, I snagged a floor ladder from the high school football coach. The name of the game? “Quiet Line.” Students couldn’t touch the ladder with their feet while doing a repetitive movement. When I said LINE, they had to freeze. It was the most fun I’ve had teaching health so far!
After teaching Health and dismissing all the kids on their buses, I headed downstairs to the cafeteria for some scheduled professional development. We had a woman from The Mindful Classroom give us a mindfulness 101 presentation. Here were my main takeaways:
- Do body scans with the kids lying down / with heads on desks.
- No one pays attention by being told “pay attention.” Instead, we can teach kids how to pay attention and that is profound.
- Tell kids that mindfulness is paying attention with awareness, curiosity, and kindness.
- Mindfulness is a set of skills.
- Hourglass timers can give kiddos a point of focus.
- Do Metta meditation with the kids! Have them develop their own lovingkindness mantra!
I highly recommend taking a workshop with this fantastic educator. All the teachers left feeling so relaxed (it was like an extended savasana). I’d take that over a regular old faculty meeting any day.
I walked to the subway stop with the school guidance counselor, so I had a chance to debrief our PD workshop after it occurred. A lot of it had to do with Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). unfold, the Portland studio I worked at last year, focused heavily on MBSR. I struggled with that focus because I de-stress at times by moving so fast that I forget what I was worrying about before I started moving. And this very reason is why I love Lotus Flow. This very reason is why I became a member at Laughing Lotus this year, my first year as a full-time teacher. It is the antidote to my brain at times. That night, I went from the beautiful stillness of the mindfulness workshop to the gorgeous fluid movement of Lotus Flow vinyasa with the fabulous Sheri Celantano. She centered the class around Mary Oliver’s latest poem. Let us end this post Mary’s mindful words:
I don’t know where prayers go,
or what they do.
Do cats pray, while they sleep
half-asleep in the sun?
Does the opossum pray as it
crosses the street?
The sunflowers? The old black oak
growing older every year?
I know I can walk through the world,
along the shore or under the trees,
with my mind filled with things
of little importance, in full
self-attendance. A condition I can’t really
call being alive
Is a prayer a gift, or a petition,
or does it matter?
The sunflowers blaze, maybe that’s their way.
Maybe the cats are sound asleep. Maybe not.
While I was thinking this I happened to be standing
just outside my door, with my notebook open,
which is the way I begin every morning.
Then a wren in the privet began to sing.
He was positively drenched in enthusiasm,
I don’t know why. And yet, why not.
I wouldn’t persuade you from whatever you believe
or whatever you don’t. That’s your business.
But I thought, of the wren’s singing, what could this be
if it isn’t a prayer?
So I just listened, my pen in the air.