Yoga Infused Calm and Inclusive Spaces
By Sarah Said
I have spent 2022 healing... I don't think I am the only educator that has spent the past year on a journey learning more about themselves. One thing I had to work hard in doing was finding joy.. in my personal and professional life. This was a year that I also learned that I am neuro-divergent. This was a new reality to me. In this journey, not only did I realized I had to rethink how I live, but I also had to rethink spaces for students. I am now in a position as an Alternative school ELL English teacher in Elgin U-46. I am seeing my classroom from a lens that I have never seen it before. The joy is back.
Calm and Inclusive spaces are more than just classrooms with Himalayan Salt lamps and pastel decor (although they are a nice addition.) It is really how we think about the structure of our classroom. This past year, I became a Breathe For Change Graduate and not only did I become a certified yoga instructor, I learned how to infuse the philosophy of yoga into my classroom.
So my advice to you...
Have shared agreements in your classroom
When you're creating a trauma invested community in your classroom, it's important to realize that students who have dealt with a lot of trauma do not respond well to commands. Allow students to create shared agreements and norms with you first week of class. Also, ask questions and give choices rather than tell students what the need to do. Boundaries with each other and technology are important. Read about that more in my Edutopia article here.
Set Weekly Intentions with your Students
I started to use inspirational word stones to help my students and I set intentions for the week. Students pull a stone out of the bag. I ask the class if this is a good word for us. We can pull out up to three words until we find the right one. Then, we use that word throughout the week to motivate each other.
Create Time in Your Structure for Breath work
We use our weekly word for a breathing and meditation that we do daily in our structure. With older students, the meditation seems awkward at first. They may start giggling or even trying to take out devices. When you set boundaries and structures while continuing to start your class in breathing and meditation many begin to appreciate and enjoy it. There are times in the hustle and bustle, my students remind me that we need to breathe before our starting our learning targets.
Allow Time and Space for Movement
Between activities, I may work with students prior to the transition to say "hey, let's do a quick standing sun salutation by our desks". Again, with older students they may giggle and it seems awkward at first, but eventually they learn to appreciate the stretch and the movement. Not only are we getting settled between activities, but they are also learning a new low or no tech solution to self-soothe. This is a skill they can take into adulthood.
Now, this is a short blog. You can learn more at my session on Tuesday, February 14th at 9:30 am at IDEAcon. I will also be teaching three different complementary yoga offerings on Monday evening, Tuesday Evening, and Wednesday morning.
Come breathe, learn and grow with me!
Sarah Said is an educator who has served in various roles: Teacher, Assistant Principal, Dean, Curriculum Coordinator and Multilingual Coordinator. Sarah is an advocate for the students she serves and is a strong voice in education. She has a passion for supporting students with Mindfulness work as well as language learners. Most recently, Sarah graduated from the Breathe for Change SEL Facilitator program and also became a 200 Certified Yoga teacher. She is registered with the International Yoga Alliance. She has been published in various publications such as Learning for Justice, EdWeek Teacher, The Teaching Channel, Edutopia and Confianza.
Sarah is also the Governing Board representative for the IDEA Kishwaukee Chapter.