Students in the Roxbury Township Public Schools may have had the day off on Monday, October 9th but for the Roxbury staff, the learning never stopped. District educators spent Monday working through a jammed packed agenda that included the influence of professional collaboration, self-care and mindfulness, review of K-5 standards-based report cards, and subject-specific training for staff in grades 6-12.
A highlight of the day was a yoga portion geared toward self-care and mindfulness. The staff gathered in the gymnasium at Roxbury High School and at over 100 of them had their comfy clothes and yoga mats all ready to go on the gym floor to participate in the hands-on program presented by The School Yoga Project while others participated in exercises from the bleachers while taking notes.
Chuck Seipp, Assistant Superintendent was instrumental in bringing The School Yoga Project to Roxbury for the in-service day. One of the district goals this year has to do with wellness and mindfulness for the students and staff and Seipp added, “We want to ensure that staff have a set of skills to take seriously their own self-care. Monday’s training had a focus of supporting staff this way as well as caring for their students’ wellness. It was great to be a part of the training and having the opportunity to participate in the exercises alongside my colleagues.”
VIDEO ATTACHED (courtey of Roxbury Public Schools)
- Roxbury Staff doing Walk Stop Wiggle Sit at Inservice Day
With mindfulness and self-care playing an important role in the district goals this year, The School Yoga Project’s practices of yoga and mindfulness offered a rich experience that would help impact the lives of young people. Many teachers in Roxbury are already implementing mindfulness in their classrooms through yoga and with this support, “it would be ideal for staff to learn to recognize the signs of stress in themselves and their students and take a few minutes to implement the strategies that were taught, even if it is a quick breathing exercise,” shared Seipp.
Mayuri Gonzalez, presenter and instructor from Little Flower Yoga (LFY), a New York-based organization dedicated to making the tools of yoga and mindfulness available to all children explained that “In sharing these practices with young people, remember that the greatest offering we can make is our own mindful attention. As you bring the teachings of this workshop to your students, remember that the practices are totally appropriate for you as well. Developing a personal practice can help make your work and home life more satisfying, joyful, and nourishing.”
Seipp shared Gonzalez’ mindset as to how programs like this can be beneficial for us all. “Stress is so pervasive in education and can really influence the health and performance of the teachers and students. Supporting teachers to ensure that they have the knowledge to care for themselves and their students, especially in times of stress are important. We are all overscheduled and overconnected via technology so taking time to find your focus will be beneficial for everyone.”
To kickoff the morning’s exercises and lessons, Gonzalez asked the staff how they and their students were feeling. The consensus was that everyone felt overbooked, overscheduled, stressed, anxious, overtired, and over stimulated, to just name a few.
LFY hopes to help alleviate much of those feelings by providing tools that help children come to school ready to learn, and give parents and teachers strategies and support to reinforce these tools.
Techniques of yoga and mindfulness can be used to support classroom environments by helping us to pause and take better care of ourselves, helping the students get ready to learn, empowering us and our students by cultivating resources, and support social-emotional learning initiatives by encouraging self-awareness and self-regulation. Many of the basic tools and recommendations for students and staff can be done in as little as 30 seconds while others can take longer depending on the need and the activity.
Practices shared at the inservice to support self-care included body awareness along with dual point focus, a short centering exercise to reset the mind. Dual point focus is done with releasing twists, anchor breaths, or coherent breaths.
Additional practices were introduced to the staff to be used with students in the classroom either as a whole or for an individual. Soothing exercises included glitter jars and finger affirmations to help refocus and calm ones attention.
Gonzalez also shared activities that involve more movement to power up students. These activities including Crazy 8’s Movement Break and Walk Stop Wiggle Sit. The latter was enthusiastically received by the staff with more participants coming out of the stands to take part. This simple movement activity required tremendous attention and listening skills that can be used with a wide range of ages.
Staff and families can utilize many of the breathing and focusing strategies in the classroom and at home just to find their center. Gonzalez shared that LFY has a great free resource called Mindful Monday’s. These are weekly emails with practices and research studies to help those interested in expanding their own wellness.
“I encourage everybody to take some time for themselves during the day that relaxes and refocuses you. We know not everyone has time for an hour-long yoga class but many of these exercises and stretches can be done in a matter of minutes to help rejuvenate oneself.”
Seipp hopes that this training leads “our staff to if not implement the strategies in their lives and classrooms, that they at least stop to consider the power and influence of stopping to recognize the importance of self-care and mindfulness. We can all be more productive and successful if we are operating at maximum focus and not allow stress to bog us down.”