Oh how is it possible that it is August already? This has been quite a summer and if you are anything like me, you need all of the relaxation and recharging that you can get for this month!
I am going to continue to offer online yoga classes through my 716 yoga page on facebook for the month of August. These classes are FREE, live and the recordings are posted for you to go back to at your own time. In order to keep these classes available to everyone this month, I am asking for donations. If you would like to donate, please visit the Yoga Classes page on my website to donate. Donations are a one time donation and will help me to build more classes and services for the 716 yoga community.
Here are the classes for this week:
Tuesday 8/4 – Slow Flow Yoga (8 am) Facebook Live – Join me for a slow wake up to your morning. This class focuses on movement, breath, and stretching. Beginners to experienced yogis are welcome.
Thursday 8/6 – Vinyasa Flow Yoga (8 am) Facebook Live – This class is a bit more fast paced than the slow flow class. The focus is on building strength while focusing on breath and movement. Beginners to experienced yogis are welcome. If you have yoga blocks, a stack of book (or even full toilet paper rolls), they will be helpful for stability.
Sunday 8/9 – Mindfulness and Yoga (8am) Facebook Live – this class is meant to be restorative and relaxing. A great way to start your day. All ages and abilities are welcome! Make a cup of tea or coffee, grab a pillow and blanket and join me online!
Please feel free to email me with any questions about classes at email@example.com. I am looking to start some socially distant, outdoor classes soon! If you have a great spot for a class, please let me know. I am happy to travel!! Also, check out my latest post on scheduling your Yoga Happy Hour! Using Zoom as the platform, you can gather your friends together for a 45 minute yoga, mindfulness or a combination of both session. Then, grab a drink and hang out online and catch up. $5 per person ($25 minimum). Email me today to book your session!
I am so excited to announce my newest adventure…716 Yoga! As you may know, I have been working for a while to become a certified yoga and mindfulness teacher. The dream has come true and I am certified and teaching!
I believe strongly that everyone could use yoga and mindfulness in their lives. With the crazy state of our world right now, we all need to take time for self care. While we are all in somewhat of a “pause” I am not sure we really know what it means to take a pause. Taking time to notice and be in the moment is so important..now more than ever.
As a person who has suffered from anxiety most of my life, it is my mission to work with and help those who are in need of relaxation. My focus is working with busy individuals who suffer from anxiety and who need to learn how to get back to themselves so that you can learn to live a better, well rounded, healthy, and joyful life.
Currently, all of my classes are FREE for the month of July (2020). My goal is to give back to the community that has been so supportive during my journey. I also want to put out a special call to teachers who are facing great burnout and anxiety with all of the uncertainty of the fall. Right now we all need to take care of ourselves so that we can our best come September!
If you are interested in learning more about yoga classes, please click on the “yoga classes” tab here on my website.
As a teacher, it feels like one school year ended and another is beginning with no real break in between. I don’t know about you, but it seems like at every turn someone is asking what school will look like in the fall? What do you think should happen…in person school or virtual or both? As a parent everyone wants to know if you will send your child back or keep them home. My own children want to know what is going to happen. It all feels like a lot of uncertainty after months of uncertainty.
However, I am a big believer in living in the now. This has been the one thing that has helped me get through the time as a mother, a wife, a teacher, a daughter. I have had to stop my busy and worrying mind and remind myself that I cannot do anything about the future or the past. The only thing that I have control over is right now.
This mindset has helped on those days when I just don’t think that I have any more patience. It has helped when I catch a glimpse of the news or a Facebook post (all of which I try to avoid these days). I have come to realize that what does happen with schools in the fall is going to be a GIANT undertaking no matter what is decided so it is important for all of us to really just enjoy our time now. We all need to recharge and relax so that we can be at our best when we do go back.
The funny thing is, I typically am writing a blog post each year about this exact topic for teachers. I have seen the burnout year after year in my colleagues and friends and have always advocated for teachers to use the summer to really recharge so that we can all go back in the fall and be the best that we can for our students. Never would I have thought that I would be writing after a year like we just had.
All of this being said, I do have a plea to anyone who may be listening. I hope that as decisions are being made and committees are meeting that we do listen to our teachers about how the fall should look. It has been amazing to me that teachers seem to have gotten lost in the shuffle of all that has happened. We did our jobs the very best that we could in a time of complete uncertainty and upheaval. Yet, it seems like at every turn we are either left out of the equation or criticized. I know that everyone had a different situation with online education. Some may have been great and there may have been others who would have liked more. However, what was asked of us as teachers was unprecedented and something that no one was prepared for. I know that was the case with many other professions as well, but I think it is because so many are affected by schools that there are so many opinions being thrown around.
Teachers do have a very good perspective on things that even administrators sometimes do not have. We know the ins and outs of our classroom routines and what will be affected. There are so often very small details that are mentioned about a school day that people will respond with “oh I never would have thought of that”. These are things that only teachers really know. I have always said that so many people have opinions on schools because everyone thinks that they are an expert because they WENT to school. However, like with any profession, when you do something day in and day out, you do become an expert on what happens every day. Please…listen to teachers! If you are someone who has never taught a day in your life, please do not make decisions for schools!!!
Let’s be sure that when deciding on this next school year that we are all being proactive starting right now. Let’s be sure that we are teaching our children to be compassionate and empathetic to everyone. No matter what happens, we are all going to need to approach this school year with more patience, kindness, and understanding than ever before. Why not start now? Teach your children to think about others when making choices. Let’s be role models on how to handle this crisis in a way that we can all be safe and live peacefully. We all have our opinions about one thing or another, but when it comes to our opinions about what should happen with schools, let’s all make a pact to only talk about things in an encouraging and positive way. Our children have been through so much. So much has been taken away from them and many have lived with stress and anxiety. Let’s not make the fall something to fear. Instead, let’s all work together to make decisions that will be safe and nurturing for our students and let’s always talk about them in that light.
For now teacher friends, take time for yourselves. Don’t waste your time worrying about what might happen in the fall. Take time to fill your tank now so that you can tackle whatever will come your way. You deserve the time to rest now. You have worked hard. Live in the moment. That is all that you have control of today!
Here we are in the last week of Virtual Learning. It does not feel at all like the end of the school year typically feels like. It all seems so strange.
I remember writing a blog post so close the beginning of this experience where I was so hopeful that we would not go back to the way we had always done things prior to the pause, but instead come out of the pause a much different and better society. Never in my wildest dreams could I have predicted then what is happening in our world now.
Lately my heart has been so heavy with all that is happening in our world. So many people angry and brokenhearted. So much violence and negativity. It is hard to watch and it is hard to sit with.
Today, I taught my first every yoga class. I am training to become a certified yoga teacher and need to do a lot of practice before I do it for “real”. When I was getting ready for the class to start I was sitting with why I was doing this. I don’t want to teach yoga and mindfulness to get rich and make a lot of money. I want to do this to be able to give peace and relaxation to a hurting world. I want to be able to calm others so that they may be able to go out into the world and be kind and gentle. I want to spread loving kindness with this gift that I have learned.
This made me think of an earlier guided meditation that I posted here. It is titled “loving kindness”. I hope that you will take some time to try it out and send some loving kindness out into the world. Not just to the people that you love and hold dear, but those who may also be hard to love right now. We all need more love and more kindness!
Click HERE for the meditation…..enjoy!
Well, here we are at week 1000 of virtual teaching and learning. While that is a complete exaggeration, that is how I feel some days. Some days I really love it and others I loathe it. As a teachers, I miss my students. I do, however, love some of the aspects of what we have gotten to do together. Some of my students seem to have opened up more since going to this platform. Some are really enjoying it and flourishing. However, for many, I miss seeing them on a regular basis and feel as though I may not be reaching them as well as I could if we were face to face.
As for my own children, it has become an uphill battle. As I have mentioned before, my youngest misses her teachers and friends more than anything. She has the BEST third grade teacher on the planet and this was going to be an amazing year. She is sad and does not think that I am anywhere as good as her teacher was when it comes to fractions. She hates online work and I hear about it all of the time. The same goes for my older children. They are in high school and can see through the system at this point. They know that they can work day and night to do their best on assignments and they will get the same grade as the kids who don’t bother to do anything. They have figured it out and they are ready to be done for the year.
For all of us, teachers and students, this has been a challenge. Although, I would have to say that as a collective whole we have done an amazing job! You won’t hear about it on the news or from anyone in the media, but teachers and kids have done amazing things with this pandemic! However, it has not come without a lot of stress and worry!
A few weeks ago, I decided to jump on the bitmoji bandwagon and start creating fun backgrounds for my students. They are 6th graders and were not nearly as impressed as I thought that they would be. However, it got me thinking about how I could use this for mindfulness as well. So, with some inspiration from others, I created a virtual mindfulness room. It is everything that I wish that I could create in my actual school and more!
So if you are looking for some mindfulness and want to have a little fun, check it out!! I hope that you enjoy it as much as I do! Namaste! Here is the link…
If you are at all like me, when I first started my mindfulness practice, I thought that I was really bad at it. The first few times I sat down to do a meditation practice I thought that there was never going to be a chance that I would be able to turn my brain off and stop thinking.
Thank goodness, after a lot of time and research, I learned that we are not supposed to turn off our thoughts. Meditation and mindfulness is not about having no thoughts. It is about training our brains to take a break and be in the present moment.
See, we are not Buddhist monks living a life of silence. We are householders, meaning that we have people in our lives that we need to take care of. We have jobs, activities, to do lists and more. Therefore to expect our minds to turn off completely is impossible.
If you are someone who is looking to build a foundation of meditation, try this activity. I have recorded a video that will walk you through how to start training your brain to be in the present moment. As I have said before, our brain is like any other muscle that you have train. The more that you work it, the better it will work.
To do this activity you simply need a comfortable seat to sit in and a piece of paper and pencil. The activity that I have recorded for your is a 5 minute exercise. During your sit time, you should do your best to focus on your breath or the sounds in the room. Then, as a thought pops up, you need to simply jot it down. When the time is up, take a look at your thoughts and decide if they are past thoughts (things that have already happened that you may be thinking or dwelling about), future thoughts (to do list types of thoughts or thinking of things that will happen in the future) or present thoughts (Thoughts about what you are doing right now). You can simply note each with a “P” for past thoughts, “F” for future thoughts, or “N” for present or now thoughts.
After you take a look at your list, see if you have more of one type of thought than others. If you are a person who has more past thoughts, you may have a tendency toward depression because you are feeling regret or worry about what has already happened. If you have more future thoughts, you may have tendencies toward anxiety or worry. However, the key to these thoughts is to remember that the only time that we have control over is NOW. We cannot change the past or the future. We can only live in the now.
With more practice, you can train your brain to have more now thoughts. Especially at a time like this, living through complete uncertainty, living in the now is important. We need to enjoy the present moment and do the best with what we do have control over instead of getting lost in the worry about the future.
I hope that you will take some time to start a mindfulness practice for yourself. There is no time like the present! I would love to hear from you about how you feel about the practice!! Please feel free to leave comments!!
If you have been following my blog, you know that I have written a few posts about how I am hopeful that we will all learn something positive from this situation that we are in. While my 8 year old calls it a “crisis”, we talk about how lucky we are at the time for so many reasons. I know that there is a lot of negativity and a lot of pain right now, but my hope is that we all come out of this time having changed the way we do things and how we look at the world.
I asked my 6th graders to write letters to their future selves. I asked that they write with hopes for the future. As I started reading these letters this morning and was moved to tears, a poet was spotlighted on TV. It was so moving and exactly what I have been thinking about this time that I wanted to share it with you if you have not seen it.
So, please take a few minutes and watch. It is so worth the time!! Enjoy!!
Here is the link……The Great Realisation.
Think back to your own childhood in school. Your teacher probably had a lot of requests for you and your classmates. “Please no talking when the teacher is talking!” “Please take a seat.” “Take out your homework”. “Please pay attention!”
All of these requests have come from my own mouth at one point or another in my own career as a teacher. However, it was not until I really started to study and practice mindfulness that I realized that one of my most frequently used commands to my students, “Pay Attention”, was something that I am not sure was ever taught to them.
Think back as far back as you can in your education. Did anyone actually ever teach you how to pay attention? Do you remember a lesson on this skill? Probably not! This is one of the keys to learning, yet we never actually teach our students how to do it. Then, like so many other things, we just expect kids to be able to follow these simple directions having had no formal training in the area. We do the same thing as parents, grandparents, and so on.
This is where mindfulness can be an even more useful tool. Mindfulness helps to train our brains to focus on the present moment. It helps us to be able to be in the here and now and pay attention. As mentioned before in previous blog posts, mindfulness is a practice. It is something that needs to be done more than just once, preferably on a regular basis, in order to become good at it.
For those of you who are thinking that you just don’t have the time to take up meditation or you cannot fathom teaching children to meditate in your classroom, it is ok. Mindfulness can be taught through regular daily tasks. For instance, in this time of incessant washing of hands, practice paying attention to washing your hands. Feel the temperature of the water. Smell the soap. Pay attention to the difference of your hands feeling wet versus feeling dry. If you are at home with kids or if you want to do this for yourself, make a cup of tea, hot chocolate, or coffee (perfect since it is snowing here in NY today!) and focus on the process. Hold the cup in your hand and pay attention to the warmth on your hand. Inhale the scent of the beverage. Feel the steam as it rises on your face. Really focus on the taste and feeling of the sip that you take. In a classroom, practice listening to the sounds in the room. Practice listening to the sounds outside of the classroom. Have your students be still and quiet while noticing all of the things in your classroom that are the color blue.
Training your brain to focus on these moments is practicing mindfulness. These are the ways to teach yourself how to pay attention. In a day and age when there is so much information coming at us all at once, we need to train or even retrain our brains to focus on the present moment. It is said that we take in as much information in a day as our ancestors did in a lifetime. Imagine the effects that has on the brain. As a matter of fact, think of the last time that you were driving someplace or reading a book. Did you have a moment where you realized half way to your destination that you have no idea how you have gotten to where you are because you were on autopilot and thinking of a million other things? Have you ever gotten to the end of a page in your novel only to not have a clue as to what you just read? Your brain needs to be trained to pay attention again!
So teachers (and parents who are now taking on the role of teacher assistants) the next time you get frustrated with your student or child who does not seem to be paying attention, stop and do a mindfulness activity with them. Create opportunities throughout the day where you help them to focus on only one thing and learn to push the other things out. Turn off the television and focus on the meal you are having or the game that you are playing. Take a walk outside and look for as many things as you can that are green. Search an area of your backyard for rocks or stones and stop to really look at them, touch them, smell them, describe them. Stop and smell the roses or flowers in bloom. Think about the fact that they may never have been trained to pay attention. It may be a skill that was just expected of them. We would never just expect a child to read without learning how. We would never expect them to ride a two wheeler or write in cursive (yes, some kids still learn this, thank goodness!) without first training them. Why not take time in our homes and our classrooms to train our kids to do the one skill that will help them to be more successful than anything else?
If you have been reading my blogs, you know that I have suffered with anxiety pretty much my entire life. Finding mindfulness and yoga has been the medicine that I have needed to overcome so many anxious moments. Notice that I say moments. I, like so many, still find myself anxious about a lot. In these times, I feel like a boat on the ocean with my worries. Some days seem great and the ocean is calm. Others have moments where the waves are enormous. Last night was a night of enormous waves.
Last night, I happened to catch a glimpse of the news (I have been trying not to listen to it if at all possible). There was talk about how the plans are in place for us to go about opening everything up. While the last thing that I want is to be under quarantine forever, I do REALLY hope that we go about this opening in a very logical, well planned, safe way. When I started to think about schools being opened soon and everyone just going about their business again soon, I started to feel the ocean waves rising.
And then, just like that, just like so many things happen, I learned a new way to handle that wave. I have recently started my yoga certification. Today in class, we talked about focusing on our anchor. We did an amazing breathing exercise that helped to be in the present moment. It reminded me why mindfulness is so important. Long ago, I learned that living in the past can sometimes make us depressed. Living in the future will sometimes create anxiety. Living in the present moment is what we all need to do to make sure that we are balanced. (This is actually a beautiful quote about this from Lao Tzu). Anchors and meant to steady a ship and keep it from floating away. It keeps the boat in the present moment. Our breath can do the same.
This helped to remind me that with this pandemic and every crisis in our lives, we need not worry about will will happen in the future or what we have already done in the past. None of that can be changed. The only thing that we have control over is the right here and right now. It does me no good to worry about what is going to happen when everything is reopened. The only thing that I can do is enjoy my family right now and the time that we have together.
I recorded this anchor breathing exercise for you if you would like to try it.
During this crisis, I have been playing a mix of teacher to my students, teacher to my own children and mother. I have had a need to increase how often I am doing my mindfulness and yoga practices! I have also found my mind wandering to a lot of thoughts about my teaching career. I have been a teacher for 23 years. I officially have been a teacher longer than I have not been a teacher. When I first started teaching I remember so many colleagues complaining about one thing or another and always saying ” but it won’t last long! Everything in education comes and goes as something new”. I believe it started with phonics, then reading programs, rubrics, teaching portfolios, and now state testing and modules. There is always something being tested and thrown at teachers to “try to improve the education of our students”.
However, what if this “Global Pause” is the greatest lesson that educational institutions could have? Hear me out…I have now been “virtual teaching” for almost a month. In this time, myself and my colleagues literally packed up what we could carry to our cars and began to recreate what we do in our classroom through google classroom from folding tables in our living rooms. We have had to adjust our grading systems and canceled state testing and regents exams. These are all things that teachers have wanted to see go away for years because they have taken the focus off the child and created a system where teachers feel like robots and students feel very much the same.
During this crisis, it has been so refreshing to be able to create lessons again that not only help students to learn new skills, but that are focused on their well being and interests. I have seen a shift from “rigor” to “let’s take care of the whole child” again. This is something that has been so lost in our system over the past number of years. It is the MAIN reason that I started to incorporate mindfulness into my classroom. years ago. I saw such a need for us to take a pause in our day to make sure that the students mental health and well being was taken care of. This Pandemic Pause has us thinking about the homes that our students come from again and focusing on making a more inclusive and equal system for all students no matter their economic status. Now, please do not get me wrong… I know for a fact that there are tons of educators who have been focused on these things and have worked hard to make these issues their fight. I work with some of the best counselors and social workers around who have fought for kids relentlessly. I am just saying that it feels like this epidemic has brought these issues to the forefront for all of us. While there are still requirements to fulfill and directives from administrators coming our way, right now, we are shifting our focus a bit more due to the situation we are all living in.
Before this pandemic struck, education was feeling to me like an assembly line. As hard as my colleagues and I would fight to get others to see that not every child learned at the same pace, could pass the same tests, and needed services and help that we were told that we could not provide, things just did not change. It felt as though the end result of a test or a grade was the focus and not the well being of the child. It felt like we stopped seeing students as children and more like data and widgets. Rigor was the mantra and yet there were kids breaking down with anxiety and depression everywhere. Parents were pushing. Administrators and school boards were pushing. The media and politicians were criticizing.
Since this pandemic started, I have seen more of an emphasis on getting kids to art projects. play music on their front porch for neighbors and dance in the street (social distant of course). This is in stark contrast to the cutting of arts and music courses in schools. We have seen many emphasize the importance of working out, eating healthy, and getting outside more. Again a stark contrast to cutting physical education funding and recess time. I have seen more of a demand to lessen the amount of school work for children so that they have more time with family, more time to read books of their choice. and more time to connect with friends (online rather than in person of course). My big question is…shouldn’t this have always been important? Shouldn’t we have been focused on these aspects of educating the whole child all along? Is it only good in a time of crisis and something that we will forget the minute we go back to the “way it was”?
I have also seen a great emphasis on compassion and kindness. This is something that I REALLY feel was lacking when before the world shut down. We are making time to write hand written letters again to friends and loved ones. We are actually stopping to say hello as we pass people taking walks in the neighborhood rather than just walking by with our heads down in our phones. We are asking others how they are doing and looking for ways to cheer people up who may be struggling. We are realizing that those that we held in high esteem in our society…the rock stars, professional athletes, and celebrities are still good people, but it is the doctors, nurses, grocery store workers, and all who are working to keep us safe and save lives who are the true heroes and the people that we should look up to.
If we do not learn something BIG from this pandemic, I am not sure what to do. If we cannot take what we are learning about how to best take care of our students as humans back into our classrooms and revisit a system that no longer feels like it takes every part of the child into consideration, have we lost a big opportunity? If we don’t take a look at how we are doing things during this pandemic with our students and take some of this back to our school buildings, are we making a big mistake?
I know that there are many educators right now feeling very overwhelmed with the situation that has been dealt to us. Some are learning technology and programs on the fly so that they can send lessons to students. Others are trying to balance teaching, parenting, and tending to sick loved ones all at the same time. It is a very hard situation to make work. Between zoom faculty meetings and countless emails from students, it sometimes feels like there is too much to juggle. However, I am completely in awe of how those same teachers who feel as though they are struggling are still doing whatever they can to make sure their students are taken care of. Whether it be delivering meals, making individual phone calls or online meetings, google meet ups, zoom classes, singing songs. driving through neighborhoods with their cars decorated, many are feeling the pull to really make sure that their students are taken care of…mind, body, and spirit!
My hope is that when we all do get the chance to return to our classrooms, more administrators, school boards, politicians, and parents will remember this time as a time when teachers really made something very difficult work with out even a blip in time. I hope that they will go back to listening to us as professionals and care takers. I hope that we will all take a look at the educational system that we have and start more conversations about what we learned from this time and how we might go about doing this differently. I am not saying that we need to have a system without accountability, tests, and exams. I also understand that we need ways to close the great divide that is happening in schools. However, can we please take the lessons from this pandemic and start to think on a more global level? Can we stop making every child a piece of data? My hope is that parents will see the need to be our partners in education more than ever. I hope that many in our society will see that we were one of the constants that children had in their lives during this time and maybe what we do every day should be valued. I hope that those who are making educational decisions see that teachers do work hard to make education work even in times without APPR and scheduled observations. Many teachers do go above and beyond for their students without being asked to.
One of my biggest fears is that we go back to schools and go back to the old way of doing things without learning and changing with what has happened to us. None of us are going to be the same after this. We cannot expect our students to be the same. Let’s face it, there has always been students who were coming from home where their parents had lost their jobs and they were hungry. Did we give it as much attention then as we do now? We cannot expect to teach them the same ways that we did before. One of the biggest skills that I was taught when learning to be a teacher was the skill of monitoring and adjusting. Are we as a society going to monitor and adjust to this new reality?
I feel like we have been given a big pause that will be followed by an even bigger fork in the road for both education and society as a whole. Do we jump back into an educational system that was flawed by money constraints, inequities, testing and data above all else or do we look at things differently and learn what is really important to educate our children. Is standardized testing teaching our children how to be empathetic problem solvers who can get through trying times or should our emphasis change to the things that we have learned work during this crisis? Does an emphasis on homework and grades give our children time to be creative thinkers, problem solvers, and the innovators we need right now? What skills are we teaching in our schools that will help our children to be able to cope with the new realities that this pandemic has created?
My thoughts on this seem to be scattered and a bit unorganized, but I feel as though it is a sign of the time right now! My mindfulness practice have really sparked a lot of these thoughts. It is amazing the thoughts that you can have when you give your brain a pause and allow it time to consider and ponder. I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic! Please feel free to comment and share what you think!!