Online Learning Tips

It’s the first day of online school… 

Now what? If you are like the thousands of teachers across the world trying to translate curriculum and instruction into an online format, and you are feeling overwhelmed, know that you are not alone. Weaving in simple breathing, movement and rest strategies can help both adults and youth manage the big emotions that come with this transition.

Since school is currently online until at least May 4th, we are allowing educators to share Move Mindfully® practices in their online learning sessions. This means, you may use your Move Mindfully Card Decks and Permission to Pause Posters in your own videos for your own students. This is a special allowance due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If you use our content, include the following statement. “More information and resources for Move Mindfully® products and practices can be found at 1000-petals.com.”

“More information and resources for Move Mindfully® products and practices can be found at 1000-petals.com.”

None of the live online learning sessions or recordings showing Move Mindfully products can be used outside of your virtual classroom without permission.

Begin with a Breath

Starting each session with breath work can be a nice way to connect. If you are streaming live with your students, take a few breaths together to unify the group and create focus. In a recorded video, encourage the students to breathe as they watch the recording. When providing slides with written content, remind students to take some slow breaths before beginning. Here are three simple breathing techniques you could use to start your online learning day.

  • Hand Tracing
    • Holding up one hand like a stop sign, use your pointer finger to slowly trace up your thumb as you breathe in, and slowly trace down your thumb as you breathe out. Continue to trace up and down each finger with your breath, until you have completed 5 breaths.
  • Fingertip Breathing (Belly Breathing)
    • Pretend as if you are holding a ball. Press your fingertips together. Breathing in, feel your belly expand and pull your fingers apart. Breathing out, feel your belly draw in as you push your  fingertips together.
  • Pinwheel Breathing
    • Take a breath in and then slowly blow out to make the pinwheel spin. Use controlled breathing to move the pinwheel slowly. You can pretend you are blowing out a candle with your pointer finger if you don’t have a pinwheel.

Embed  Movement

Within academic content, offer suggested movements during online instruction. Moving the body will create readiness for learning by soothing the nervous system and activating the prefrontal cortex. We recommend choosing a few  simple movements and repeating them throughout the week. In addition, if you are streaming live, you can use movement in the middle of the lesson as a brain break to get the body up and moving. Here are three movements that you can try.

  • Tree
    • Press your foot into the floor. Standing on one leg, prop your other foot up or place it below or above your knee. Rest your hands at your hips or reach them up like branches. Focus your eyes on one spot. (Stand in Mountain and repeat on the other side).

  • Plank
    • Lying on your stomach, push your hands and feet into the floor to lift your body up. Keep your body straight (you can also bring knees to the ground). Follow Plank with Child’s (kneeling, upper body folded over knees with head supported by stacked hands) or lying on your belly.

  • Down Dog
    • Press your hands and feet into the floor making an upside down V. Follow Down Dog with a Forward Fold or Child’s.

End with a Rest

In the current reality of COVID-19, many of us are trying to navigate how to feel safe when everything is so different. Allocating a few minutes at the end of your lesson for rest can help students integrate the learning, soothe the nervous system and reestablish a sense of routine and safety. As you take breaks to rest throughout the day, you will have better sleep patterns at night. You can simply play soft music and prompt slow breathing while students rest and reset for whatever comes next. Here are three different ways students can choose to rest.

  • Head on Desk
    • Sit up tall with your feet on the floor. Breathe in and reach up high. Breathe out and fold forward. Rest your head on stacked hands to get your mind ready.
  • Legs up the Wall (or Chair)
    • Lie on your back with your legs on a chair or resting against the wall.
  • Prone Breathing
    • Lie on your stomach. Feel your belly press into the floor when you breathe in, and pull away from the floor when you breathe out. Notice your back rise when you breathe in and fall when you breath out.

Want to see these practices in action? Join us daily for short breathing, movement and rest demos on Facebook Live at 4 Central. Also, if you want to learn more, check Move Mindfully® Online Services to design routines for online learning. Move Mindfully combines movement and mindfulness practices to allow youth to self-regulate and attune to their physical, social/emotional and cognitive needs.

Share your photos with our online community using #PauseMoveLearn

How have you used Breathing, Movement and Rest in your online instruction? Leave a comment!

Be Well,

Stephanie Kennelly and the Move Mindfully Team

Class Parties and Special Events

To the nervous system, excitement and fear feel the same.

Classroom parties. Decorations, change in schedule, novel activities… what provides excitement and anticipation for some students, may be experienced as fear and anxiety for others. When you create exciting (out of the norm) classroom opportunities, it is important to be aware of reactions such as fear, anxiety and other big emotions. You may be thinking, “It’s a simple Valentine’s Day party… what is there to be afraid of?” 

When a body feels excitement, it experiences physical symptoms.  This may look like an increased heart rate, faster breathing and a boost of energy caused by the release of glucose. Surprisingly, these are the same effects collectively known as Somatic Response or “fight, flight and freeze”. It makes sense why people would watch a scary movie or ride a roller coaster. Sometimes fear can feel exciting.


While we are not advocating for discontinuing special classroom events (those are the moments that make learning special!), we do recommend following these tips so all students can feel included and safe.

Prepare

While surprises may feel exciting for some students, a trauma-responsive approach provides adequate warning and preparation. The week before your party, show your students the decorations. Take time to explain the art project and preview the playlist. All of these details create a predictable picture that allows students to feel safe. If there is a change in schedule, review the changes and display it visually. The novelty of the day can be a large component of the fear.

Beginnings and Endings

It is important to include a mindful beginning to classroom parties. We recommend belly breathing and intention setting. Creating an event with a class intention can be incredibly powerful. It can also serve as a check in and a place for students to voice concerns or ask questions. In addition, an ending to the event is also very important. So often the timing can go over and students are pushed out the door without getting the opportunity for closure. When students aren’t regulated before they get on the bus and return home, the transition becomes very difficult. Set a timer to make sure that you have 5 minutes at the end to regroup with a slow or releasing breath. 

Releasing Activities Throughout

Depending on the length of the classroom party, students may need an opportunity to release throughout the event. In between high energy, offer a releasing breath or movement. We love our Move Mindfully® Permission to Pause poster, featuring Plank and Down Dog, as a great releasing option. Then, reset with a short rest, like Head on Desk.


Provide a Calm Corner

Even with all of our best planning, students will still get overstimulated. Offer a Be Station, or a place where students can reduce visual and audio input. It could be another classroom with dim lighting, soft music and areas to hide. Or, it could be a space in the classroom with noise cancelling headphones and sensory objects. During your check in at the beginning, offer and describe choices that will empower students to self regulate and normalize over-stimulation

Monitor and Offer Choice

If students are unable to self regulate, it is helpful to be prepared with alternative options. Not into the dance party? Offer students a place to color. The competitive nature of bingo stressing you out? Provide a beading activity. The most successful classroom parties offer choices.

Classroom parties are important. It is important to celebrate, create community and be playful together. However, approaching planning with a trauma-responsive lens will allow all students to feel successful and included.

What have you done to create inclusive classroom parties? Leave a comment!

Self Compassion

We all hear a lot about the importance of self-care.

It seems like everyone is talking about self-care. So much so that we might choose to stop listening. Self-care can feel like one more thing to do, or it can feel overly-indulgent, or it can feel inaccessible. Who has the time/money/energy for self-care when we are just trying to make it through our to-do list as it is? Compassion is different.

Kristin Neff, a leader in self-compassion research, makes a distinction between self-compassion and self-care. Self-compassion is based on the word compassion – which means “to suffer with” or to show concern for another person’s suffering. Self compassion means extending the same concern to ourselves that we easily give to others.

As Neff explains. “Self-compassion involves acting the same way towards yourself when you are having a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself. Instead of just ignoring your pain with a “stiff upper lip” mentality, you stop to tell yourself “this is really difficult right now,” how can I comfort and care for myself in this moment?”

Neff breaks self-compassion down into three elements:

  • Self-Kindness vs Self-Judgement
  • Common Humanity vs Isolation
  • Mindfulness vs Over-Identificaiton

The importance of self-compassion is simple. How can we take care of others if we don’t first take care of ourselves? We are less able to take care of others when we are depleted. Unmitigated stress can cause us to miss important cues about what students/youth are feeling, showing and telling us through their behavior and therefore lose important opportunities for connection and corregulation. 

Self-compassion is a gift we can give ourselves when our own depletion causes us to snap at loved ones or lose patience with the students or youth we work with in our educational and therapeutic environments. Practicing self-compassion is critical if we want to co-regulate with dysregulated youth.

Try these three simple practices based on Neff’s three elements for self-compassion:

1. Speak to yourself as you would a friend.

If your friend was struggling with the same stress, anxiety or self-doubt you are feeling, how would you encourage them? Imagine talking a friend through the challenges you face in this moment and gift yourself that same pep talk.

2. You are not alone

When things are difficult, try pausing and acknowledging that this moment is hard but you are not the only one facing challenges. So many people do hard things everyday. Try to feel less alone with this simple Loving Kindness visualization.

Get comfortable and breathe slowly. Take a moment to picture someone you love very much (or someone who loves you very much) and send them three wishes – May you be healthy, May you be happy, May you be peaceful. Next, still breathing slowly, picture yourself and send yourself these same three wishes – May I be healthy, May I be happy, May I be peaceful. Finally, breathing slowly, imagine extending these same three wishes to everyone you can imagine in the whole world – May they be healthy, May they be happy, May they be peaceful. Still breathing slowly, notice how you feel after this simple practice? More connected to the world around you? More supported? Always remember, you are not alone.

3. Use your breathing and movement to change how you feel.

Even when you are feeling discomfort in this moment, you don’t have to be stuck in it. Give yourself permission to feel discomfort in this moment knowing that this discomfort will pass. Ease discomfort when you need to by reminding yourself that you can change how you feel at any time by slowing down your breathing as you trace your hand; by stretching your body to energize or calm or by taking a walk.

Instead of feeling like we have just one more thing to add to our to-list, create a tool kit of simple breathing, mindfulness and movement strategies to practice as self-compassion first aid whenever you need it throughout the day.

Written By,

Chrissy Mignogna

Transitions

Successful transitions can make or break the school day!

Work to hallway. Recess to learning. Bathroom to quiet work time. Classroom teachers start and stop activities a lot during the day! In my first grade class, we spend lots of time practicing these transitions throughout the year, with my hope that I will save teaching time (and my sanity) if we can transition quickly and quietly between different parts of our day. When the school day has a rhythm and activities are given proper beginnings and endings, more learning can occur. Here are four strategies for successful transitions.

Belly Breathing

We practice student-led belly breathing before each whole group academic learning time. Students prepare by putting one hand over their belly and one hand on their heart. One student leads the breaths with the sphere while another counts in a slow, calm voice. Sometimes we will follow the breaths with classmates offering compliments to each other about their breathing or their leadership.

Hoberman Sphere attributed to Yoga Calm®

Mountain

The expectation in our class is that students are facing forwards, with voices off and hands to themselves, so that we are safe and calm to travel in the hall– and I’m sure these expectations are familiar to most elementary school teachers. However, I’ve found that having students find their best mountain pose is much more effective than reminders of about the rules. Cuing mountain before we enter the hallway means that we are showing respect to ourselves and those around us. Every time we line up, we go into mountain.  Standing straight and tall, our bodies are activated, and with our eyes and feet pointing in the direction that we’re going. I explain that mind strength is another word for self-control.

Chair and Eagle

My students practice the chair and eagle poses after a bathroom break.

Chair pose makes their big leg and arm muscles work, and eagle pose has them crossing the midline of their body– which prepares their brain for our literacy block after the break. Check out the Move Mindfully® Transitioning Routine for a great poster visual for the hallway.

Releasing Breaths

We practice Yoga Calm®’s Volcano Breath and Woodchopper to release throughout the day. Volcano breath  is great after PE, lunch, recess, buddy classroom , and assemblies because it calms and centers us, regulates our breath and brings the group together and ready for what is coming next.
Woodchopper is another option for those times of the day or year when my students kids might be anxious or full of energy. This pose energizes and stimulates the nervous system. After we wood chop together, we take belly breaths– a unifying activity that is calming after we get our energy out with woodchopper.

These tips will create a more peaceful and seamless flow to your day. And, when we breathe together, everyone wins! What transition strategies have worked for you? Leave a comment!

By Heidi Schuchman, NBCT

Heidi is a Nationally Board Certified teacher and Certified Yoga Calm youth yoga instructor currently based out of Duluth, Minnesota.  For twenty years, she has worked as a classroom teacher and reading specialist in the public schools, and loves sharing yoga with youth and families in schools and in the community.

Seated Brain Breaks

Try the BREAK strategy for independent seated breaks!

Even with growing efforts toward more kinesthetic learning and mindful movement in classrooms, there are still times when sitting for extended periods is required. Think –  standardized testing. Young students may be expected to sit for up to 90 minutes for one test section. I’m getting antsy just thinking about it! We could all use a break!

When kids can’t just jump up and Go Noodle or strike a few favorite yoga poses, they can still take a break — a seated one, that is. Each letter of the B R E A K acronym offers a strategy for a seated body or brain break. So, empower your students by teaching them to take a BREAK whenever they feel the need.

B: Breathe

The great thing about breath work is that it can be practiced any time, any place with no equipment! Here are two to get you started.

  • Hand Tracing: Holding up one hand like a stop sign, use your pointer finger to slowly trace up your thumb as you breathe in, and slowly trace down your thumb as you breathe out. Continue to trace up and down each finger with your breath.
  • Centering Breathing: Place a hand on your heart and a hand on your belly. Breathe in and out and just let yourself be.

Five Finger Breathing

R: Release & Stretch

Having some go-to chair based movements can be the perfect reset during seat work.

  • Figure 4: Sitting in your chair, cross your ankle over your other leg. Sit up tall to feel the stretch or fold slightly forward.
  • Twist: Sit up tall and gently turn your upper body to one side. Breathe in and out for three to five breaths. Turn back to center and pause. Then gently turn to the other side. Breathe in and out for three to five breaths.
    Seated Twist

E: Escape

Sometimes a short mental vacation is all you need to reset. Here are two of my favorites from the Yoga Calm® Curriculum!

  • Happiness Recipe: Create a personalized trip in a boat. Along the way, students can see all of their favorite things.
  • Changing Channels: This activity is a great way to practice shifting attention going through various predetermined “channels”.Time for Rest

A: Activate & Relax

Having students know how to go through a progressive relaxation can be an amazing tool for your tool kit! Here is a script to get you started.

  • Thinking about your feet, squeeze the muscles in your feet (pause). Now release your feet. Now bring attention to your legs. Squeeze the muscles in your legs (pause). Now slowly release your legs. Breathe in and out slowly. Now bring attention to your hands and squeeze your hands (pause). Then release your hands. Still breathing slowly, shrug your shoulders towards your ears (pause). Then release your shoulders. Now bring attention to your eyes and squeeze your eyes (pause). Now slowly release your eyes and allow your whole body to rest.Mindfulness in Schools

K: Keep Self-Talk Positive

Students can be their own cheerleaders and keep self-talk set to encourage a growth mindset.

  • If you have any negative or discouraging thoughts, turn them down and around. Replace them with encouraging, loving words like these… I am calm and capable. I can do this. I am focused. I am trying my best.

Head on Desk

Here is to students no longer thinking, “Give me a break!” Not that they ever were…

Written By,

Jenny Wood

Donors Choose for Funding

Donors Choose can fund your professional development.

I was thrilled to see a flyer for the collaborative workshop, Moving into the Zone: Implementing Move Mindfully® and The Zones of Regulation®. As an occupational therapist and a mindfulness and movement advocate, I knew I needed register for this professional development opportunity! However, working in public schools, I knew my funds were limited.

I decided to write a request on Donors Choose. They not only fund classroom resources, but also professional development. I knew that this unique offering would be of interest to many donors. I wrote up the course description and hit submit. I was shocked a week later when I received an email that my project had been fully funded! I was very fortunate to post at a time when donations were matched 50%. Donors Choose is the perfect way to fund your Move Mindfully® Workshop!

Move Mindfully® Workshop

Can I use Donors Choose?

To post a project on Donorschoose.org, a teacher must be employed full-time by a public school district or or the Office of Head Start and be a front line educator working with students at least 75% of the time. Front line educators include classroom teachers, therapists, librarians, guidance counselors and school nurses.

Once you determine your position is eligible for Donorschoose.org you may register for an account. Before posting your first project, I suggest reviewing the Rules & Responsibilities regarding posting a project and accepting a funded project. As a project receives funding, the educator is required to post a quick, online Thank You note to the donor. Once project items are received, the educator is required to upload photos of the project in use and create Thank You cards for each donor. Donorschoose.org offers clear instructions for each step of the project process.

Donors Choose project process

Tips for Your Project

  • Use the search engine to find projects similar to the one you are posting. Reading other projects might be inspirational when you sit down to write your request.
 Search “mindfulness” or “yoga” to see what else has been funded.
  • Review current Promotions & Funding Opportunities BEFORE beginning your project. Often companies offer to match funds if a project meets certain criteria (i.e. Technology, Early Childhood, Literacy, etc.).
  • Start small. In my experience, projects with needs in the $400-500 range (or less) seem to get funded within the 6 month timeline.
 Maybe start for a smaller ask of mindfulness and movement products from the 1000 Petals store.
  • Share your project with Family & Friends via social media.

Donorschoose.org offers a unique opportunity for educators to request supplies and professional development that pertains directly to our work with youth. I am truly grateful for the Donors Choose organization and all of the generous donors that support educators.

Have you had a mindfulness and movement project funded on Donors Choose? Leave a comment!

Written By, Amanda Block

My name is Amanda and I am a pediatric occupational therapist. I have worked in school settings in Minnesota and Wisconsin for almost 21 years. I have had several projects funded through Donorschoose.org over the last ten years.

Mindfulness and Technology

It’s a love/hate relationship with technology.

On the one hand, we want our kids to learn, connect, create, and participate fully in 21st century life with technology. On the other hand, we worry. We have power struggles. We reminisce about the good old days.

Navigating this is getting beyond the “lock down” or “hands off” approach and parenting towards digital citizenship. While it is easy to name all of the things we do NOT want kids to be doing in digital spaces, it can also be helpful to be clear about what we do want.

A couple of recent studies point to two important places to start:

LOOKING IN

“I just feel exhausted” a 9th grader told me after a talk a couple of months ago. “There are always things to be doing, updated, responding to. I mean don’t get me wrong I love it…Most of the time. But it is exhausting.”

Children and youth today are consuming and responding to streams of information at unprecedented rates. Some young people are starting to articulate just how tiring it can be to be “always on, always connected.”

Many of us think that we are either paying attention or we aren’t. Research over the last ten years, however, has revealed that we have two different attention systems: a “looking out” system and a “looking in” system. Looking Out we use when we play video games or read a text from a friend. Looking In we use when we reflect, remember, feel social emotions, or daydream. The challenge for us humans is that we can’t use both attention systems at once. Instead, we toggle back and forth between them.

It turns out that “looking in” is important for our social emotional health. For example, the more often we reflectively pause when confronted with an emotional story, the better we are at abstracting the emotions and morals from one specific event and applying them to others. The challenge today is that in a media rich world, our looking in attention is increasingly pulled to looking out at sound bites, snippets, and clicks.

The takeaway from this research is that media and technology are not inherently bad. Instead, balancing this time with introspection and rest is what is important. Try some of 1000 Petals Rest Activities.

LOOKING UP

We’ve known for a long time that little children need live social interactions to learn effectively. Dr. Marjorie Hogan, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, reminds us “that need doesn’t go away” as children grow up.

Indeed, we’ve written before about the late Clifford Nass’ research with heavy media multitaskers. He found that face-to-face time counterbalanced negative social and emotional impacts of heavy media use among tween girls. Our kids might be born into this world hardwired for empathy and connection, but research shows that they need a lot of in-person interactions with peers to fully develop these skills.

Researchers with the Children’s Media Center at Los Angeles likewise found that pre-teens who spent five days at an overnight nature camp without access to technology showed significant improvement over that time in recognizing nonverbal emotion cues compared to the control group that retained normal media habits. Time in the natural world, an experience known to have cognitive benefits, may have laid a productive stage for more meaningful interactions but this factor alone doesn’t explain improvements in emotional communication.

The takeaway from this research is that spending time with peers in positive social interactions can help balance out time spent with screens. Try some of 1000 Petals Social Emotional Games to build community.

The digital world in which our children are growing up is complex and changing quickly. As adults, we need to advocate and model balance. How do you bring this balance to your students or your own children? How have you addressed these concerns. Leave a comment!

Written By,

Erin Walsh, M.A.
Mind Positive Parenting Speaker

Erin cares about parenting and teaching for courage and connection in the digital age. She combines brain-science-made-simple, storytelling, and practical strategies to help families, schools, and kids build on their strengths. She has addressed a wide range of audiences throughout North America and has consulted on issues related to digital media, children, youth.

sparkandstitchinstitute.com

Funding Your Move Mindfully® Program

Funding allocation within a school budget is complicated.

Usually funded items are justified by having a direct impact on academic achievement. However, we now understand trauma, mental illness and positive relationships do in fact impact academic achievement. Our school began the quest for a grant to address contributing factors of student trauma and staff secondary trauma. What if we could address overall wellbeing? Here’s our story!

wellbeing and academic achievement

Finding Our Funding

In December of 2017, our grant writer for South Washington Schools and Park High School began our application for the Prairie Care Child & Family Fund.

PrairieCare Child & Family Fund, which launched in March of 2016, has awarded $360,000 to a total of seventeen school districts across the state of MN to support mental health education and training to those who support or provide educational services to youth.

Once we identified our area of focus, we dove into the research. Our team utilized the Minnesota Student Survey.

This voluntary survey asks students about their activities, opinions, behaviors and experiences. Students respond to questions on school climate, bullying, out-of-school activities, health and nutrition, emotional and mental health, relationships, substance use and more. Questions about sexual behaviors are asked only of ninth- and 11th-grade students. All responses are anonymous.

Here are some of the data, highlighted by our team, from the 2016 MN Student Survey results.

  • About 1 in 5 students reported experiencing symptoms of depression.
  • The percentage of 11th graders who said they seriously considered suicide in the past year increased from 9.7 percent in 2013 to 12 percent in 2016.
  • Ninth grade students who reported mental health concerns lasting six months or more increased from 12.5 percent to 17.3 percent in 2016.

Our grant writer helped us package a grant that focused on stress reduction with tier one mindfulness and movement interventions. We worked collaboratively with the 1000 Petals team to develop a school wide implementation model that would fit the needs of the students and staff in our district.

Hoberman Sphere from Yoga Calm® Curriculum

Receiving Our Funding

We received a grant for approximately $18,000 to fund our program! We coined this work “The Resiliency Project”. The rollout was intended to be simple and facilitate staff buy-in. Staff participation would not only create sustainability, but also address the element of staff wellness.

We worked with 1000 Petals staff to develop a Move Mindfully® scope and sequence that was customized for our students. We began with a staff workshop, then classroom consultations and finally visuals for classrooms and hallways.

Move Mindfully Workshop

Here are some data to summarize our year of implementation:

  • 18 staff members completed a mindfulness book study and set individual implementation goals.
  • >7 teachers received coaching in the form of 30 minute mindful lessons with students and the teachers.
  • About 85% of all Monday’s this school year had a Mindful Monday announcement.
  • 85% of staff agree that the Resiliency Project increases awareness to pause throughout the day.

Students, staff and families were talking about mindfulness. I know that this model was a  success because our staff chose to continue this learning at our final end of the year staff development. The grant served as the catalyst for a sustainable cultural change.

Note from 1000 Petals:

Here are other available grants that have a history of funding Move Mindfully® programming.

  1. Action for Healthy Kids
    1. Action for Healthy Kids provides a variety of tools and resources to help schools implement health and wellness programs that can help your school become a place where kids learn to lead healthier lives, eat nutritious foods, are physically active and better prepared to learn each day. Get started today!
  2. Statewide Health Improvement Partnership
    1. The Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP) supports community-driven solutions to expand opportunities for active living, healthy eating and commercial tobacco-free living.
  3. Title 1
    1. “Safe and Healthy Students” describes physical activity, emotional supports and community building as allowable SSAE uses of funds.
    2. Move Mindfully® programming falls within the scope of School Wide Positive Behavior Interventions (PBIS) funding options.
  4. Education Minnesota
    1. Education Minnesota offers a variety of grants and grant writing supports, many of which focus on physical, mental and emotional supports.
  5. PeaceMarker MN
    1. Read our blog post for details on obtaining this guaranteed funding from our amazing partners.

PeaceMaker MN

Have you received grants to receive your programming for mindfulness and movement? Share your experiences in the comments!

Written By,

Tanya Holub and 1000 Peals Team

End of the Year Behaviors

The end is near. And we’re losing it.

As we enter the last few weeks of school, feelings of intensity, excitement and fear are common among staff and students. For many staff it can be a time of exhaustion where we just want and need to push through. In times like these we can turn to our mindfulness practice for support, reminding us to get curious, to notice and most importantly to stay present and lean inThe end of the school year is a perfect time to “use the stress,” and as one my teachers Jennifer Clifden states, “To burn into the work, rather than burn out. To use the stress as our practice.”

head on desk

For many youth, school is their safety net. It is a place that is predictable, providing shelter, food and friends. To know in two weeks this safety net will not be there anymore may be scary if not terrifying, leaving them feeling out of control. So, in order to feel more in control, we often begin to see “the push” including students pushing limits and pushing against other students and/or peers (both physically and emotionally).

In my work in the schools and treatment settings I’ve found a lot of predictability in the unpredictability. I’ve found students who were struggling experiencing even more intense struggling. There was a sense that “I am going to control the good-bye by pushing you away because it is too painful for me to have you push me away or say goodbye.” So as educators, this is our opportunity to counter “the push” by leaning in, moving towards students and holding space for them.

Here are some tips for staying present and leaning in.

Breathe

Now more than ever, a daily structure of breathing together is important. The daily Belly Breathing* routine is a great foundation for calming breaths. However, an opportunity for releasing breaths is equally important, especially this time of year. Lion’s Breath, Wood Chopper*, Explosive Volcano*, and Conductor Breath can all be incredibly effective. Make sure you follow releasing breaths with a calming breath, like Hand Tracing, or a forward fold to pull the group back together.

Hoberman Sphere

Move

Big, gross motor movements work well to get release of big feelings and high energy. Our purple Permission to Pause poster features Down Dog, Plank and Child’s Pose. Try our After Recess Routine for a longer sequence. Want to make it a game? Students love Plank Challenge. How long can you plank?

Permission to Pause

Gratitude

Taking a few minutes to focus on gratitude can create an immediate classroom energy shift. Try our Chair Routine and layer in the social emotional language of thankfulness into each movement. This activity is great for adults at staff meetings too and offer a simple way to wrap up the year on a positive note.

Staff Gratitude Activity

High Expectations

Hold a firm boundary with love. Don’t have “behavior/trauma” be an excuse for not holding boundaries. We need students to understand they can’t hurt things or others but when and if they do, we can repair.

Try hosting a healing circle where staff and students come together. Share about how hard this time of year is and brainstorm ways to help each other out until the end of the year. When we can name the emotions that are MOVING through us we can tame the emotions by giving them voice. For example, we might ask, “Is anxiety and fear moving through you? What breath work or movement do we know of that can help these feelings move through?” It can also be powerful to explain the brain and that sometimes going into the unknown of summer can activate the stress response in our amygdala.

Class Meeting

Self Care

Finally and most importantly, remember to take time for self care. Keep nourishing yourself with adequate sleep and food and continue to keep your body open, stretching and breathing throughout the day. Try starting your day with a seated backbend. Check in with a coworker while doing partner poses during your breaks. As very personal as this feels when students push us away or fall apart after making so much progress please remember: it is not about you! In fact, I am going to be bold and say it is because of you and all of the amazing work you have done to connect to your students this year and create a space for learning and that is too painful for them to loose. Hence, the “PUSH.”

Partner Tree

We at 1000 Petals want to thank you for all the work you have done to teach and love your students. Trust that you have done your best. We close this year in deep gratitude for the opportunity to co-create a loving learning environment for all students to thrive. Remember, stay present and lean in.

What do you implement at the end of the year to end on a high note? What has worked well? Leave a comment!

Written By,

Kathy Flaminio, Founder 1000 Petals LLC

Kathy Flaminio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Yoga Calm® Activities

School Wide Implementation of Move Mindfully®

Change is hard. School wide change is… really hard.

It’s been almost a year now since our leadership team started the Yoga Calm® Certification process and dreamed up a school wide Move Mindfully® rollout. We began with an all staff training workshop week and hosted residencies this fall. We started off the year strong with these strategies. However, like it always does, after a hard winter, missed school days and standardized tests looming, we were losing our collective steam. We needed to get reinvigorated. We decided to roll out a school wide initiative called, “Drop Everything and Move!” Here is how we created a school wide intervention and got everyone Moving Mindfully!

Time of Day

We started by working with our behavior interventionist and looking at the data. We identified four times during the school day that student behavior referrals were high. Setting a time in the day can be tricky because no singular time would work for everyone. However, that was the beauty of the plan. Whenever you were (hallway, playground, lunchroom, specialists, etc.) you would literally drop everything and move. The entire week the movement break was at the same time. Then, the following week, we would introduce a new time. By the end of the month, teachers were able to see the intervention work in various times of the day.

Forming New Habits

They say it takes 21 days to create new habits. Our team decided that we would implement this initiative for four weeks. Each week we introduced a new routine based on the Move Mindfully Routines. You could also use the Permission to Pause posters for shorter, 3 movement, routines.

Power of the Loudspeaker

Our principal announced the routine over the loudspeaker. The students were prompted to stand up and join in with the movement. This element was crucial for success, allowing for an atmosphere of school  wide coaching. Adults not yet comfortable with the movement had the pressure of being the leader taken off of their plate. This process allowed staff to begin as observers, participate as comfortable and eventually many were prepared to take on a leadership role with their students at the end of the month.

Positive Reinforcement

To layer on an element of school wide excitement, our PTO provided us with 20 $5 gift cards that would serve as our carrot. Each day, teachers were encouraged to photo document our movement break and post to Twitter with the hashtag #WeAreSkyOaks and #PauseMoveLearn. At the end of the day, everyone who submitted a photo would be entered into a drawing. We announced the winners from the day before right after our movement break.

This served many useful functions. The students were motivated to get up and move so their teacher could capture a winning photograph. Teachers were motivated for the prospect of a Starbucks gift card. Community was built in the building as students cheered for their winning teacher. Also, we were able to communicate to the community and especially our parents, what Move Mindfully looks like in our building. We found that this PR push helped to increase interest in family night and facilitate use of these strategies at home.

Feedback

After our month long implementation, we sent out a feedback survey to staff. The results were overwhelmingly positive. Here are some of the comments.

It’s a great tool for teaching students how to take control of their body and regulate themselves for whatever circumstance they are in.

Enhances overall culture and climate of the building. Provides skills/tools for adults and students to aid in focus, self control/composure, and mindfulness (awareness of self and others).

It has truly become a part of our culture!

Taking movement breaks is a healthy, productive way to refocus myself and my students.

It is hard to only do it in pockets such as special education and some grades. To be most effective it needs to be school wide, so students can learn to use these strategies in the classroom and not have to leave.

I REALLY loved the whole school brain breaks! There was a lot of power in knowing everyone was doing the routines at the same time!

Move Mindfully teaches you to stop and check in with yourself. Often, I don’t think we realize that we don’t stop and breathe. Students and teachers just go, go, and go, and forget to breathe and calm their body and mind.

Check out all of the amazing photographs on our Twitter Feed!

 

 

Have you tried a school wide initiative around mindfulness and movement? What has worked? Leave a comment!

Sarah Singleton