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 in. The 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.”
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.”
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!
Kathy Flaminio, Founder 1000 Petals LLC
*Yoga Calm® Activities