Prepping for Yoga-ing after Break

By Beth Evans

After doing training this week (during break) with my friend Mary, I felt as though I needed to do something to make sure that I would follow through on my threat to finally get yoga into my classroom.

There are so many reasons to do yoga with recently resettled refugees.

I mean, think about it: You’ve left everything you ever knew. Even if it was crappy, it was home, where everybody spoke a language you understood. Where you were surrounded by people who cared about what happened to you. Where you knew your place.

And then, suddenly, you are here. And people said it would be so much better than where you came from. But now you don’t understand anything. And you are cold. And you’ve got no money. And you are sitting in school, but it doesn’t feel like school. And people are expecting you to understand stuff. And you don’t. The messages you hear from teachers include that you should have learned this stuff so long ago, but where you come from, writing extensively really isn’t expected until you are well into the upper levels of secondary school. You didn’t really have access to books. Teachers talked. You copied. You did what you were told. And now you’re told you’re so far behind. People in charge expect you to talk about what you need, but you don’t even know how the system works. How do you know what to ask for?

The research exists. Yoga helps ward off depression. Yoga helps calm anxiety. Yoga helps you breathe and gives you the space to think. So why haven’t I been doing yoga? I have the mats. I have the books. I have cards. But I just never felt like I could do this.

So I needed to force myself.

All day Saturday, I spent time sitting down planning out March. I have a kindergarten calendar pocket chart that I have used with math calendar markers to teach patterns and adverbs of place and ordinal numbers and days of the week. Now, we will use them to learn yoga.

I took the day to go through the Yoga 4 Classrooms cards that I bought last week during my daylong professional development with the author of the program, Lisa Flynn. We had gone through most of the cards during our day sitting in the Hyatt taking notes. So now, to force me to use what I have learned, I made calendar markers.

I have a plan.

And every day is numbered. I found pictures to go with movements. I tried really really hard to find people of color to show examples of poses, because all of my students are Swahili speaking. But people of color are incredibly under-represented in Creative Commons licensed photos–or even in Google’s photos, for that matter. It’s something I’ve struggled with for a few years now: Finding resources that represent my population. So I’ve done my best.

Now, the work will start on Wednesday, when I see my students back in the classroom. I intend to start with a focus on emotions, which we’ve talked about already. But they always tell me they are “good” or “ok”. I never hear how they really are feeling. Even when it’s written all over their faces. One recent conversation went like this:

Me: Hey! How are you?

Student: I’m good.

Me: Are you sure? You look a little tired.

Student: I’m good.

Me: Really? That is not what your face is saying. I’m angry today. I argued with my daughter yesterday, and I’m still angry!

Student: Miss, you are always not good.

So that made me stop for a minute. In trying to model that we can have many feelings, I am coming across as a Negative Nelly. And that was not my purpose. So I have to find another way.

In a book group I’m in, we’re focusing on Social and Emotional Learning. I found a reference to Robert Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotion, which outlines 8 basic emotions: joy, trust, fear, surprise, sadness, anticipation, anger, and disgust. There’s a great image of it at the link here.

So my thought is to use something like this, to develop emotional vocabulary. One of the things I’ve been reading is this quote, attributed to author and psychiatrist Dr. Dan Siegel: If you can’t name it, you can’t tame it. Below is a great video of him talking about the hand model of the brain, or the “upstairs” and “downstairs” brain.

So it’s not like my students don’t have words for their emotions in Swahili. They have them. But not in English. And so I need to help them get that vocabulary under control so they can have a little more control over what they are experiencing. I can imagine that my students are in a state of fight or flight all the time. I’ve seen it from students who are jumpy all the time. But maybe if we can expand that vocabulary and do a little yoga to help them feel more in control, they may be able to quiet all that fear and anxiety and get to the difficult business of learning about the world in a brand new language.

So even though we are halfway through the year, I feel like I need to give this a go.

The emotion wheel is outstanding. It already has all the words I could hope to teach my students and more. But it’s too much. So then I found this:

Download your own copy from 6seconds.org

What a beautiful place to start!

The next step, after talking about what feelings are and why they exist, is to have them think about when they would have these feelings. We’ll be using sentence frames and writing about times they felt something other than just “good.”

I’ll let you know how it’s going.

Check out Beth’s blog for more posts! https://bevansteacher.wordpress.com/

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