Imagine a world in which the humanity of both students and adults on school campuses are honored as an integral part of the education experience. Adults are well-equipped with stress resilience tools, able to honestly communicate their boundaries so they don’t burn out, and are well-fed and well-rested. When triggered by stressful situations at school, they know how to pause, breathe, step out of their reactive brains and into appropriate conscious responses.
As a result, student discipline referrals decrease. Students are able to learn more effectively and more deeply because classroom tension and distractions decrease. Reactive racial biases and test anxiety decrease. Adults on school sites are able to support one another when problems arise, much like thriving parental partnerships, and mindfully make the best choices for everyone involved.Everyone can finally exhale. Students and teachers alike live in a community of trust and mutual respect. Everyone thrives and rises together.
This vision is possible—and why we began The Teaching Well.
As any long (or short-term) yoga practitioner knows, our abilities to be present and mindul off the mat are a direct result of the work that we do to train our bodies and minds on our yoga mats.I began practicing yoga in Los Angeles (if only we had Namaste there!) over 7 years ago. Day
after day, merging the world of my body and soul, my capacity to be resilient in the outside world dramatically increased. As B.K.S. Iyengar says, “When I began yoga, my mind was in many pieces and my body in one. Now, my mind is in one piece and my body in many.”
As a teacher in public schools in Los Angeles, I needed the tools yoga provided me. Simply by coming back to my mat, I became conscious of my body’s stress responses and how I felt when I spent too many hours in a chair grading papers or how I reacted to students when I had too much
caffeine. I noticed that I was able to pause longer when a student triggered me, or come up with more compassionate solutions to student’s misdirected aggression.
I won’t beat around the bush—our schools in this country are in crisis. More than ever, we focus on test scores as the only measure of achievement. Funding is so low that many schools don’t have libraries, arts or music programs, or access to basic supplies. And worst of all, teachers, especially in urban environments, are leaving the classroom at a staggering rate. In Oakland alone, according to a study done by GO Oakland Public Schools in 2012, 70% of all teachers leave within five years.
Its time for us to take what we all know in our personal lives and bring it into schools. Many incredible organizations are bringing yoga and mindfulness into schools—and changing the student experience. But what happens when a teacher, overworked and exhausted, reverses all of the powerful work being done on behalf of the students? Or, having burn-out, leaves the classroom and is no longer able to channel her expertise to students?
Teachers are the socio-emotional leaders of schools and classrooms—and when they aren’t well, they simply cannot channel health and wellbeing (not to mention academic content) to the young people they serve.
Our mission at The Teaching Well is to provide educators (both teachers and administrators alike) the wellness tools that they need so that they can be their BEST for students. We provide professional development workshops in nutrition, stress resilience, mindfulness, yoga and healthy communication, and follow-up with one-to- one and group mentoring to ensure that like a regular yoga practitioner, our teachers are being given the opportunity to continually reflect up and practice their self-care.
As Namaste’s SEVA Recipient for this quarter, we are humbled and incredible grateful. This generous donation (made by all of you!) will allow us to serve educators in Oakland who cannot afford our work—but who serve our city’s most marginalized youth on a daily basis. We cannot thank you enough for giving to us, so that we may give to Oakland.
For more information about The Teaching Well, a non-profit teacher wellness organization (and their current Back-to- School Crowdfunding Campaign with video!), visit www.theteachingwell.org or theteachingwell.mydagsite.com.
Jane Mayer, Director of the Los Angeles Region of The Teaching Well