Be The Yoga You Teach: Equity and Justice in Trauma Informed Practices

This morning, I saw this tweet by Paul Gorski challenging us to think about how an equity and justice based approach to trauma-informed practices in schools might look different from common approaches not grounded in equity understanding.

Since becoming a Staff Development Teacher seven years ago, I have learned so much about race, equity, and social justice.  I’m still learning. And confronting.  I work to confront my own biases on a daily basis.  This, I believe, is the first step in our work on equity and justice practices within schools.

“Be the yoga you teach”

This afternoon, I viewed the next module in my online course, “Trauma Informed Yoga for Youth” and learned about their philosophy.  The internal practice of yoga is based on one principle: “be the yoga you teach.”  According to Yoga Ed, “practicing the yoga tools and life skills we wish to nurture in our students allows our work to emerge from an authentic place. The internal practice allows us to utilize yoga tools to empower our teaching.”  In order to “be the yoga we teach” the focus is on building the five pillars of our internal practice: self-awareness, authenticity, curiosity, self-compassion, and empathy.  

I immediately connected with the idea of embedding an equity and justice approach into two of the five pillars of internal practice: self-awareness and authenticity.

Self-awareness is the state of consciously being aware of thoughts and feelings.  When we work with children, we may encounter specific words or actions that cause us to react strongly. These triggers are often connected to our own unresolved emotional experiences from childhood. 

Being self-aware is where we begin the work on our implicit biases.  In this Teaching Channel blog post, guest blogger and author of Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain, Zaretta Hammond explained that, “one of the nation’s leading implicit bias scholars, Patricia Devine of the University of Wisconsin, compares implicit bias to habits that, with intention and practice, can be broken.”  She goes on to explain three conditions needed to successfully “de-bias.” 

  • Intention – the acknowledgement that we harbor unconscious biases and the motivation to change
  • Attention – pay attention to personal triggers and know when stereotypical responses or assumptions are activated
  • Time – make time to practice new strategies designed to “break” your automatic associations that link a negative judgment to behavior that is culturally different (my emphasis) from yours

Cultivating self-awareness in our teaching allows us to recognize our own past experiences and reactions as they are triggered. This awareness empowers us to shift from a place of reactivity to a place of clarity, where we move through our own past to recognize the present experiences of the children in front of us.

According to Yoga Ed, “authenticity fuels self-awareness. To live authentically means to be truthful and open to what is happening in the present moment. By practicing authenticity with ourselves, we honor our thoughts and emotions internally so we are able to monitor and express them effectively. By practicing authenticity in the classroom, we cultivate a safe environment for our students to explore what it means and how it feels to be authentic.”  To me, the pillar of authenticity aligns with Glenn Singleton’s “Speak your truth” agreement from Courageous Conversations About Race

I like when two pieces of my learning life come together into an “aha” moment.  Building my understanding around equity and justice within trauma informed practices is just another piece in my learning puzzle.  I’m going to continue to ask questions and confront issues of equity and justice, especially as my school begins to incorporate trauma informed practices such as yoga, mindfulness, and restorative justice.

©2019 by Dawn Little for My Learning Life. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Let Them Explode!

Last night, we watched the fireworks from our balcony on the beach.  That is one of our traditions each year.  In past years, I watched through the eyes of my kids – the excitement, enjoyment, and joy was always a fun way to view the fireworks.  This year, while my kids still enjoy watching the fireworks, they didn’t have that pure unadulterated joy like they had when they were younger.  So instead of watching through their eyes, I viewed through the lens of an educator.

There were several groups of people who were shooting off fireworks in front of our condo.  All the people gathered on the beach, by the pool, and on their balconies were “oohing and aahhing”, naturally.  They put on a spectacular show. But, as we were watching the fireworks explode in bright colors in the sky, a policeman drove up and down the beach shutting people down.

Often times as educators, we tend to do the same thing.  Our students are bright, bold, fireworks.  They need time to build up and then shine brightly.  They don’t need the educators in their lives to shut them down.  What if we allowed our students to explode?  What can we do to ensure our students are able to shine brightly like those fireworks every day?  After spending some time reflecting on this analogy and thinking about ways I can help our students shine brightly in the new school year, I’m ready to start making plans. What are some ways you help your students shine brightly?

©2019 by Dawn Little for My Learning Life. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Giving Ourselves Permission

Every year for the last fifteen years, we spend the week of July 4th at the beach with family.  We, along with my husband’s parents, sisters and their families, all meet at the beach. There are 15 of us now. There is something nice about the continuity.  My son was a year old when we first started this tradition.  My daughter was two months old the first time she joined us.  This is the only way we have ever celebrated the 4th of July as a family.

For me, this week marks an end to one school year and the beginning of the next.  I feel like I am in limbo as I reflect on the old and begin to think about the new.  I try to take time during our vacation to slow down and relax. It is always difficult for me to “turn everything off” and get into relax mode, but I do my best. For me, relax mode is working on my own self-care.  During the school year, I usually work at 110%.  That is a combination of personal and family activities, my work at school, and my side projects.

As women, I fear that we don’t give ourselves enough permission.  Permission to take care of ourselves. Permission to prioritize what is important to us.  Permission to just be.  I started by giving myself permission to not work out this week.  That allowed me to sleep in.  I was able to get a massage when we arrived, and that helped me to relax a little at the beginning of the week.  I spent every morning at the beach, reading, and listening to the waves crash. That, to me, is the best form of relaxation. The four of us spent time together as a family, playing miniature golf and driving go-carts. Harell and I went out to a nice dinner to celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary, after we spent the day shopping with the kids.

Each year, we lament that our time here is not enough.  The week seems to fly by and just as soon as we are settled into a routine, it’s time to pack up and head home.  I think this is the first year that I am leaving with a heart full of memories and an aura of relaxation.  I’m feeling energized to begin to dig into the new school year.  I’m ready to set goals for myself both personally and professionally.  I’m ready to work on the best version of myself I can be for the next 12 months.  Until next year at this time, when I will reflect all over again.

©2019 by Dawn Little for My Learning Life. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Oh, Happy Day and a Mid-Year Review

Yesterday, Harell and I celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary.  19 years.  We have accomplished a lot in those 19 years.  We built a family, he built an IT company, and I built my career in education.  We both celebrated our birthdays last week as well.  We began dating when I was 22.  We have now officially been together for half of my life.  And yesterday/today is the official mid-year mark of 2019. Day 182/183 of 365.  So I thought it appropriate to take some time to reflect on the goals I set for myself at the beginning of this year.

Too many times, we set goals, or make resolutions, only to not return to them.  I want to be a little more purposeful this year. These were my 19 for 2019 in January.  As of July 1, 2019, I have crossed out the goals I have attained.

  • Minimize sugar intake
  • Increase weight when strength training
  • At least 2 weekend trips with Meg (my college BFF)
  • Plan family trip to Philly
  • Journal daily (both personally and professionally)
  • Organize home library
  • Submit proposals for 5 or more conferences (I always submit to ILA and SoMLA annually, I’d like to add a few more)
  • Write EVERY day
  • Plan a weekend at Hershey Park with my nieces and nephew (it was part of their Christmas present)
  • Connect with family and friends
  • Complete several MasterClass classes
  • Begin a daily visual gratitude journal
  • Plan family weekend trips
  • Read 119 books (my 2017 AND 2018 reading seasons weren’t pretty!)
  • Plan a weekend at the Spa at Hershey with my mom and Chloe
  • Clean out my email inbox (EEEK!!)
  • Plan monthly adult evenings out (either date nights or with other couples)
  • Lose 23 pounds (I’m putting a specific number out there, because I need to hold myself accountable!)
  • Plan family trip to Niagara Falls

You can see I have about 3/4 of my goals to work on still.  Some of them, I won’t be able to assess until the end of the year.  A few of them (specifically the health related items) I will put a laser focus on beginning this month. And a few of them, I started out strong and fizzled early in the year (journal daily, write every day, daily visual gratitude journal).  This is the time to renew my commitment to my goals and to finish this year off on a strong note!

Coincidentally, I noted in my January 2, 2019 post, that I read Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis over winter break.  I connected (my “One Little Word” for 2019) with many of the lies women tell themselves.  Interestingly enough, I am reading her follow up, Girl, Stop Apologizing while on vacation this week, mid-way through the year.  In her latest book, she challenges women to stop defining themselves in light of other people and to stop talking themselves out of their dreams.  I’ve spent a lot of time this week reflecting on the excuses I need to let go of and the behaviors I need to adopt on my path for growth.  I’m thinking about how I can finish the last half of 2019 strong and go into 2020 dreaming big!

©2019 by Dawn Little for My Learning Life. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Belly Flop or Dive? My Experience with Dual Language So Far

Last year, our school became a dual language school, joining a growing number of schools in the country.  We began in Kindergarten and every year we will include the next grade level until the entire school is dual language.  Our students spend half their day learning content in English and half their day learning content in Spanish.  It is an amazing program and our teachers are doing an amazing job.  By the time our current first graders move on to middle school, they will be bilingual and bi-literate.

We have a fantastic mentor and professional developer in Dr. Jose Medina.  I had the pleasure of spending yesterday morning in professional development with him as he led us through learning and sharing around the concept of cross-linguistic connections.  This is a true area of growth and learning for me.  I am as mono-lingual as they come.  But, I am an advocate of this program and of our emergent bilingual students.

I didn’t really have the opportunity to dip my toes in the program last year, but this year, I’m belly flopping in!  I am trying to capitalize on my learning by modeling pieces for our staff, beginning with the 4+1 language domains.  I use the 4+1 language domains when I facilitate professional development.  All teachers in our building are asked to use them in their classrooms.  My next opportunity to sink or swim is through the co-planning of an upcoming staff seminar with our bi-lingual reading specialist.  I already have a few thoughts of how we can bridge the two languages within the content of our meeting.  I’m excited!

But, don’t get me wrong!  I’m scared, too.  This is way out of my comfort zone.  But, the only way to grow is to step outside of our comfort zone and dive (or belly flop) right in!  This, I believe!

©2019 by Dawn Little for My Learning Life. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

I’ve Been Thinking Lately. . .

Recently, I have been facilitating a PLC at school around “Making Thinking Visible.”  And it has me thinking. . . how is it that education seems to have gone so far off course that teachers aren’t able to do their work anymore?  You know, actually teach.  Instead, we are living in such a high stakes testing environment, that teachers are pressured to cover the curriculum and prepare students for tests.  Unfortunately, this has led to teachers focusing more on the completion of work and assignments than on a true development of understanding.  Classrooms have become a place of rote practice.  Students are not taught to think in order to understand.  In fact, we aren’t teaching them to think at all.

While preparing for our next PLC, I began to dig a little deeper into thinking moves.  Students need opportunities for authentic thinking within the discipline areas. That means that we need to teach children what it means to think like a reader, a writer, a mathematician, a scientist, and a historian.  What does it mean to think authentically within these disciplines?  It means that we teach students high leverage thinking moves:

  1. Observing closely and describing what’s there
  2. Building explanations and interpretations
  3. Reasoning with evidence
  4. Making connections
  5. Considering different viewpoints and perspectives
  6. Capturing the heart and forming conclusions
  7. Wondering and asking questions
  8. Uncovering complexity and going below the surface of things

I know that in this state of education, it is difficult to stand by our beliefs of good pedagogy.  But, stand by them we must.  Our students are counting on us.  This, I believe.

Resource: Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners

©2019 by Dawn Little for My Learning Life. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Making Connections at the Gym

Yesterday, I unveiled my “one little word” for 2019 – CONNECT.  I want to be more intentional about the connections I already have or plan to create in my life this year.

Some of you know that I began attending a gym about four years ago.  I was looking for something that I would enjoy going to, someplace or someone to hold me accountable.  I was looking for something beyond the “box gyms” and all of their equipment.  I had the same equipment at home and I never used it.  I found a Groupon for Prime Fitness and decided to check it out.  Prime became exactly what I was looking for! With Prime, I found my tribe.

Eric, one of the co-owners, just began a podcast and I’m honored that he asked my friend Greselda and me to be his first guests on The Prime Fitness Project.  Take a listen to hear about my health and fitness journey so far.  My hope is that you will hear my story, and while your story might be different, you might find a connection in some way.

I also read Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis over winter break.  What a motivating force to be reckoned with. I appreciate Rachel’s candor with the lies that women tend to tell themselves.  She is relatable and I could connect to many of the lies she told herself.  It’s high time that women lift each other up.  It’s time that we become support systems for our sisters and we stop dragging each other down.  If you are looking for a little pick-me-up to start 2019 off on the right foot, check out Girl, Wash Your Face .

©2019 by Dawn Little for My Learning Life. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.