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.

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.

 

 

One Little Word for 2019

Happy New Year!

I truly can’t believe that it is 2019.  As the saying goes, “The days are long, but the years are short” and nothing screams that louder to me than the fact that it is 2019.  It feels like just yesterday that I graduated high school, yet, I attended my 25th reunion in 2018.  It feels like just yesterday that I began teaching, yet I am closing out my 20th year in education in 2019. It feels like just yesterday that we were blessed with our first-born, yet he turns 16 in February and will graduate high school in two short years.  So, yes, the saying is true, “The days are long, but the years are short!”

I reflected on all of this as I began to think about my “one little word” for 2019.  I want to be sure to continue to build long-lasting relationships with people in my life, both personally and professionally.  I want to make time for the things and the people that are important to me.  I want to cherish these long days and short years with my children as much as possible. So for these reasons, the word I chose going in to 2019 is CONNECT.

This year I chose a personal symbol as well.  Chloe gave me a beautiful necklace for Christmas this year of two links hooked together.  She told me it was symbolic of our love for each other, that even when we fight, we will always be connected!  I have taken the two links hooked together as my personal symbol for this year.  I want to make connections in every facet of my life.

Yesterday, I shared my 19 for 2019 visual.  I tried to tie some of my goals for 2019 into my “one little word”.  See, making connections already!

 

I Did Something Scary a Few Weeks Ago

Screen Shot 2018-12-27 at 9.31.01 AMA few weeks ago, I did something scary.  I made myself vulnerable to our staff in a meeting.  I opened up about my adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).

In the late 1990’s, a doctor from the CDC and a doctor from Kaiser Permanente set out to find connections between childhood experiences and lifelong health.  They created a questionnaire and sent it to over 17,000 people in the Kaiser network.  The results were astounding.  The more adverse childhood experiences a person had, the more likely they were to have health issues.  Someone with an ACE score of 4 had twice the risk of heart disease and cancer.  Those with an ACE score of 6 or more, on average had 20 years lower life expectancy.

Of course, ACE scores don’t tally the positive experiences in early life that can help build resilience and protect a child from the effects of trauma.  Having a grandparent who loves the child or a teacher who understands and believes in the child may help mitigate the long-term effects of early trauma.

So why did I share this information with our staff?  Because many of our students are living with adverse childhood experiences right now.  How can the adults in the building help?  First, we need to be aware of the types of trauma that our students may be living with.  Then, we need to arm ourselves with strategies to help our students build resilience and coping skills.  If each staff member is “the one” for at least one student enduring trauma in the building, think about the impact we can make!

My ACE score is 4.  Thankfully, I had two teachers who took me under their wing and helped to mitigate the long-term effects of my early trauma.  I’m fully aware that my life could have gone in a different direction.  I’m also acutely sensitive to the trauma that our students endure, as a result of my own trauma.

Last week, I finally had a chance to sit down and read Hey, Kiddo: How I Lost My Mother, Found My Father, and Dealt with Family Addiction by Jarrett J. Krosoczka.  This is a timely and profoundly important memoir, that unfortunately too many of our students will see themselves in.  But, that is exactly why it is a necessary book for our middle school and high school students.

Students who are living in a similar situation will see themselves in this graphic novel and will see how Jarrett was able to overcome his childhood trauma.  Other students will read Hey Kiddo! and will become aware of situations that some of their friends may be going through, perhaps building some empathy for their classmates.

Think about the students in your classroom or building.  Do you know them?  I mean really know them?  Do you know the trauma that some of them may endure in their homes?  As we close out 2018 and begin to edge into 2019, I will think about how I can “be the one” for the students in my building. I hope you will do the same.

©2018 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.

Reflecting on the Past; Focusing on the Future

Photo by Clark Little, 2016
Photo by Clark Little, 2016

2016 came and went and now we are almost through with the second day of 2017.  Hard to believe.  I’m a pretty reflective person by nature, and several years ago decided that I was no longer making resolutions.  They were always the same and always broken within the first week of the new year.  So, I decided that I would set goals for myself instead.  I write them down, because out of sight means out of mind — for me anyway.

Last year, we sat down as a family and set goals for ourselves.  Today, we reflected on those goals; whether we met them or still had work to do.  For the most part, all four of us met some of our goals, but we all individually still have goals we would like to accomplish.

I, for one, would like a focus for myself this year.  And, for the last several years, many of my friends have been sharing their “One Little Word” – the word that will be their focus for the upcoming year.  It has been fun to see the words that people choose.  I decided to try it out this year and have been tossing words around in my head for the last couple of days.  This morning, I finally decided on my OLW.    I am going to focus on intention this year.

See, I have the disease of “busyness.”  I am always busy, always running somewhere, always doing something.  I don’t remember always being this way, but I do know that I have had this disease for most of my adulthood.  I must learn to slow down.  We aren’t promised tomorrow.  My children are growing up before my eyes and will be moving on to college within the next 4-7 years. That is not a lot of time.  I want to enjoy the time I have with them.  I want to live with intention, particularly in two areas.

  1. Family.  I intend to spend purposeful time with my family.  Slow down and just enjoy each other’s company.  Travel together, play games together, watch movies together.  Just be.
  2. Health. I intend to work on my nutrition this year.  I want to be around for a long time.  I want to be a strong and healthy role model for my children.

You see when we start with intention, when we know why we want to do something, we have motivation to reach a goal.  I plan to crush these goals this year.

I know that my plan to live with intention will bleed over into other areas of my life, my work with teachers and students, my writing (I intend to do a lot more this year!), my relationships with my friends and extended family.  But, for now, as long as I am living my day to day with purpose and intention, as long as I know my why,  I know I’m on the right track.

What is your focus for this year?  What goals would you like to accomplish?

 

Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story by Nora Raleigh Baskin

September 11 was a week ago yesterday and like most people around the country, I remembered that day, fifteen years ago.  Where I was.  How I felt.  But, see, that day is remembered every day by those first responders, families, and children who were directly affected by it. While I wanted to share this on the 15th anniversary of September 11th, or perhaps even leading up to the anniversary, I did not. Partly, because I didn’t get my act together in time, and partly because I think we should remember every day.   So, I share today.

nine-ten-a-september-11-story-9781442485068_hrOver the summer, I read Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story by Nora Raleigh Baskin and I was brought back to that day.  I posted a note to Nora on Facebook and mentioned that the characters in her story were “my kids.”  Between our exchange and her exchange with other teachers around the country, Nora realized that we, teachers in the classroom on September 11th, had an enormous challenge in front of us that day.  In many cases, we had to carry on as “normal,” for our kids.   We had to put aside our personal concerns or contact with family members in order to put on a brave face for the good of our students.  This is what teaching is every day.  We are the caring and kindness that students look for when they walk into the classroom.  We are their safe haven.  We are their security and comfort for 7 hours a day. And so, that is what we do.  We set aside whatever we need to in order to to be that emotional stability for our children.

My own children were not born yet in 2001.  They have no understanding of the events of that day.  They have no idea what a pre-September 11th world was like.  But, it’s books like Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story that can help this generation of children begin to understand.  Nora Raleigh Baskin weaves the stories of four middle school students together with the backdrop of September 11, 2001.  Through this book, children will learn kindness and empathy, while building their background knowledge about the day that our world changed forever.

To help teachers share their stories, and to offer a bit of catharsis, Nora created a blog on her website for teachers to share.  Here is my story:

It began as any other fall day; that gorgeous blue sky and beautiful temperatures. In Montgomery County, MD, just outside the nation’s capital, we were already into our third week of school in my 5th grade class. It was my student Shannon’s birthday, so as students filed in right around 9 am, we wished her a happy birthday and got started on our morning routines. . .  Continue reading

©2016 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.