Thursday, March 2, 2017

Walking for Polar Bears, Part 1: When Little Kids and Big Kids Collaborate

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you'll know that my littles love helping animals. Before Christmas, my JK students planned and executed a fantastic Reindeer Rescue Art and Craft Sale to adopt five reindeer from World Wildlife Fund Canada. And when they returned from Christmas holidays, their interest in and desire to help polar animals hadn't faded one bit. So when I received an email from WWF Canada about an upcoming polar bear walk (founded by a 7 year-old boy a few years ago), I knew without a doubt they'd be interested. What I didn't realize was just how big this project would grow to become and all the stakeholders who would join us!

I knew that my SK students had felt a bit sad when they heard all about the JK's reindeer project from them at daycare, so I decided that both JK and SK classes would be a part of our new polar bear project. The JKs asked the SKs if they would be interested in working on a polar bear walk project, then the SKs decided to Skype Mrs. Obach's Grade 1 class and ask them if they would like to join us too. When this project began in January, I had just started teaching pre-service teachers in the Faculty of Education at Brandon University. My kindergarten students were very interested in my "big kids", so I asked them if we should invite the big kids to help with the project. My JK class made a little video that we shared with my BU students and they agreed to work with us too! My big idea surrounding the project had two components: my little ones would engage in project-based learning to develop important skills, meet curricular outcomes, and make a difference in the world. My university students would monitor the evolution of the project through weekly updates and collaborate with our classes to plan a polar bear walk, increasing their comfort level with project-based learning. It worked beautifully!

The most powerful tool we used for our collaborative project-based learning was Microsoft One Note (a web and app-based digital binder/notebook tool). With my kindergarten learners offering suggestions for the sections, I created a notebook for us to document and share our learning and plan our polar bear walk.  We shared our One Note with Mrs. Obach's class and both of us were able to contribute a variety of content--photographs, links to resources, videos, and text. We were able to use the pens on our SMART Boards to print information into the One Note as well, which was great for our beginning writers. Each day we began our learning by reviewing the facts and resources in the One Note notebook, and it was a game-changing way for us to collaborate on such a large project. At university, I regularly shared the notebook to show the big kids what was happening in the project and discuss the learning taking place. This was the perfect way to build my big kids' knowledge of project-based learning, and demonstrate how it is such an effective approach for meeting the needs of diverse learners.
As it often is, knowledge construction was a key component of the project. We needed to learn all we could about polar bears, understand what was happening in Canada's north, and find out how we could help them. We read books and watched videos, recording important facts in our One Note. A video call with Andy McKiel and Mrs. Obach's class was especially enlightening. Mr. McKiel had spent a week in and around Churchill and had a wealth of knowledge and stunning photographs to share with us. As always, Skype was an important tool in our project-based learning. We had regular video calls with Mrs. Obach's class to share our knowledge and plan the walk.
My SK students used Duck Duck Moose's Draw and Tell app to share their emerging understandings of polar bears. Check out the sample below.
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As we built understanding about polar bears and the challenges they face, our project splintered in two directions. The JK students were really interested in investigating why the ice is melting, and I was really impressed by their insights. (Why don't we just use cold water and make more ice for polar bears? If the ice is melting, it must be because it is getting hot in the Arctic. Why is it getting hot?) We did some research and learned that garbage and pollution are making "bad air" that is causing the earth to heat up. These higher temperatures are melting the ice. The JK students made the connection that helping the earth helps polar bears! They decided to make a video to encourage others to help the earth to help polar bears. Green Screen by Do Ink and Pixabay were invaluable in creating our video. We included the big kids from BU in our video as well as the SK class, and we used Do Ink to green-screen a variety of copyright-free background images from Pixabay.

The SKs decided to scale up our impact and raise more money and awareness for polar bears. Since time was of the essence, I went with their first idea--let's sell Timbits! We decided to sell two Timbits and a white ribbon pin that people could wear to show their support of polar bears for a toonie. In 20 minutes, we sold out and raised $100 to add to our polar bear walk fundraising! Although this was a quick little activity, we fit in a ton of learning.
-shared writing to draft a letter home to families
-printing signs
-surveying classrooms to find out how many students in each and recording the numerals
-cutting our notes in half, counting the correct amount for each class, and labelling them with the correct number and grade
-using non-standard measurement (cubes) to measure the length of each ribbon
-developing scissor skills as we cut 50 pieces of ribbon
-oral language skills as we worked at our sale
-counting the toonies by 2s and loonies by 1s to see how much money we raised
Throughout this process we planned our walk...which was not without a few challenges! Learn more in a future post.



Monday, January 30, 2017

Teacher Wellness Series, Part 4: What Yoga Teachers Do When They're Sick

Well it finally happened. After 8 years of teaching kindergarten and two years of a daily yoga practice, I have a rock solid immune system and I'm seldom sick. But after a non-stop Christmas season, airport/airplane travel germs, and a 60 degree temperature change returning home from Cuba, the inevitable occurred. Sore throat, runny nose, and just generally feeling yucky. So what do I do when I'm sick to make myself feel better and hopefully recover as quickly as possible?

*Please note that these are my personal wellness practices only and not intended as medical advice. Please do not attempt these yoga poses and practices unless you are already familiar with them and have a regular yoga practice. At all times, listen to your body and do what feels best for you.*

Gentle Yoga Practice
Although I'm not exactly eager to get on my mat, I do know that I'll feel SO much better if I do. It's not the time for a vigorous vinyasa flow practice, but gentle poses held for a minimum of ten breaths make a world of difference to my ability to breathe and think clearly while boosting my energy.

Immune-Boosting and Cold-Fighting Yoga Sequence

Mantra: I've read that chanting in Sanskrit and "OM"ing produce vibrations that loosen mucus in your nose, throat, and lungs to keep everything moving. I begin my practice with the mantra I learned at my first yoga training that invokes bliss, divine consciousness, and truth. Or, calling the sound "OM" several times in a row is equally effective.

Breathing: kapalabhati (skull-shining) breath is a warming breath that cleans out the lungs, sinuses, and respiratory system. Follow this link for complete instructions. I usually do four cycles of 25 breaths each.

Joint Mobility Series: in my hatha yoga teacher training, we began every asana practice with a series of movements to warm up all the joints in the body. I usually repeat each movement about ten times in a comfortable seated position on my mat.
1) Raise to chin to ceiling, inhaling up, exhaling down
2) Look over each shoulder (inhaling across, exhaling as you look over your shoulder, torso remains stable)
3) Chin to chest, inhale up to the shoulder, exhale back down to centre. Inhale up to the other shoulder, exhale back to centre. Full neck circles are an option if you have that mobility.
4) Extend arms at shoulder height, palms face the ceiling. Inhale, touch fingertips to tops of shoulders, exhale to extend arms again.
5) Arms circles: can extend arms fully and circle forward, then backward, letting breath flow. Or, you can touch fingertips to the tops of shoulders and point elbows to the front. Draw circles with your elbows, exhaling down and inhaling as you circle back around. Change directions.
6) Gently shake out hands and wrists. Extend arms in front, inhale to make fists. Exhale as you shoot fingers out.
7) Wrist circles, letting breath flow. Change directions.
8) Extend legs long on mat. Contract toes on your inhale breath, extend on your exhale breath.
9) Inhale to point toes to the ceiling. Exhale to point them away from you.
10) Ankles circles, letting breath flow. Change directions.
11) Draw knee into chest on the inhale breath. Kick your leg out on the exhale, completely releasing your leg as you kick. If you have knee problems, support your leg under the knee as you do this. Ten times, each leg.
12) Take legs wide, feet are flexed and toes point to the ceiling. Ground down firmly through sit bones. Inhale to lengthen through the spine, on the exhale circle chest low over your legs and the floor. Change directions.
13) Bring legs into butterfly pose and flutter knees to reduce any tension in the groin.

Helpful Yoga Poses: hold for a minimum of ten breaths
-uttanasana (forward fold). Usually I do half sun salutations, beginning in tadasana, then flowing through upward salute, forward fold, half lift, repeating several times. If you are feeling up to it, work through a few full sun salutations.
-step back to plank, lowering to your belly
-crocodile, sphinx, and cobra, moving from a gentle to more intense backbend.
-bow pose: stretches your neck, chest, stomach, and back. Opening your neck and chest will lead to better breathing. -camel pose: will open up your back and chest even further while clearing out your passageways.-balasana (child's pose)-stretch onto your belly, then roll over onto your back -bridge pose: a mild yet effective way to open your chest, in addition to sending fresh blood to your head. I usually repeat this pose three times with variations, sometimes interlacing my fingers beneath my lower back to enhance chest opening.-wheel pose (if I'm feeling up to it)-apanasana (hug knees to chest)-headstand (salamba sirsasana): one of the most difficult yoga postures, yet it is incredibly energizing and detoxing to let stagnant blood rush from your toes, filter through your heart, and drain into your head.

-balasana (child's pose)
-savasana 
-meditate for a few minutes
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-and don't forget to conclude your yoga practice with a few OMs...inhaling fully through your nose, and releasing your breath as you call the sound "OM" through your mouth

Essential Oils 
I am having a passionate love affair at the moment with all things Saje. I love many of their products (their oil blend Yoga is constantly on the go in my house) and I turn to their cold and flu remedies when I'm down and out. I diffuse their Immunity oil while I sleep to clear my nose, and I also use their Immunity oil roller under my nose, on my temples, across my sinuses, and on the glands in my neck. The smell is soothing and helps to clear my congestion. No one has any issues with fragrance in my classroom, so I diffuse Immunity throughout the day there as well. The kids love my diffuser! Learn more about Saje's cold and flu products here.

Use a Neti Pot
This is an ancient yogic practice that has entered the modern world. Neti pots are available in most pharmacies (such as Shoppers Drug Mart in Canada) and come with packages of salt to which you add distilled lukewarm (or previously boiled) water. Bending over a basin or sink, you pour half the pot through one nostril and let it run through and out the other one. After you've irrigated one nostril, you blow your nose and do ten little puffs of air through each nostril individually and then through both nostrils. Then repeat on the other nostril.

Why use a neti pot?
-it thins out and flushes mucus from the nose
-helpful in treating sinus infections, allergy symptoms, and colds
-it leaves you feeling refreshed and breathing easier
-learn more here

Staying Hydrated
I try my best to push fluids constantly. Lots of lemon water (cold and warm) as well as tea. I'm a big fan of David's Tea all the time, and when I'm sick I turn to their Cold 911 and Throat Rescue teas.

Rest
It goes without saying, but lots of rest is key to a speedy recovery. Take care of yourself and consider spending a day at home in bed. And remember, teacher friends--self care is a priority and a necessity--not a luxury--in the work that we do.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Reindeer Rescue Wrap Up

Well Christmas might be over, but we still had a few loose ends to tie up in my classroom. On the last day of junior kindergarten before Christmas holidays, we held our Reindeer Rescue Art and Craft Sale. Check out this earlier post to learn all about the project's inception, and take a look at what we accomplished since then!
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We used shared writing to draft letters to our school families to let them know about our upcoming art and craft sale. In our letter, we shared why we were doing this project and how and when they could support it. 
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Great scissor skill development, as well as a mini-lesson on the concept of half. We cut all the notes in half! 
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We visited every classroom in our school. The first time, we asked how many kids were in the classroom. Then we returned to our classroom and counted that many notes, bundling them and printing the grade and number of kids on each bundle. Then we delivered the notes. Such good practice in being brave and knocking on doors, asking questions, the number sequence, 1-1 correspondence, and printing numbers. 
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We were each responsible for doing some advertising. All of us called three people to tell them about the sale!

And finally the big day of the sale arrived. In the morning we set up our classroom and decided who would work at each station. We practiced what we would say to people when they came to our classroom. We made signs for each table so people would know how much everything cost. We did our best to copy the letters and numbers--great visual-motor coordination! 
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This was difficult but we did it! Our signs looked terrific, and our teacher was so proud of us for doing it independently. 
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Ready to sell some crafts!
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These handprint reindeer were very popular items! 
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We asked our families to donate cookies and sweet treats. This was a very popular table and all the JK kiddos wanted to work here! We decided to take turns. 
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Ready for our shoppers to arrive--we are so excited!
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Our sale was busy from the beginning and we sold nearly everything in no time at all!
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We went home with our parents after the sale, and our teacher locked up the money so we could count it after Christmas holidays!
When we counted the money, we discovered that we raised $181.25. Mrs. Caldwell decided to donate a little bit extra for an even $200. 

We visited the WWF website to find out how many reindeer we could help through the symbolic adoption program. We found out that we could adopt FIVE reindeer. We were so excited! We decided to use Skype Audio to call WWF in person and talk to them about our Reindeer Rescue project. We talked to a really nice woman and she congratulated us on our hard work. She said that it was so inspiring to see little kids making such a big difference in the world. Mrs. Caldwell got a bit tearful when she said this! 
And then last week our adoption kits came in the mail! We received five plush reindeer, adoption certificates, information about reindeer, and some nice posters. It was like Christmas all over again!

We are very eager to do some special activities with our reindeer. We might use them as reading buddies or take turns taking them home and photographing their adventures. Stay tuned for our next project--we're learning about other polar animals now and we have some big plans in the works! 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Reindeer Rescue: Project-Based Learning in Junior Kindergarten

I don't usually do a lot of project-based learning with my four-year old junior kindergarten students (at least not this early in the year). This year is different though--I have a stand-alone JK class of 14 very eager little learners, and it just seemed right to launch a Christmas project. My goal was to shift the focus away from Santa and getting presents to helping others and making a difference, while strengthening early literacy and numeracy skills. So, last week I asked my JK students if they would like to help people or animals as a special kind of Christmas gift. They were excited, and we immediately started brainstorming whom we could help.

Sometimes I can predict the outcome of these discussions, but not this time. My little ones were very adamant--reindeer needed our help. Reasons included:
-sometimes reindeer get lost and can't find their way home
-sometimes Santa's reindeer get hurt or stuck in snowbanks when delivering presents
-reindeer might get eaten by predators (excellent vocabulary) while they are sleeping
-people shoot reindeer

These were all very valid reasons in a four-year old brain, but I was not so sure that we could spin them into a difference-making project. As so often occurs in our project-based learning, we decided to do some research. We began by visiting World Wildlife Fund's website, and guess what animal needed help? Reindeer! We were interested to read that some species of reindeer were endangered due to climate change and industrialization in the north. Over-hunting is also an issue with the world's reindeer (caribou in Canada) population. Not to mention getting lost and not being able to find their way back to Santa at the north pole. This was a project with potential!

As soon as my kids saw that we could adopt a reindeer through World Wildlife Fund, they were sold. Adopting a reindeer costs $40, so our next discussion turned to fundraising. How would we raise $40? Answers included:
-going to the bank and asking for money because that's all you have to do
-asking our parents for money
-and finally a winner--selling the reindeer watercolour paintings that we painted last week!

And that was the beginning of Reindeer Rescue Art and Craft Sale! We decided to make a bunch of reindeer Christmas ornaments and art projects and sell them on Wednesday, December 21. We also decided to sell cookies. So far, our to-do list includes:
-make posters to advertise
-make a movie to advertise
-pick out projects on Pinterest
-make art projects and crafts
-invite people to come
And today, my students had the idea that we could write a song about reindeer. We decided to write an alphabet rap to promote helping reindeer and our sale, which was an excellent opportunity to work on our emerging rhyming skills.
We also began working on crafts today, and during playtime, some children chose to paint popsicle sticks and puzzle pieces brown for our first tree ornaments. 
In the next few days, we plan to build knowledge about reindeer by listing what we already know and posing questions for what we'd like to find out. I'm hoping to find a reindeer expert who can Skype in to our classroom. Stay tuned for more updates on our Reindeer Rescue project! 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Hour of Code: A Quick Guide to Coding in Kindergarten

Computer Science Education Week and Hour of Code are nearly upon us. How are you planning to participate in your classroom? Read this Q & A about coding and young children to help you get started! 

What is coding?
-basically, coding is computer progamming. It is when we give directions to a computer to make it do something. Computers exist in many forms (your mobile phone, iPad, washing machine, thermostat, etc) and they all use code to function. 

Why do you teach coding to kindergarten students?
-fun coding apps and activities introduce children to computer science at a young age, before they are intimidated by the idea of "programming a computer"
-coding exposes children to many exciting future career opportunities
-coding develops important skills such as problem-solving, creative thinking, ability to sequence, follow directions, and give directions. These skills transfer over to other subject areas and positively impact young children's overall development. 
-coding promotes tenacity, as children often experience failure and have to persevere to solve coding challenges 

What is "unplugged" coding?
-unplugged coding activities are a great way to begin with young children 
-students don't need to use technology to experience the benefits of coding, allowing you to develop the skills without a lot of additional screen time
-we begin by giving each other oral directions and following them to walk a path around the room or move a bingo chip on a number or alphabet grid 
-we transition to drawing our own code blocks and getting our friends to follow them (more on this later)
-this is an excellent way to build expressive and receptive language skills and students' ability to sequence 

What are your favourite coding tools and resources?
-excellent apps for young learners are Kodable and The Foos 
-both tools are available for multiple platforms and are supported with some good educator resources online
-neither require reading which is important for kindergarten students' success
-in Grade 1, my friend Leah Obach also likes Tynker and Scratch Jr
-some tools can be played online, which makes it easy to project over your computer for collaborative learning and exploration 
-other tools are app-based only, and I recommend airplaying them using an Apple TV or software such as Reflector
-Code.org is a goldmine of information, tutorials, and web-based coding activities (most are too difficult for little ones, but the first few levels can be done together on the SMART Board). 

Once again, Mrs. Obach's class and my kindergarten class are co-hosting a Kids Who Code Code-a-thon at Hamiota Elementary School for Hour of Code. We've been collaborating via Skype to plan this day of coding, and working hard in our classrooms to become experts with our designated apps. Take a look at what we've been doing in kindergarten this week! 

Unplugged coding is this simple! We used three squares on a SMART Notebook slide, then dragged different actions into each box. If we want our friends to repeat the action, we print a number beside it. 

Unplugged coding in action in senior kindergarten
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Mrs. Obach and I decided that my kindergarten class would become experts in an app called The Foos. At the code-a-thon, we will teach the Grade 1s and our special guests how to code using this tool. Mrs. Obach's students are in charge of Tynker and Kodable. Here are the simple tutorials we've created in SMART Notebook to teach our friends about The Foos.

The characters:
The coding blocks and how to use them:



Coding and computer programming can sound scary, but it really is this simple. Consider following these steps:
-try some unplugged coding activities as games or movement breaks
-have your students make coding blocks together, and then on their own
-download The Foos and Kodable to your devices (they're free)
-take an hour for you to play around with them (you'll get hooked and not want to stop)
-introduce it to your students by airplaying a device (The Foos is web-based too, although it is a simpler version) and working through a few levels together
-give your students time to explore and play on the devices. You might consider having them work in partners, or creating a coding centre with 4-5 learners at a time.
-come together as a group and discuss any challenges and how to solve them
-there you go, you just did MORE than an Hour of Code!

Good luck, and stay tuned for another post about our Kids Who Code Code-a-thon!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Teacher Wellness Series, Part 3: Four Ways to Develop an Attitude of Gratitude

Gratitude. It's pretty much the simplest, most powerful thing you can practice that impacts you mentally, physically, and emotionally. And now is the perfect time of year to share how you can cultivate an attitude of gratitude with only a few simple steps. But first, a little bit of background on my personal gratitude journey.

Thanksgiving is a holiday that has always been really meaningful to me. I'm the person at our family's dinner table that insists we take a moment to share what we are most grateful for in our lives--as my dad and uncles roll their eyes and grudgingly participate. Last year, for the first time ever, I was away from my family on Thanksgiving...I was feeling a bit sad, eating a burger and drinking a glass of wine by myself in an American restaurant (the closest thing I could find to home) in Zagreb, Croatia.
And it seems that in the blink of an eye, it's Thanksgiving again, and this time I'm at home in Kenton, Manitoba. The past 14 months were probably the most amazing and eventful that I've ever experienced, leaving me with a lot to be grateful for today.

-family, friends, and colleagues who supported my plans to take a year away and try something new
-the wonderful people I met, many who have become friends, in the last year
-learning that YES I could look after myself and rely only on myself, no matter where I was in the world
-feeling scared sometimes but always feeling alive
-learning that it's okay for things to change and that it will probably all work out in the end
-seeing and experiencing different countries, their people, and cultures
-so many beautiful sights and moments that I've lost count
-becoming a yoga teacher and expanding my personal yoga practice
-the yoga community that has emerged in my hometown and surrounding communities and the many yogis who support my weekly classes
-having a career, students (big and little ones), and families that I love
-being well and healthy, and having the tools to look after myself and positively impact the well-being of others

But gratitude isn't something I practice only on Thanksgiving. I've had a daily gratitude practice for over two years now. For years, I had heard Oprah refer to gratitude, but after reading about all the benefits of living gratefully in The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and Thrive by Arianna Huffington, I knew that I needed to make gratitude a regular part of my life.
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Book Cover
 Grateful people experience many physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual benefits--such as reduced stress, more mindful living, improved immunity to illness, more positive relationships, optimism, and greater happiness. This Huffington post article describes many benefits to cultivating an attitude of gratitude. And if you are someone who believes in the Law of Attraction (like attracts like), grateful people attract more abundance and positivity into their lives.

So how can you develop your own daily gratitude practice? There are many ways to practice gratitude, but I think it's most important that you find a way that works for you--something pleasant, simple, and quick, that you can easily integrate into your daily routine and/or yoga practice.

1) Make a happiness jar: cut up some squares of paper and get a big jar. At the end of every day, write down the happiest moment of your day or something that you are grateful for. Deposit the slip of paper in the jar and repeat each day. If you are feeling down, scoop out a handful of papers and read about your happiest moments--a proven mood-booster! Here's my happiness jar pictured below. What will fill your happiness jar? Get inspired with this Pinterest board all about happiness jars.

Teacher tip: have each student start a happiness jar and add to it daily or weekly. Little ones can draw a picture of their happiest moment, big kids can write a couple of sentences. A great writing project with mental health benefits too! Or, consider a class happiness jar that everyone contributes to on a regular basis.

Tech connection: use your classroom Instagram account (early years) or students' Instagram/Twitter accounts (middle/senior years) to create virtual happiness jars. Students capture a photograph of happiest moments and share with the hashtag #happinessjar. Let's flood social media with positive messages!
2) Gratitude journaling: you might already journal regularly, but if you don't, starting a gratitude journal is an easy way to introduce reflective writing into your daily routine. Buy a pretty journal (Winners has so many nice ones for less than $10), and at a certain time each day (before bed or following your morning yoga practice), jot down a few things that you are grateful for. Don't force it, and don't write down the things that you "should" be grateful for. The more novel, the better. I've been grateful for everything from having a clear complexion to nice smooth, straight roads to drive on!

Classroom connection: start gratitude journals with your students, or make it something that is part of their regular weekly writing...maybe every Friday they write an entry about what they are grateful for. Little ones can draw pictures and label them, or teachers can lead the class in a shared writing activity to help everyone count their blessings.

Tech connection: there are a few apps in the App Store if you'd like to do gratitude journaling on your phone. I use this one--check it out!

3) Get a partner in crime: make a commitment with a friend to start a daily gratitude practice and text each other what you are grateful for each day. My best friend and I did this for over a year when we first started practicing gratitude, and it was a wonderful way to be accountable. If one of us forgot, receiving the other person's text was all it took to text back with our own list.

Classroom connection: if you teach little ones, pass a special object around the circle as each child shares something they are grateful for. Sometimes I make gratitude my "password" to get out the door for recess or at the end of the day. Older students may not want to share what they are grateful for with their peers, so consider a quick gratitude exit slip at the end of the day.

4) Make it part of your yoga practice: it's easy to feel grateful as your yoga practice draws to a close and your body and mind are flooded with feelings of contentment and relaxation. As I roll up onto my mat after savasana, I take a few moments to reflect on what I'm grateful for that day. I close my eyes and breathe deeply as different ideas come to mind. Yes, a daily gratitude practice can be this simple when it's part of your routine.

Once gratitude becomes part of your life, you'll find yourself feeling grateful throughout your day--sometimes about the smallest things. Savour these moments and share them with others. Cultivating an attitude of gratitude is simple, powerful, and rewarding, with a huge impact on teacher and student wellness. You'll thank yourself for starting today!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Teacher Wellness Series, Part 2: Morning Rituals to Start Your Day Off Right

What is a morning ritual? A morning ritual is a series of habits, acts, or practices, usually completed in the same order, day after day. And these rituals are vitally important--the way we begin our morning sets the tone for the rest of our day. A calm, relaxed, and nourishing morning ritual empowers you to deal with the inevitable challenges you'll encounter, reduces stress, increases productivity, and helps you live more intentionally. And getting out of bed is a lot easier when you have something to look forward to! Developing a morning ritual is a very personal thing, and one that evolves over time to be responsive to your needs. This blog post is a window into my current morning ritual that will hopefully inspire you to develop your own.

Morning Stretch: sometimes I do a few yoga poses before I even get out of bed, slowly introducing movement and stretching to my body after hours of sleep. This morning sequence will help you transition from sleep to awake and make it easier to get out of bed.

Apanasana: hug your knees into your chest and gently roll from side to side
Happy Baby: hands come to the outsides of your feet as you bend your knees, bringing them wider than your torso. Soles of the feet face the ceiling as you lengthen your tailbone down to the mattress. You can rock from side to side.
Supine Twists: extend your arms out to the sides in a t shape as you hug your knees into your chest. Let your knees fall over to the right side as you look over your left shoulder. Ground down through your shoulders, and use your right hand to press your knees closer to the mattress.
Bridge: let your arms rest by your sides as you bend you knees and place your feet flat on the mattress. Gently push your hips up toward the ceiling, pressing down through your hands.
Fish: while lying flat on your back, bring your hands underneath your hips, palms down to the mattress. Lift your heart and chest above your shoulders (think pushing from your bra strap area) and stretch your head back.
Seated Forward Fold: sit up, extending your legs in front of you. Inhale to lengthen your spine, then exhale as you fold forward, reaching for your shins, ankles, or toes.
Child's Pose: sitting up, bring your sit bones to your heels, pausing for a few breaths in virasana (hero's pose). Push back into child's pose, keeping your legs together or taking your knees as wide as your hips. Arms can extend over head, using your hands to push your sit bones a little closer to your heels.

Lemon Water: for years I've heard about the benefits of drinking warm lemon water first thing (before eating) in the morning. This hasn't been natural for me as I'm always ravenous when I wake up and want to go straight to eating breakfast. However, I've had more success with this practice since I started squeezing the juice of half a lemon into a cup of water the night before. Then I just microwave it for 90 seconds and drink it while I prepare my breakfast. You can even drink it at room temperature if you prefer. So what's the big deal about warm water and lemon?
-helps constipation
-prevents urinary tract infections
-boosts your immune system and fights off infections (all that vitamin C!)
-reduces inflammation in your body
-cleanses the liver
-promotes weight loss
-boosts brain and nerve function
Read more here!

Goal or Intention Setting: as I eat breakfast, sometimes I write down 5 things I'd like to complete during the day. Taking the time to write down your goals for the day takes them from abstract to concrete, increases your accountability, and makes it more likely that you will actually accomplish them. And goals don't need to be about housework or your job...including goals such as drinking water, pausing to breathe when you feel stressed, or going for a walk at noon make your self-care and wellness a priority.

Additionally, you might choose to set an intention for your day. An intention is a quality or attribute that you wish to cultivate or continue to work on. Intentions such as patience, calm, or kindness are powerful when recalled throughout the day. If I am working on a certain intention for a period of time, I make it the lock screen on my phone. I use a picture that I really like and use a text on photo app (such as Rhonna Designs) and create something that is a beautiful reminder every time I check my phone. I sometimes do this with inspiring quotations as well.

Inspiring Quotations: I LOVE inspiring quotations. I have books of them and I'm always pinning them on Pinterest. After finishing breakfast, I take a cup of tea to my yoga mat and I often choose an inspiring quotation for the day or week. One of my favourite inspirational books is "Brave Enough" by Cheryl Strayed. No matter what page I flip to in this little green book, there is always something that resonates with me. As I mentioned previously, I sometimes turn my favourite quotations into an image for the lock screen of my phone. Or if you'd rather do it old school, print them on a Post It note and stick them to the dash of your car!

Yoga Practice: now that I'm on my mat with a cup of tea and inspiring thoughts in my head, I begin my physical yoga practice. Although I generally practice in my living room, it's important for me to create a tranquil atmosphere. I either burn incense or plug in my Saje diffuser with an essential oil or oil blend. Depending on my mood, it might be a grounding, energizing, uplifting, or calming scent. I am pretty much obsessed with my aromaOm diffuser...so much that I just bought a second one so that I didn't have to keep moving it around the house with me. Saje diffusers are wonderful for cleaning the air and fragrancing your space. My favourite essential oil blends from Saje are Yoga and Tantra, and I always love lavender essential oil.

My morning yoga practice always begins with breathing exercises, cat/cow, child's pose, some gentle twists and side body stretches, and sun salutations Sun salutations are wonderful for warming the body and working nearly every muscle group. After my sun salutations, I do a combination of flow sequences and static poses depending on what my body needs. In order to move forward with my practice, I try to work on a pose that is challenging for me. I find that by practicing it daily, I see a lot more growth and feel like I'm getting somewhere in my practice. Since I'm a yoga teacher, I usually make up my own sequences. If you're not comfortable with that, an online class might be a better option for you. See this post for free online yoga resources.
Above: hard at work on Warrior III as my challenging pose of the day

After a nice long savasana, I sit in meditation for a few minutes and practice gratitude (learn more about meditation and gratitude in future posts). Then I open my eyes, ready to begin my day...always feeling stronger, calmer, and more quietly energized than when I got out of bed. Teaching is a very demanding profession, and we owe it to ourselves and our students to take the very best possible care of ourselves. Developing a morning ritual that feeds your soul is an important part of being the best teacher you can be each day.