By Jaqueta Abbey
Every day we’re constantly bombarded by external noise that emotionally drains us, causes self-doubt, and sends us looking for validation from others. Think about the amount of time you spend aimlessly scrolling through social media, watching the news, or listening to the opinions of well-meaning family and friends about your life choices. In an age where it’s easy to get swept up in collective negativity, seeking joy and celebrating one’s strengths and accomplishments are radical acts.
Center for Inspired Teaching’s July Institute, “Trusting Yourself,” aimed to help participants do just that through a blend of mindfulness techniques, discussion, improvisation-based activity, and song. The session was held both online and in-person. The photos in this post come from the in-person session.
Our session began with a walking meditation, a mindfulness activity that can be done at home, in the classroom, or wherever you like. The goal of the walking meditation is to bring awareness to your body and mind in the moment. How does your body feel as you walk around? What thoughts pop into your head? What sights, sounds, smells, and physical sensations are you noticing?
When thinking about how we might incorporate this activity into the classroom, one early childhood educator mentioned “using physical space as a teacher.” She suggested students do a mindful walk in the morning after arriving at school to see what draws their attention. You can find guidance for doing your own walking meditation here.
Reflective Writing & Discussion: Positive Learning Experiences from this Year
Director of Teacher and Learning, Jenna Fournel, asked us the following questions to guide us in writing about a personal positive learning experience from this school year: What about the experience was transformative? Was choice or freedom involved? Did you feel like you were capable? Why or why not?
After jotting down our thoughts, we broke into small groups to share for a few minutes before rejoining the larger group to debrief. My aha moment from our discussion was that learning experiences accumulate over time and help build our strengths as teachers. Sharing these experiences and lessons with colleagues is important because you realize your competence which then increases your confidence.
ABCDE of Learner Needs
As we shared our stories, conversation turned to Inspired Teaching’s ABCDE of Learner Needs. We explored this concept by thinking about needs that were and weren’t met in the stories.
As an educator, I’ve always thought about my students’ needs, but never considered my coworkers’. For example, it never occurred to me that a colleague might be acting grumpy because they’re unable to figure out how to use a new piece of technology, and therefore their need for Competence is unmet.
“I Am From” Poems
Aleta Margolis, President of Inspired Teaching, led us in an oral poetry activity based around asset-framing, the concept of shifting your perspective so that your impressions about people come from places of strength. In this activity, we did some personal reflection and free-writing in response to verbal prompts such as “What words would you use to describe this year?” and “What did you do to keep yourself healthy?” before going around the circle and reading our lists out as poems.
For example, my free-written list contained things like: frustrating, exhausting, fun, self-regulation, perseverance, emotional support, hugs. In poem-form, it translated to: “I am from frustrating. I am from exhausting. I am from fun. I am from self-regulation. I am from perseverance. I am from emotional support. I am from hugs.”
It was reassuring to find that other participants had some of the same words and themes in their poems as well.
“Who Are You?” Song
We closed out our session by learning a sweet, simple song called “Who Are You?” and its accompanying sign language gestures. No matter the grade level, singing has a number of benefits in the classroom, including sparking joy and building community. If you can speak, you can sing!
My main takeaway from this Institute is that when you feel confident about who you are, you’re in a position to create a safe space for students and the other special people in your life. It’s time to trust yourself and let your inner light shine brighter for the world to see.
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