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4 Ways Schools Can Support Students and Educators as We Return to In-Person Learning

4 ways schools can support students and educators as we return to in person learning
MB BLOG Art Mar25

School districts nationwide have done their best to adapt quickly to evolving public health concerns during COVID, while not compromising the safety of students, families, and faculty.

Still, the return to “school” in the form of in-person classes, virtual coursework, and hybrid models has proven no less chaotic than the abrupt transition to virtual learning we experienced last spring. While academic learning and lesson plans are important, our priority when it comes to getting back to school needs to be clear. There is a childhood mental health crisis sitting just under the surface for an entire generation of children who are not getting what they need developmentally, emotionally, and otherwise.

Throughout remote learning, we’ve seen missed opportunities for adults to check in in-person on students’ emotional and mental wellbeing, leading to an inability to prevent violence, suicide surges, or bullying. There’s been a lack of socialization, especially for younger students, meaning missed opportunities to practice the social and emotional skills that come from play that will serve them for a lifetime, such as waiting turns, managing impulses, active listening, and empathizing with others.

Once we return to the classroom at full capacity, students will have a new set of challenges to overcome. Beyond decreased in-person interaction, the racial and economic disparities that the virus presents are also exacerbating the mental health crisis. Children in marginalized communities often experience high frequencies of trauma, grief, and loss.

Schools are the safe havens that provide an escape — and critical supports. Schools provide mental health resources, support for families in crisis, regular hot meals, a safe place to be, and adults who are qualified to care for children’s safety and wellbeing after experiencing trauma. During the pandemic, access to resources has been limited and students’ wellbeing has suffered as a result — even in scenarios where academic gains have not been compromised. 

So what can we do? Here are 4 ways schools can prioritize the mental health of students and educators as we prepare to return to in-person schooling:

  1. Prioritize deliberate, sequential, evidence-based social emotional learning programs for students and training for staff. In math and reading we learn the basics first and build on those tools to eventually master more complicated skills. Similarly, we base our social and emotional health on foundational knowledge we are taught as young children, and we continue to strengthen and practice these skills as we grow. 
  2. We have to put on our own oxygen masks prior to taking care of others. Be cognizant of educator wellbeing broadly, and understand the systemic impact this has on students. As we return to classrooms, teachers must be guaranteed access to mental health resources and their own social emotional support programs, PPE and safety equipment in their classrooms. Longer term efforts to improve educator wellbeing should include providing benefits like health insurance and a living wage. In too many states, this is not the reality for educators.
  3. Focus on ways to keep schools open, while protecting public health. In Europe, positive COVID-19 cases continue to rise, but schools remain open with limited incidents of spread. Their prioritization of both the near-term physical health of children as well as their long-term mental and emotional wellbeing is an example that we should emulate here. Recently the U.S.’s largest school district, New York City, closed in-person learning in an effort to prevent COVID from spreading. Like our friends in Europe, we should instead be prioritizing advancements and protocols that allow school doors to remain open in a way that protects the health and safety of our educators and students.
  4. Lead with trauma informed, anti-racist practices. For many school communities, the pandemic has compounded the economic and racial inequalities that affect our children. Trauma-informed, anti-racist practices not only support our students through this challenging year, but build safer, more equitable school communities for all of our children. We can learn from educators like Mathew Portell, principal of Fall-Hamilton Elementary and 2020-21 Elementary School Principal of the Year at Metro Nashville Public Schools who shared the trauma-informed practices of his school in a recent episode of the Saracast: Conversations in Social Emotional Learning

As vaccines begin to be distributed, the light at the end of a very long tunnel is finally starting to show. However, it won’t be just this year that looks different for educators, families and students — it will be every year moving forward.

And maybe that’s a good thing. The reality is that our educational system wasn’t built to adequately support educators and students at a time as pivotal as this. In fact, these times have exposed that the system has been lacking for a long time. Let this be a catalyst for us to reprioritize how we think about education and how we can best serve students. The strides that we will need to make to account for the regression of an entire generation are significant, but not insurmountable. There is innovative, effective, life-changing teaching happening right now — but the system as a whole is too rigid to adapt to the 21st century, much less a global pandemic.

We can no longer ignore this, and the work starts now. We owe it to our future generations to make up for lost time and come out of this pandemic working toward a stronger, more innovative, more adaptable education system that supports our youth to navigate life’s inevitable challenges and stressors with resiliency and confidence. 

Image by iStock/Getty Images 


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Teachers Should Not Carry the Weight of Education Alone

teachers should not carry the weight of education alone
SEL

Last spring, no one knew how much chaos the pandemic would impose on our lives, or how long the pain would last. The weeks have stretched into months as COVID-19 continues to spread in many parts of the country. The return to “school” in the forms of in-person classes, virtual coursework, and pandemic pods has proven no less chaotic than the abrupt transition to virtual learning we experienced last spring.  

Unfortunately, very few of the conversations around school reopenings have been about students and what is best for our children, or the families struggling with job loss, illness, or food insecurity unable to meet all of their children’s needs when school buildings are closed. The closures of school buildings are at the core of many challenges families are experiencing that have to do with more than just learning — a clear sign that our schools play a critical social service function for students.

Schools have long provided several social services for students—everything from mental health and nutrition to career guidance. When schools offer these types of wraparound services, students’ achievement rates improve. Conversely, when schools fail to provide comprehensive support, educators are overextended, leading to high burnout rates. 

We have relied too heavily on teachers and schools to provide these various services our children require without providing adequate resources and budget to do so. The stress the pandemic has put on school systems has exposed how untenable this model is, physically, emotionally, and financially for everyone involved. 

Schools Need to Help Teachers Support Student Well-Being

COVID-19 has given us a chance to rethink how many of these essential services, including education, mental health, and nutrition, schools should carry alone.

We now have an opportunity to reimagine what our schools can provide for children. We can do so by tapping into a broader range of community resources to share responsibility. Low-income and special needs children are at the most risk of suffering consequences for a lifetime, as many school districts cannot sustain the temporary relief models used last spring. The ongoing, multifaceted crisis many districts face from COVID-19 continues to threaten the emotional and physical well-being of our most vulnerable children.

In May, a survey reported on by The Conversation found that one of the most stressful aspects of teachers’ jobs during the pandemic is addressing the needs of vulnerable students. The report also cited that teachers need more support from parents and administrators. So what can we do to help?

Here are three immediate steps we can take to expand the help and support we extend to our teachers and students.

  1. Schools must prioritize children who have been impacted the most this fall. School boards, administrators, educators, and community organizations can work together to spread the responsibility of childcare and other essential services across different platforms and services. State and federal agencies, local companies, and nonprofit organizations can all step in to provide additional support, funding, and relief. Pandemic pods have been an example of an immediate solution, and some nonprofits have stepped-up to provide equity in this model for every student, including homeless students. For example, Nevada has created the Southern Nevada Urban Micro Academy to provide micro-schooling options for those who cannot afford pandemic pods.

     

  2. Rather than scrambling to support students properly during times of crisis, school districts can coordinate with parents and community partners to proactively provide educators with the budgets and resources they need. For instance, in Minnesota, Belle Plaines Public School District supplemented its mental health support for students by partnering with a community-based intensive therapeutic services center for teenagers. School districts and communities across the country should look to models like this when coming up with their own plans to increase support for students this school year. 
  3. Perhaps the most urgent service we can offer students and teachers right now is social emotional learning. Policymakers, local governments, school boards and districts need to allocate within their budgets so that  schools can implement SEL programs for PreK-12 classes as well as teacher training to implement those programs. Educators ought to offer all students the time and space to process their emotions and build the skills required to persevere through challenges, like the pandemic. To that end, carving out time for SEL in their daily schedules (online and in person), providing reliable resources to both teachers and families, and empowering teachers to put relationships first are important steps to take. Durham Public Schools in North Carolina has been solely virtual for the first 9 weeks of school, and have dedicated Wednesdays to social emotional learning. They call them Wellness Wednesdays, and there is no instruction on those days, just social emotional learning. This is a district-wide commitment to making time for SEL when students and teachers need it most.

We cannot expect educators to manage and support students’ mental health and other needs when their own have been overlooked. As we try to adapt to all of the new challenges of remote or hybrid learning, we ought to be intentional in how we provide both children and teachers resources designed to support them. That’s why we must see districts partner with community organizations, parent associations, and more. 

For most of us, COVID-19 has represented a significant and ongoing disruption in our lives. But we continue to move forward, and our educational system can, too. We have a chance to work with a new generation of parents, educators, and community leaders that has been forever altered by the pandemic — to rethink how to help juggle all the priorities surrounding education and build something better.

We must find creative solutions and work together to build a solid foundation upon which we can layer a series of wraparound services for children that can be implemented immediately and expanded upon over time. By doing so, we can design our educational system in such a way that it can weather a global pandemic while still meeting the long-term needs of students, families, and teachers.

Image by Getty


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I’m Quitting Yoga Forever

I skipped my sun salutes on Saturday and Sunday. My girls were both sick this weekend and there was no sleep happening in our house. No sleep. 

I thought about doing it both days! I did, I thought “I should do my salutes!”. But the physical energy required to do 6 and 7 salutes per day was too daunting. The days were too busy and hectic, there was no break in the day to do them. And at night…..you know that feeling when you sit down for the first time after a very long day, your body collapses into a heap on the couch and then your muscles instantly shut down completely, so you are like a big blob of human on the couch… and then remember that one thing you forgot on your to-do list? 

UGGGGGG. 

And then you have a choice. I can somehow pull my blob of a body together and just GET. IT. DONE. Or….couchhhhhhhh. 

So yea. The couch won both nights. 

Of course this means that I am OUT of the challenge. I failed. I missed two days. I can’t continue now, what’s the point? In fact, I should probably never step onto my yoga mat again. I simply cannot face the embarrassment. It’s over. I might as well roll up my mat with super glue, hang a big “CLOSED FOREVER” sign on The Yoga Loft door, and pursue my backup plan of being a social media influencer for sweats and mom buns! 

Or. I mean…maybe I’ll just do 1 sun salute right now. Just 1 to close out my practice for this lifetime. 

Oh! That felt pretty good, actually! Ok ONE more, and then that is IT. FOREVER. 

Oh wow. That got the spot in my mid-back that has been aching for days. You know that little spot right on the inner edge of the shoulder blade?! Ok LAST one, here we go.

OH MY GODDDD. I can’t give this up!!! Never ever!! Yoga is LIFE! Yoga is the only thing that can ground me like this during the most insane year of my existence. It is the only physical practice that can give me more energy than it takes. It gives life to my soul, meaning to my life. I LOVE YOU, YOGAAAA! I am so sorry I ever considered leaving you. Please, forgive me. I promise I will never ever skip another day of sun salutes again. 

(approximately 3 days later…) 

So. I skipped my sun salutes today. The day was just too….

Does this pattern sound familiar?! I tried to make light of it (there are more than enough serious things in life these days), but want you to know that this daily battle with yoga (or any other healthy habit) is SO NORMAL and exists for everyone. If this is you – try to allow this ebb and flow to happen. Some days you will be on top of your game, and others – not so much. We rise, and we fall, we rise, and we fall…it’s all good. We’ll get to where we are meant to be at one point or another! 

If you would like a community of yogis to rise and fall together with – join us in The Yoga Haven – our free online community where we provide encouragement, inspiration, yoga & meditation videos, and more! Our Sun Salutes Challenge is ongoing through the month of February – you are welcome to participate, or not 😉

www.facebook.com/groups/theyogahaven

Source: The Yoga Loft (A DreamGalaxy Trusted Brand)

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Classes are now live-streamed online!!

Since we are currently unable to practice together in person, join us online for your favorite yoga classes instead! It’s very simple to join the online classroom – start today so that you can continue your regular practice throughout this challenging time. 

Cost: pay what you can* (recommended minimum: $10) 

As a small business, having to close our doors for any amount of time is extremely challenging and a big financial hit. We ask you to support our studio and our teachers as much as you can. However, we also understand that these are hard times for some of you – and want you to know that WE are here to support YOU, too. If you are out of work, lost your job, or suffering financially – please pay what you can afford. All are welcome to join us in our virtual classroom. 

(This schedule is currently being updated. Please check back daily!)

Mondays
6:00pm Level 1/2 flow with Sally

Tuesdays
9:15am Level 1/2 flow with Carrie

6:00pm Level 1 with Jamie 

Wednesdays
9:30am Level 1/2 flow with Melanie
4:30pm Gentle  Yoga with Megan
5:45pm Prenatal/Postnatal Yoga with Megan

Thursdays
9:15am Level 2 flow with Carrie

6:00pm Level 1 with Larissa

7:30pm Yoga Nidra with Miriam

Fridays
9:30am Level 1/2 flow with Melanie

Saturdays
9:00am Level 2 flow with Carrie

Sundays
10:00am Level 2/3 with Miriam

register here:

Source: The Yoga Loft (A DreamGalaxy Trusted Brand)

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Let’s Get Philosophical!

I have the great honor of being able to teach the basics of yoga philosophy a couple of times a year in various 200hr teacher trainings. This allows the content to stay very fresh in my mind. 

When something is reinforced enough, it becomes harder to ignore, so the knowledge ultimately keeps me accountable to make sure that I am living my yoga every day, in every way. I also try to incorporate different philosophical topics in my weekly asana classes so that my regular students get little morsels of what else the practice has to offer beyond the physical benefits. I fall in love with each sutra all over again each time I revisit it and can see how new life experiences apply to the lesson. 

However, I find I always come back to the kleshas as the most impactful and powerful concept. The kleshas provide a logical, practical way of looking at the obstacles in your life and seeing what’s really going on. It allows us to take the emotion out of it and just looking at each situation objectively, which is so helpful and important. 

A short overview of the kleshas can be found here.

What’s your favorite yoga philosophy topic? I really want to know!

Source: The Yoga Loft (A DreamGalaxy Trusted Brand)

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Winter Blues? We’ve got your back.

There are plenty of healthy, fun, and practical ways to get yourself through these next few weeks of winter and closer to the spring time! You can start by joining us for an upcoming workshop, class or training. There is nothing like a warm and welcoming community to help “turn your frown upside down.” Read the article below on Winter Blues, it includes great tips like sharing a pot of stew or going for a brisk walk. There is also a video in there with one of my favorite teachers, Seane Corn.

Also, be sure to stop by our #loftlove wall and leave a message! XO

Source: The Yoga Loft (A DreamGalaxy Trusted Brand)

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Her Soul is Perfect.

I found myself with a surprise window of time where I didn’t have to take care of any children, so I decided to go on the walk that I always love to take whenever we come up to the Berkshires.

I started out and thought to myself, ‘I took this walk with my mom once and she was so excited and giddy about seeing a wild turkey.’ Then, I paused my thoughts for a while and took in the scenery.

Minutes later, I thought, ‘It would be lovely to see some sign from my mom.’ Then, I looked at my phone and got really absorbed in an important text thread for a while.

The moment I looked up from my phone, I was looking at the exact spot where my mom and I saw the wild turkey.

Whether that’s an actual sign or not, it was enough to make me instantly burst into a completely surprising, ugly, major cry for a few minutes. In that moment, I realized that, even seven years after her death, I still miss her so much. And so many of the activities that I enjoy in my life are because they help me feel closer to her.

After some significant time since her death, her physical absence now feels equally like a gift and a curse. Of course, I would rather she be here, but in another way, I’ve learned how to always have her around and truly focus on the best parts of her. The living people we love don’t have the same luxury. Because humans are flawed but her soul is perfect.

I am thankful to the Universe for the knowledge, for my memories and for Love.

Source: The Yoga Loft (A DreamGalaxy Trusted Brand)

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2020 Goals Reimagined.

It’s funny how one date on the calendar can propel people into making big changes in their lives. Did you know that 98% of new years resolutions are not resolved? Maybe the expectations are too unrealistic or maybe there isn’t a consistent intention to back up the resolution. I love the practice of yoga because each time we get on our mat we are given the opportunity to begin again, not just once a year, but as often as we want. And then there’s no such thing as failure, only minor setbacks on our path to becoming the best version of ourselves. As long as our intention remains clear and constant and we are reaffirming the importance of our resolutions every day, we can begin and end 2020 knowing that we do everything we can every day to show up fully.

I’ve made a few important changes in my life recently that will allow me to spend more time with my family, nurture my own yoga practice and have more freedom to travel!

What are your goals for 2020? Leave your comments below!

Thank you for reading! ~ Megan

Source: The Yoga Loft (A DreamGalaxy Trusted Brand)

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What Were You Doing in January of 2010?

(Originally published here and republished with permission):

As we close out a decade and move into the 2020’s, many people are taking inventory of their last 10 years. What were you were doing in January of 2010? Take a couple of minutes to ponder these questions:

~ What was I celebrating 10 years ago?

~ What were some of the big, stand-out milestones of the decade?

~ What awards or accolades come to mind?

~ What felt like failure? Consider, that as a society, we are prone to assess ourselves based on goals met and achievements acknowledged. It’s easier for our brains to think about our lives in this way (hey, EGO!) so many people go along with this without giving it a second thought. However, yoga asks us to consider how we’ve progressed on our spiritual path, prompting us to ask ourselves questions like these: 

~ How have my relationships changed? 

~ Are there brand new people in my life 10 years later? 

~ How do I show love to those people? 

~ Who have I had to let go of? Who have I mourned? 

~ How have I done with my inner work? 

~ How has my soul grown and stretched to new levels, especially in regard to my capacity to love? 

~ How do I show love to myself today compared to 10 years ago? 

I bet that even if you haven’t given this considerable thought until right now, you can accept that some measurable growth in your spiritual journey has occurred. The most wonderful thing about this kind of growth is that it never ends. We are always evolving. Change is inevitable. We become better at embracing inevitability as time goes on if we embrace the process of transformation. We must stay curious and open-minded on this journey of self-realization. Congratulations to your soul’s evolution in the 2010’s! 🙂

Source: The Yoga Loft (A DreamGalaxy Trusted Brand)

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Practice Self-Care this Holiday Season

practice self care this holiday season
Image result for santa yoga pose

The holidays are upon us!

If you’ve been in class with me at any point since Thanksgiving, you’ve heard me sing your praises! Self-care is such a hard thing to keep up with during this EXTRA busy time of year. My classes are always quieter between Thanksgiving and New Years and I can come with a number of reasons why. Even if you don’t celebrate the holidays, it’s challenging not to get caught up in the busy-ness vibe that’s floating all around.

So when you stroll in this December, unroll your mat and settle in to take care of you, we teachers here at the Yoga Loft are so impressed! Not only do you benefit greatly from your choice to go to yoga, but everyone you come in contact with benefits from your choice as well. With self-care as part of your routine, you can serve from a place of love, patience and presence vs. burn-out and resentment.

‘Tis the season to give yourself the gift of yoga!

Source: The Yoga Loft (A DreamGalaxy Trusted Brand)