As teachers, our "year" begins in September with the start of a new school year instead of in January with the start of the calendar year. So every September, I make a resolution for my "year". This year, I resolved to practice yoga at least 3 times a week. I found a studio and began my practice. Yoga has helped me to bring clarity and peace to my mind over the past 2 months and, like all good classes, has taught me something.
As I began my practice on the mat this morning, I realized how powerful this is. Although I had dabbled in yoga on and off over the past few years, I hadn't really committed myself to it. When I began practicing again, I was at a distinct disadvantage. I really had no knowledge of the vocabulary used, the poses or the routines. I was out of shape and struggling. The instructors were wonderfully helpful and encouraging. They gently coaxed me into poses and kept reminding all of us that our practice is individual and that no one's practice is like anyone else's. They encouraged all of us to do what we could. Over the past few weeks, I came to understand that my yoga practice is a journey and not a marathon. Each time I enter a pose it is different, possibly better, and uniquely my own.
As I meditated on the mat this morning before class began, it occurred to me the parallels between how we should be teaching our students and what it means to practice yoga. When teaching children we need to begin with a solid foundation and slowly build upon that foundation with each lesson and each day tweaking that learning. Education is a journey, not a marathon. As humans we learn throughout our lives. Each experience, each day, each event adds to our learning. We retain learning when it is grounded in our foundation.
In today's education reform, we are presenting information to children that is far too advanced for their development and foundation. We no longer teach letter and number formation, spelling, what it means to add and subtract and how to listen before we are teaching writing paragraphs, commutative properties of addition and subtraction and taking reading tests. This is the inherent problem in our current "college and career ready" push. The curriculum has been "back-mapped" instead of being built from the bottom up with an understanding of developmental levels. We are pushing little children to be "college and career ready" before they have even lost their baby teeth.
In my yoga class, each pose helps to build a foundation for more complicated or challenging poses. Hip openers, shoulder openers and stretches all help us get ready for back bends, inversions and other poses. In our classrooms, we must do the same. In the primary grades, we need to lay the groundwork for future learning. If we are spending all our time on the complex tasks and testing, we are shortchanging our students of the foundation they deserve and require. We must support and scaffold that learning all while remembering to honor the children for who they are.
As we work through each of the poses in yoga, there are built-in "shavasanas" or rest periods that allow the body to absorb the stretching and learning. In education, we need to do that too. Children cannot sustain long periods of learning. There need to be breaks, or shavasanas, to help them absorb the learning. Time off is necessary just as is time to play and time to relax and just be. Recess is important as is time to socialize and time to be with family and friends.
At the end of every yoga class, we end with a shared "Namaste". Essentially, this means: The Light in Me Honors the Light in You. This is the most essential lesson that we must remember in Education. We absolutely must honor the light in every child. Each one is unique and each child has value. We must honor their journey through their learning and remember that their journey is uniquely their own.