The Conscious Classroom

The Joy of Returning to Class - However that looks

October 21, 2020 Episode 22
The Conscious Classroom
The Joy of Returning to Class - However that looks
Show Notes Transcript

COVID-19 has changed all our lives. Students, Teachers, Parents . . . . But regardless of the medium you are going back to school - online or in person or blended, it really is great to be back in class. Learning, teaching, connecting is perhaps more important than ever. When you don't take school for granted, which we can't in these times, the school connections become even more precious. Enjoy this exploration and some guided meditation. 

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The Joy of Returning to Class
However that looks!

The Conscious Classroom Podcast with Amy Edelstein

[00:00:01] Welcome to the Conscious Classroom. My name is Amy Edelstein, and I'm looking forward to sharing with you some aspects of what it's like to work in schools when they're online and how to help engage students and bring them tools of calm, curiosity, and care. 


[00:00:24] This week was the first week back in class for Inner Strength. We are teaching about 50 classrooms a week, giving students a little break from academics and challenging them to grow inwardly. Challenging them to stretch their minds and curiosity and sense of discovery in new ways. As you can imagine, online teaching is a really different event. All of the little exchanges of information and friendship and community that happen between teachers and their colleagues and students and their peers just aren't available in the same way. 


[00:01:14] It's hard for everyone. One thing that's nice about the challenges is that it is making teachers and students a little bit more easy with each other. Teachers get ocked out of their online classroom. Students can't make their audio work. Teachers can't make their audio work. Everyone's everyone's a little easy around it. Students are relying on teachers to help them figure out where to find their homework. Teachers are relying on students to figure out technology and help them  do breakout rooms. There's an exchange and support and a nice relatedness over the challenges. This is all creating community in an interesting way. 


[00:02:16] Students are able to share a little bit more with their families, like it or not, in some situations, because many people are working from home. A lot of caretakers are at home. Essential workers are out and having their their kids stay with other friends or relatives. There are adults around in the background of online classes. In one of my classes,  a student start sharing what we were doing with their mother who was in the kitchen behind them. We were doing mindful movement and the mom came out and started doing mindful movement together with all of us.  I was able to share with all the students that these are tools we can do with your friends, your family, your siblings, your parents. So we're starting to be able to integrate education back into the home. Learning needs to be part of the home life and home life needs to be part of learning. 


[00:03:25] I know these times are hard. I wouldn't wish them on us.  I can't wait until it's safe enough for all of us to be back in school together, of course, in person is a better way to learn, where students can build relationships in person with their with their friends, with their teachers, and where teachers can keep their eye out for students in person rather than rely on camera. But this kind of blending of home and school has some positive elements to it. One girl raised her hand virtually in our online classroom and I kept calling on her. Then finally she texted "My cat walked across my keyboard and raised my virtual hand. I'm fine." These kind of little interruptions, little humanize the classroom. 


[00:04:37] Students share they share little bits of life. This is something that we can value and we can look at how to continue when this is over. As you're going through your school day whether you're a parent with your students online at home, or you're a teacher trying to figure out how to relate to students, pay attention to these little moments of porousness. These moments of blending the home life and the school life and letting down the barriers are good. These barriers got created  out of formality and out of protection of privacy and confidentiality. But sometimes they have erased our relatedness.


[00:05:29] Let's look for those ways to create relatedness and keep connecting with each other. Keep noticing these bits of life that make us who we are and make our students say they are. 


[00:05:50] I'm going to give you a few tips that will help you create a relationship in the classroom: 


[00:05:58] 1) When students come on line and you see their names pop up online, welcome them one by one, call their name and ask them how they are. 


[00:06:11] 2) Put a question in the chat that can be answered on a scale of one to five. "How are you doing today?" "What was your favorite thing that happened between the moment you woke up and now something little, something positive?" Invite the students to share something small, something positive. It may have been a totally hectic morning. Maybe their little siblings were crying. Maybe parents were struggling to get out the door to their essential jobs, maybe the parents were worried about contagion, worried about their kids being alone, worried about the economy. So many concerns these days. Maybe the students felt it. But instead of focusing on one "do over" one thing that happened this morning that you wish hadn't happened. Keep your students' focus on the positive. 


[00:07:14] It's not avoidance. When we share happy things, funny things, good things, celebrations with each other, it creates intimacy. It creates a sense of knowing each other. It amplifies that good experience for the student. 


[00:07:33] It extends that good experience to all those who hear about. Type the question in the chat and also ask it out loud. Ask them to pop one thing into the chat as they join the class, as they are getting their cameras on.


[00:07:56] 3) When you put your students in breakout rooms, I encourage you to do at least once per class, if not twice during each class, so they can talk to their peers. Ask them to turn on their camera just for five seconds. Say hello. Say hi to your friends. And then they can turn the cameras back off. In our school district, we don't require cameras on because of privacy, confidentiality, and equity. But what we can encourage students to turn their cameras on in order to socialize with their friends. It invites them into a relationship and it invites them to not be isolated and alone. So try that. 


[00:08:55] Here's a short meditation  you can do with your students to help create a sense of community, a sense of connectedness. Even as we're separated and even as we're doing what we usually do in person through a screen, being mediated, meditation still helps. 


[00:09:30] So take your best mindfulness  posture. With your spine tall, your head balanced on top of your neck. 


[00:09:39] If your spine is feeling a little bit cramped, tight try a small twist. 


[00:09:51] Reaching your right arm over your left knee, looking over your left shoulder. Man made your left over your right, look over your right shoulder, wring your spine out a little. 


[00:10:17] Settle into a relaxed position where your spine is tall and aligned, but not tense. Your head is balance.  Your feet are resting on the floor, your hands are soft and relaxed. 


[00:10:42] Now, pay attention to the sounds in the room. Notice every sound that you can in your home surroundings. Keep your focus on the sounds that are inside the house. 


[00:11:21] Maybe you hear a heater working or an air conditioning. 


[00:11:31] Tapping of pipes, running of water. 


[00:11:49] Maybe you hear noises from your own body, your stomach growling a little. 


[00:12:07] Now pay attention to all the sounds outside your building


[00:12:20] Traffic. 


[00:12:48] Now, picture everyone else in the class also listening to sounds outside their building. 


[00:12:58] All the sounds of the city. Everyone is hearing sounds of the city, sounds like the town. Sounds of the neighborhood. Similar sounds to the ones you are hearing. 


[00:13:35] Imagine you could hear all this same thing. 


[00:14:05] Imagine that everyone else in their class is also listening to all the same thing. 


[00:14:16] Listening to the same sounds from wherever they are. 


[00:14:26] Picture everyone, like little dots of light. All sitting, all listening, all hearing. Now, bring your sense of hearing back into your room in your house or building. 


[00:15:13] And then listen even more closely to the sounds just in your body. The breath, your swallow, the  little creaks and movements. 


[00:15:59] And you can bring your attention back. 


[00:16:06] Allow your eyes to open, if they have been closed. 


[00:16:10] Move your head gently from side to side. Wiggle your fingers and toes. Stretch your back a little bit. As you start to reconnect with all your other senses, noticing everything around you, take a moment and notice if you feel more centered, more tranquil, more peaceful. Notice if you also feel a little more aware of everyone else who is also listening, also connecting. Also paying attention to all the scenes in your neighborhood. 


[00:17:28] Mindful listening is a really easy mindfulness practice that you can do with your students. 


[00:17:38] You can use it to help them get centered, feel calm. Also if they listen very carefully, it takes away a certain feeling of being alone, in a very interesting way. When you're listening for things outside you, you're listening so intently there's an intimacy with the self. And then when you imagine everyone else listening, you imagine that same soft intimacy. That softness is being created in general and that sense of softness is what helps you feel connected. It will help the students feel connected one to another. They're going to relate to others from that same point of intimacy. That mindful listening brings that intimacy with the self, connection with the self, softness towards the self, kindness towards yourself. That type of soft practice of listening is a very gentle practice. It's easy. It's easy for the students to do. It is easy to connect. 


[00:19:01] As you move through these weeks, please notice the openings, the possibilities, the willingness to try new things and the willingness to blur lines in a positive way. Notice the porousness now re-connecting school and home. Erasing the boundaries that kept parents and students apart from each other so many hours a day, and that kept teachers in an isolated bubble where students often didn't relate to them as people. Now when our students see us with our pets, with our own children, with our own fumbling through technology, it humanizes us. We're now just this distant authority. And it allows that humanity to bring more connection so that we can really be there for our students and they can be there for each other. You can really create a classroom filled with support, intimacy and connection and welcome in a world that can feel, at the moment, a little bit too harsh. 


[00:20:25] It's great to explore these things together. 


[00:20:28] Thanks so much for listening. I look forward to bring you more insights from the classroom, making all of our classrooms more conscious, more caring, more filled with curiosity and, of course, compassion. Take care. And stay healthy.