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Connecting With Yourself

A few months ago, I injured my back. I don’t know exactly what did it, though my chiropractor thinks it’s a decent working theory that picking up my four- and six-year olds fairly regularly was a major contributor. I am often guilty of getting right into some physical task without first taking the time to stretch and get my body ready to do what it needs to do. A few weeks ago, a friend asked me if I wanted to join her at yoga, which I’ve never tried. I figured it couldn’t hurt, so why not give it a whirl?

The class was intimidating, even though it was billed for beginners. I had no idea what I was doing, and if there were ever an experience that would put me on edge, it’s something to do with how I’m moving my body or what I’m going to look like working out. (Seriously, send me to a baking class or ask me to try some kind of craft and I revel in not knowing exactly what I’m doing or how something will go—I’m happy to be process-oriented in those circumstances—but when it comes to something more physical, I freeze). The instructor was lovely. She introduced herself, and when I shared that I’ve never done yoga, she was welcoming and reassuring. Then she told me that what she wanted me to focus on for the hour was really listening to my body, moving in the ways that felt right for me, regardless of what I might see anyone else doing. She made sure I understood that I could modify things or just wait if I needed a minute.


Here's something beautiful about what she said: Listening to yourself and your own needs is always exactly the right move. I’m a people-pleaser, and it’s only in the past few years that I’ve come to understand just how unnecessarily hard that makes my life. What my instructor did in that moment is put the power back in my hands; she let me know that the only person I needed to worry about was myself. I didn’t need to focus on how I was doing something relative to my peers.


I know that this can’t be a perfect corollary to K-12 schooling. There are some things that we’re asking students to do in a particular way. But what if we could infuse more of this thinking into classrooms? What if, at every possible opportunity, we told kids they should focus on trusting themselves and listening carefully for what they needed?


Here are some ideas of how to do this:


-After getting settled, ask students to write down any questions they had about yesterday’s learning. What isn’t making sense to them now?


-All together, have your students close their eyes and focus in on themselves. Ask them what they need to get the most out of their day? Do they have extra energy? Is there something they really need to say to a friend or a message they need to get to the teacher before they can settle in?


-When students turn in work, have them write you a note about their process at the end. They can briefly tell you what it was like for them to complete it and share if there were any areas of confusion.


-At the end of the day, you could ask students what helped them. Did recess or lunch aid them in re-focusing? Was there a clear explanation of something that really made sense? Did they like how a task was organized?


-When a student does particularly well on a task, ask them to talk you through their process. What worked for them? What did they do when they felt stuck? What resources were helpful? How did they feel about the work as they did it?


At Astra, we often talk about leaning into connection when a school staff member is unsure about what avenue to try with a student. But it’s also important for any individual to feel connected with themselves to have a sense of what they need. Asking students to tune into the self is a powerful way to orient them back to their own brains and bodies. We must feel grounded and regulated to do our best work, and we cannot do that if we aren’t prioritizing listening to the feedback that our own bodies are giving us.


At the end of the yoga class, I was genuinely surprised at how much better my body felt. I was more limber and more content. Stretching my body in the ways that felt right for me, never trying to go too far just to keep up, helped more than I thought it would. It was exactly what I needed.

Have you found ways to help your students become more self-aware as learners? How do you help your students listen to themselves so they can get what they need? Please share your ideas with us!


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