Mindfulness with One Simple Yoga Practice


This has been a difficult school year to begin anything new; in July I moved back to the US after living abroad for seven years, and in many ways, I felt like I was starting my career all over again. I needed to find the stability in the little things, simplify daily routines and procedures, and I knew my students would benefit from this as well. I have been using several mindfulness exercises from the book Sitting Still Like a Frog by Eline Snel, and recently I learned about a simple yoga practice that I can use with students to help calm them down... Especially helpful for this time of year! This technique can be used with the entire class as a mindfulness routine, or even with a student who is prone to outbursts... Basically, at any time when calmer, clearer thinking is needed.

Here's how it works: Simply close your eyes and use your thumb to cover the right nostril. Continue breathing through the left nostril. To achieve the best results, time the breathing to create a rhythm; for example, a 4-second inhale and an equally timed exhale. Continue for 30 seconds to two minutes (or longer).

I only learned about this last week, but it worked wonders the first time I tried it. I will definitely be putting this into regular practice with my students. We all benefit from a calmer, clearer mind.


Do you have any other tips or tricks that helps calm your students? I'd love to hear what works for you!



Five for Friday! {April 17, 2015}

Are you ready for the weekend?! That's right, it's time again for another Five for Friday with Doodle Bugs Teaching!



 


Forget the green smoothies. I've been addicted to these sweet treats this week.

  
Wow. We're back from Spring Break and the kids are acting like it's the end of the year! To avoid the end-of-day drama (a.k.a. taking 20 minutes to pack up), I've begun to use GoNoodle as an incentive. If the kids get ready to go home quickly, they get a brain break! It ends up saving us about 7 minutes per day. But the sanity it saves is priceless. What's your end of day routine?

  
We've been learning about forces and motion, and this week we experimented with building towers from marshmallows and toothpicks. Students learned about gravity, foundations of structures, and distribution of weight. They were SO focused and engaged, and I couldn't believe how well they were working together and communicating their ideas. I wish I could do experiments like these every day!

 
 
 



 

During independent reading, students have been reading with the Epic! app on their iPads. If you aren't familiar with this app, you should check it out. It's free for educators, and it provides lots of options for students to read from different genres, levels, and categories of interest.


  
  

Spring Break is over, but it was less than one week ago that I visited Napa Valley. It's always so beautiful there! 

I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

How Ski Season Made Me a Better Teacher


Recently, I was fortunate enough to go on a 5-day ski trip with all of my second graders. Don't get me wrong, there were times I didn't feel so lucky... When multiple students were getting sick on the bus, or while trying to keep track of 4,000 hats, gloves, scarves, and snow boots. But one of the best lessons I learned from this trip was one I wasn't expecting.

Let me start off by saying I was amazed by the confidence and eager positivity of my students. Even the ones who had never stepped foot onto a snowy mountain were ready to put on their boots, skis, and practically take a flying leap off the slopes. My nerves, on the other hand, were a mess. I was about to ski down a small mountain (with an instructor), I hadn't been skiing for more than 8 years, and I was just plain scared.



And then I realized something. I rarely do anything that I'm not good at. I rarely try anything new. Sure, I love to travel and explore new places, but I've always felt good at that, independent enough to get off a plane and wander around a city I'd never been to, even if I didn't speak its language. But this was different. I couldn't remember the last time I tried a new activity where I was afraid of failure. 

All of my students assumed I was an expert skier until I told them I was an almost-beginner. They were surprised to see me in this new light, and I loved that. I always try to impress upon them that teachers don't know everything, that we're always learning just like they are... and this was the perfect opportunity to demonstrate that.

After all, how often do we expect our students to try something new? To apply a new strategy to their learning? To use new language to work through problems and to express themselves? To put one brave foot forward and do something they're not comfortable with? All the time, right? But how often do we acknowledge what a special moment this is for them? A delicate, vulnerable moment when they need our support and feedback? Do we give them the tools they need to feel successful, to want to continue, to make another attempt at something else? How often do we put ourselves in their shoes?

I thought of these questions as I skied down my biggest mountain yet. With my ski instructor at my side, she watched each move I made, and gave me specific feedback accordingly. "Put more weight on your right leg now... Lean forward, not backward... Find a rhythm for your turns, like this" (demonstrating).  With each piece of feedback, I felt more confident, and felt myself improving. The connection between specific feedback and feeling successful hit me immediately. After all, isn't this what we do while teaching? Figure out what the student needs, and offer specific feedback for him to reach the next step? Even though I'd had a quick lesson (direct instruction) at the bottom of the slope before ascending, it only provided an overview of what I might need when I finally began descending the mountain. Without someone there beside me, I wouldn't have felt the success I did, that's for sure.


One final note. Even though I felt triumphant when I reached the bottom of that mountain, I wasn't sure I was ready for more. I questioned whether I had the strength to do it again. I was ready to call it a day, but another teacher on that slope didn't let me. "Come on, you have to go again!" she encouraged me. "The second time will be even easier, you'll see!" And I knew she was right. I just needed that little push, and I was ready. Of course, I immediately made the connection between this genuine encouragement on the slopes to the encouragement we provide our students. And then I realized: It really does make a difference.


This trip left a huge impression on me. It helped me realize how infrequently we face our fears as adults, and how much our perception can change when we do the same things we ask of our students. When we ask students to take risks, to learn from each other, do we lead by example? 

Currently... April!

Well, friends, it's April! And I'm ready! Not only because April means Spring Break, but also because it's that magical time of year when the weather is beautiful and the kids are making so many connections between the things we've been learning all year!


Listening: I have no idea what to watch on Netflix anymore. I feel like I've gone through everything, so now I'm starting over, re-watching the classics. Any recommendations?

Loving: It's finally my turn! I've been so envious of everyone else's Spring Break, and mine is (finally!) here at 3:15 tomorrow! I'll be staying close to home, traveling to Santa Cruz for a long weekend, but then having a staycation here in San Francisco.

Thinking: Mmmm chocolate chip cookies. I've been seriously craving a batch of these. And there will be plenty of time to make them next week! :) What are your favorite desserts?

Wanting: It has been a while since my last shopping trip. I was getting shipments from Stitch Fix for a few months, but then decided to postpone until the weather/season changed. I'm definitely ready for some new pieces to brighten my wardrobe. I tend to wear only navy, gray, and black during the winter.

Needing: It's no secret that this is a difficult time of year for most teachers. There are so many things left to do, and with time ticking away, it feels like we'll never meet our yearly goals. But there's still almost three months of school (for us, anyway), so I will try to enjoy the small victories every chance I get.

My blog name: Originally, I wanted to include travel in my blog name somehow. Especially while living abroad, travel was such an important piece of my life. But eventually I decided on One Lucky Teacher because it was more of a "big picture" kind of name. I really do feel lucky in so many ways... Lucky to be in a career I love... Lucky to live in an incredible city... Lucky to have wonderful friends and family... Lucky to be able to enjoy life in general. I want to remember that even though I've worked incredibly hard for what I have, there has also been an element of luck. I'm so grateful to do what I do and live the life I have.



Five for Friday! {March 27, 2015}

I'm happy to finally link up again with Doodle Bugs Teaching and Five for Friday! It has been a very busy week as we approach Spring Break, and we're all feeling the pressure to do as much as we can before the end of the year. Here is a peek at my week.





I really look forward to breakfasts like these overnight oats. They're such a treat in the morning! And the possibilities for flavors are practically endless... oats with fruit, brown sugar & cinnamon, coconut milk vs. regular milk, etc. What do you do for breakfast? Sometimes I feel like I'm the only person who HAS TO eat breakfast.


Since we're fully immersed in nonfiction reading and writing, I thought this great book of poetry would be a nice change of pace from the typical informational text. I absolutely love it. (And the kids love it too!) It has a winter theme, and although we haven't really experienced winter here in California this year, I thought my students could still get into the wintry mood with this book. It's a beautiful blend of science, vocabulary, and stunning illustrations.

Have you seen the Weird But True series from National Geographic Kids? These colorful books are packed with interesting tidbits that your students will be talking about for days. To be honest, I'm having a hard time maintaining our usual quiet reading time because all of the students want to read to friends and share EVERYthing they're learning. I admit, it's a good problem to have. :) The pic on the right is a selection of biographies that the school just ordered for us. There are some great ones about famous people (Gandhi, Noah Webster, Jacques Cousteau) in a very kid-friendly (and beautifully illustrated) format.


 



We've been spending a lot of time reading informational texts and discussing our thinking with partners. These pics show students looking for opinion words the author used. 





Our favorite part of the week was definitely the experiments. As part of our informational writing unit, we're learning how to write lab reports to demonstrate our thinking and learning through the scientific process. Our first few experiments have been related to force and motion, i.e., how different surfaces affect the speed of items rolling down ramps of varying heights and inclines. Every student was on task and recording their observations and results. It was amazing. 

Happy weekend!

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