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"Unconference" Style Professional Development Reveals Interest in Yoga in the Classrooms

A google spreadsheet was sent via e-mail from our Superintendent, explaining that our next upcoming Professional Development Day was going to be run in the "unconference" style. I was thrilled. Finally a professional development day filled with choice and interest! This approach invited teachers and staff to sign up for a time slot to present an idea, talent or skill which they thought would be interesting to share with their colleagues in the district. I could actually learn something new instead of daydreaming about what I could be doing. I also had the opportunity to be a presenter.

I had always wondered if the teachers in my district had any interest in learning how to use simple yoga tools in their classroom. Here was an opportunity to find out. As a first grade teacher and yoga teacher I have always used yoga in the classroom to calm and center my students, helping them to become "learning-ready." With all of the high levels of anxiety that children seem to suffer from these days, it is a tool which I find to work. I had taken a course over the summer in teaching teachers these simple yoga tools so here was a chance for me to experiment.

I immediately put my name in the designated 9:00 am time slot with the title "Yoga Tools for Teachers in the K-8 Classroom." Once I put my name in the slot, I immediately deleted it. Would teachers actually have an interest in this? Would I be left to sit in my classroom with no participants? Conversely, would I have too many? After doing some of the breathing that I would be teaching, I re-entered my name into the slot.

Well, I guess you never really know until you try and then...well, you still don't really know.

When 9:00 am arrived on the day of the "unconference," a few colleagues trickled into my classroom and I began to speak to them very informally about children's yoga. It seemed as if it was going to be a very intimate presentation and I began to relax. But then a wave of teachers from another school came in and then another wave after that. They just kept coming. I ran out of handouts, chairs, space on the carpet and space in general. It was standing room only and even that real estate was becoming scarce. I was wondering if I would have to hold the presentation in the hallway.

It was too late to cancel the session or run away, so I began the session with some adult yogic breathwork. In the midst of creating a calm, inviting environment for the participants, I centered myself in the process. This reminded me of the most important reason to do yoga with your students in the classroom -- to calm yourself. After all, happy teachers make happy students. They consistently follow your energetic lead throughout the day. They are the most sensitive human beings on Earth -- natural barometers of our own well-being.

After teaching simple yoga postures, games and breathwork to use with young children in the morning, during transitions, before tests and at the close of a day, I ended with a guided relaxation. Time was up and the participants made their way out of my classroom to the next session.

Did the participants like the workshop? Would they use the resources, materials and tools that I taught them? I may never know. However, my biggest take-away from this experience was knowing that there is definitely a growing interest in meditation and yoga in the classroom (demonstrated by the huge number of participants at this session). I only hope that I can continue to share what I have learned over the years and learn how to implement even more techniques ... for the overall well-being of the students.

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Comment by Irene Farmer on October 1, 2010 at 8:23pm
Thanks Dan for your support! Your session helped get many people who were interested (yet fearful) of Twitter set up accounts and get excited about it. I heard great comments about your workshop as well. What a great PD day! Hope we have many more!
Comment by Dan Callahan on October 1, 2010 at 8:25am
I'm so glad your session went well! One of the things I like best about having unconference-style PD days is precisely for the reason that it gives people an opportunity to share their own interests and passions without concern of whether it fits in to some sort of district vision or plan. Thank you so much for sharing your passion for yoga with others in the district. You helped provide a great model for people to show that PD can be about more than just curricular minutia and test scores.

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