Smell the flowers…blow out the candles

Join me on the carpet

After the eggs have been eaten, the milk has been drunk, and the teeth have been brushed the school day begins. The lead teacher signifies the day is beginning by standing on the front carpet while playing relaxing quiet music. The children join her at the carpet as she beings to do simple yoga movements. As she progresses through the movements more and more children make their way to the carpet until the entire class is engulfed in tree poses, touching their toes, rolling their neck, ,mountain poses, and channeling their inner yogi.

After the teacher is done leading the yoga movements she takes a seat in her chair as the children sit on the carpet. She grabs a Hoberman Sphere ( aka that really fun toy you had as a kid that gets big then shrinks back down) and begins a breathing exercise. As the ball gets larger the students smell the flowers (deep inhale), and it condenses back down they blow out the candles (deep exhale). The students will typically be led through about 4 deep breaths with this technique, before she moves on to beginning name recognition and center time.

Hoberman Sphere Breathing

Take a deep breath with a hoberman sphere for kids

Are we just smelling flowers and blowing out candles, or can it be something more?

While doing the yoga poses alongside 17 three and four year olds and sitting criss cross applesauce on the carpet smelling flowers and blowing out candles (yes I actually was saying that in my head as I was doing that) I found myself relaxing and my mind beginning to clear for the day ahead.

I noticed how almost all of the children after the mindful activities were sitting on the carpet attentively and a sense of calmness and readiness filled the room. This left me speechless (and still does every time I see it). The idea of setting students up with strategies on how to calm their bodies, prepare for the day, and bring self awareness (whether it be consciously of unconsciously) all contributing to academic and personal success intrigued me. Can these small practices done each day do more for students than just calming their body?

What The Experts Say

After digging around in research (by digging I mean frantically typing away in online databases) I found out that my suspicions were right!

In a “2008 U.S analysis of roughly 300 studies involving more than 300,000 students in elementary and middle school found that students who received social and emotional course (including mindful breathing exercises) scored 11 to 17 percentage points higher on achievement tests than peers who did not take part in any courses” (Cloutier, 2011).

Through doing these mindfulness activities each day students were able to better manage stress, time, and quality of sleep which all contributed to the rise in academic success over time (Cloutier, 2011).

Where do we go from here?

Step 1: Buy the Hoberman Sphere ASAP and keep it in a storage box until I get my very own classroom

Amazon: $13.45

Step 2: Buy yoga cards to also keep in a storage box until I get my very own classroom

Amazon: $15.95

Step 3: Anxiously wait until I get my very own classroom!

In all seriousness the first step I take from this initial observation and research is to implement both the yoga movements and breathing exercises into my morning meetings. Even if the results just showed that this benefits students socio emotional skills, it would still be something I want to implement in my classroom. In todays day and age of doing doing doing all day long, it is the least we can do to supply our students with strategies to calm their minds and bodies.

 

I do still want to dig for more research on more ways to implement mindfulness into the classroom. I would also like to find more information on the benefits of these activities for students with specific disabilities. Stay tuned!

 

 

Resources:

Cloutier, S. E. (2011). Mindful Breathing in the Classroom to Increase Academic Scores. Teaching Innovation Projects1(1). Retrieved from https://ojs.lib.uwo.ca/index.php/tips/article/view/3534

Hoberman breathing sphere. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YnNATiWYyx0

(n.d.). Retrieved October 10, 2019, from https://mindfulness4u.org/mindfulness-quotes/.

gu·ru (gooroo) an influential teacher or popular expert

My Gurus

Who reassures and stretches me as an early childhood educator?

Being a first generation college student in my family, growing up my parents always let me know that the possibilities for my future were endless but attainable. They always stressed the importance of education and making a life for yourself by absorbing all the knowledge the world has to give us. 

Like most young kids I knew what I wanted to be from a very young age, but to your surprise it wasn’t a teacher. It was a nurse! I was a nurse for halloween, I went to career exploration camps that toured hospitals, I even bought medical book from yard sales. So why am I sitting here as an education major you may ask? Simple… during one of those career exploration camps we toured the trauma bay after a gunshot victim had just been treated (I mean blood every where…lots of blood). Lets just say I hit floor quicker than the time it took me to realize nursing wasn’t the career for me.

My parents though, all through my tween and teenage years (yikes) they said “Felicia, what about teaching? You love teaching swim lessons, and you’re so good with them. It makes you happy we can see it!”

While my parents aren’t teachers or even closely linked to any career in the education field, they are the ones who reassure me that I will be a great educator. They can give me outside perspectives I would have never received.  They stretch my views and teaching styles as outsiders with the perspective of at one time parents of a young child. They constantly support me through the long nights spent typing away at assignments, and they believed in me when I simply taught swim lessons for the joy of seeing young kids master the doggy paddle.

What pedagogies are shaping my path?

Seeing many different teaching pedagogies through my professors and cooperative teachers, I have found what I believe will be the steadfast foundation to my teaching pedagogy.

That foundation is: Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Getting the Right Size: UDL

Using a shoe store analogy, this short video by OCALI provides an overview of Universal Design for Learning.

Understanding that all students are vastly diverse, learn differently, and express their knowledge differently is the the logic behind UDL. Allowing for ALL students to receive content and show their knowledge is the foundation to my pedagogy.

Who is teaching me about the “Why” and the “How” in the field of early childhood?

The why of teaching is to me the emotional aspect of teaching. The why is the reason teachers come back day after day and year after year despite low wages, scarce resources, and the constant presence of standardized testing.

The why is taught to me by the kiddos I meet in my placement classrooms, the kiddos I work with at my job as an assistant preschool teacher, and the young children in my family. The kids, the students, and our future leaders are the “why” in the field of early childhood education. They are the reason we do what we do and learn what we do. They deserve the best education we can possibly provide while feeling like they are the most cared for individuals to ever walk through those classroom doors.

The “how” is how do we provide them that best education possible? How do we make them feel cared for, important, and empowered? That all comes from the content we learn in our courses here at Millersville. That knowledge comes from our professors, who them personally have years of first hand experience. This “how” also comes from our co-ops who give us real world experiences.

Who speaks the truth to me & shares new insight?

Believe it or not (actually you probably do) I receive a lot of great insight, ideas, information, and resources from fellow teachers across America via YouTube and Instagram! It’s interesting to see different school systems and teaching styles throughout the United States. Seeing these teachers and their teaching styles, lesson plans, activities, classroom management, and classroom set up helps generate a lot of ideas and creativity!

Check out some of my favorite teacher Instagram and YouTube accounts below:

 

 

 

References

National Center on Universal Design for Learning. (2015, March 31). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYGQUcP1790

Welcome!

Hello friends! Whether you have stumbled across this blog or you’re also along for the ride in this project, I’d like to say welcome! My name is Felicia Swift, I am a senior Early Childhood Education major at Millersville University. The purpose of this blog is to inform ya’ll of my research and where it leads me in teaching practices. If you want to follow along and see what lies ahead, go ahead and sit criss cross apple sauce (teacher pun) for more posts to come!