Community Always Matters. This Back-to-School Season, It Matters Even More

With COVID cases spiking again, another school year begins with renewed uncertainty. While some districts have abruptly shifted back to virtual school, others forge ahead with efforts to safely support in-person schooling. Some will continue to offer both models, leaving it to parents to choose.

One thing, however, is clear, regardless of the kind of learning environment you find your kids or yourself in this year: Everyone who is able to get vaccinated needs to be, and – for now – we all need to mask up again in indoor spaces. It’s the least we can do for each other.

It also embodies one of the main lessons of the past 16 months: We are all connected and depend on each other to be well and thrive. What affects one can – and does – affect us all.

Community to the Rescue

teacher with students In short, we’ve been reminded of the power of community – one of our five core Principles in Yoga Calm. Not only is it foundational to yoga and mindfulness; it’s a perfect sphere for social/emotional learning, helping students develop compassion and caring; learn how to give and receive support; gain insight into their own and others’ behavior; and more.

Emphasizing Community may be especially beneficial in light of the challenges that students are facing from the cumulative stress and trauma of the past year-plus, both personal and academic.

Of course, fostering a sense of community – in individual classrooms, as well as school-wide – is a natural part of back-to-school activities. But it bears repeating that by creating rhythm and routine in a positive, supportive environment, you create a sense of safety and belonging for children who may be anxious – as well as excited – about returning to school.

Combine this with mindful movement, and the results can be amazing, as this one teacher’s story illustrates:

Today I was working in the kindergarten classroom. I’ve done a little get-to-know you activity for the past hundred years, and I did something similar this year. The ONLY difference was that I put a little yoga break in the middle of the lesson.

I began the lesson with the chime and the Hoberman breathing sphere, and then shared a little about me, what I do, etc. Then I had everyone stand up (we were in a circle) and we did Roots, Upward Mountain (thought of someone who was very strong in our lives, what that meant, etc.), Heart Thoughts breath (think of someone you love), and Volcano Breath. Then, we did this again but ended with the hands to our heart and thinking about someone we love. I had the kids cup their hands together, think of that person, gather up all that love, and gently blow it into the middle of the circle. The smiles on their faces were huge!

Then I asked them to sit down and share one thing about themselves. They could say something they like to do, something they did this summer, something they are good at, etc. (In the past, it’s a lot of favorite foods, vacations over the summer, etc.) But, EVERY SINGLE STUDENT shared something or someone they love. (“I’m Sophie, and I love my brother very much.” “ I’m Karson, and I love my grandma and grandpa.”) It was amazing, I almost cried. They were all great listeners, and the energy in the room was so cool.

I just had to share with you because I’ve never experienced such a positive, loving, caring, and CALM energy on the first lesson of kindergarten before!

Some Resources for Fostering Community

You’ll find activity sheets for her lesson plan in the original post and even more ideas for community-building in the younger grades in our curriculum guide, Life Skills for Little Ones, designed to be used in tandem with our main book, Yoga Calm for Children.

That lesson plan can be adapted for older students, as well, and can use other combinations of Grounding, Stillness, and Listening Activities before asking students to share. Older grades may also benefit from community-building activities such as Changing Tree and Tree Mirrors, which you can see demonstrated in this clip from one of our trainings:

As ever and always, community is where everything begins.

Get access to our ever-expanding library of teacher-tested lesson plans, training videos, and other resources and benefits by becoming a Certified Yoga Calm Youth Instructor. It’s an online course you can start at any time and complete at any pace. Learn more now.

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