families

Addressing Violence in the School

After last Friday’s tragedy in CT, we were grateful to receive the following guidelines on addressing violence with students from a wonderful lower school principal. We hope these are helpful to teachers (both yoga and classroom teachers) and that we continue to spread the word of peace through our daily actions. -Namaste, Asana Alphabet

Helpful Guidelines to Keep in Mind
1. Any conversation with a student must be developmentally appropriate.
Young children are not able to process the complexities of violence in the same way that adolescents and young adults are prepared to discuss the issue. Young children often gauge how threatening an event is by adult reactions (i.e., if caregivers act scared and frightened, young children will view the event as scary and frightening). They may be confused by what they hear and may have basic fear responses such as bad dreams, resistance to separate from their parent, and/or crying and clinginess. They respond well to basic assurances by adults and simple examples of school safety like reminding children about exterior doors being locked, child monitoring efforts on the playground, and emergency drills practiced during the school day.
Older children and teenagers may have more information about an event as they are commonly able to access information independent of adults via the internet and television. For these youth, it is important to discuss issues openly emphasizing the efforts of school and community leaders to provide safe schools. It is also important to emphasize the role that students have in maintaining safe schools by following school safety guidelines (e.g. not providing building access to strangers, reporting strangers on campus, reporting threats to the school safety made by students or community members, etc.), communicating any personal safety concerns to school administrators, and accessing support for emotional needs.
2. Communicate to parents about the conversations that you have had with students.
It is important to keep parents informed about how you are responding to student questions and any type of support that has been made available for students struggling with the crisis. Additionally, if teachers working with older students choose to have classroom discussions about the event linked to their instructional activities, parents should be made aware of these activities and any suggestions for following up at home should be offered.
3. Guidelines for talking with children about violence.
Encourage parents to talk with their children and validate their feelings. They should let children’s questions guide what and how much information to provide, be open to opportunities to talk when children are ready, be honest about their own feelings related to violence, and emphasize the positive things that child/family/school can do to stay safe. They should be aware of signs that their child might be in distress, e.g., changes in behavior, anxiety, sleep problems, acting out, problems at school or with academic work. Remind parents and teachers to be conscious of media exposure and what they say about the event. Developmentally inappropriate information can cause anxiety or confusion, particularly in young children. Adults also need to be mindful of the content of conversations that they have with each other in front of children, even teenagers, and limit their exposure to vengeful, hateful, and angry comments that might be misunderstood.
4. Reinforce student strengths and focus on normal routines and activities.
It is important to know that one of the best ways for students to recover from the effects of a tragedy is to maintain or return to their normal school routines. Normal routines help establish a sense of calm and predictability important to maintaining effective learning environments. Schools should recognize that depending on the impact of the event on individuals, not all students will quickly be able to make these transitions back to the normal routine and that counseling services should be available for those continuing to require some support and guidance
5. Consider the cultures, traditions, religions and family/community values of students in any school response.
It is important that schools respect the values, traditions, beliefs and customs of the students and their families impacted by the crisis.~ Remember not everyone processes strong emotions through conversation. Some children and adults may need to respond through art, poetry, prayer, meditation or activity.

Black Friday Yoga Style

Yes, it’s Black Friday and there simply are not enough articles on where to go shopping the day after Thanksgiving.  Not only are we supposed to boost the economy by buying, but it probably gives many of us a distraction from having to continue entertaining friends and relatives.

As a yogic shopper, the mantra is “less is more”.  Do you really need to buy things in order to achieve greater happiness? Probably not.  If you’re a shop-a-holic, meditating on the roots of the desire can be of great help or at least you can consult a Yoga Grump here on the topic. 

So if you can’t resist shopping today, here are some holiday gifts you may want to consider that have a “lower impact” on the environment and will make others feel good too.  How Yogic of you!!!  Here are 3 categories of shoppers reading this blog:

 

  1. Buy nontangibles. 
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A young reader loves his yoga book!

This could be a yoga, dance or music class from a favorite instructor (good for kids and adults) where you give a gift that lasts while giving a freelancer a job, a donation to a favorite cause (hello Hurricane Sandy relief), or my favorite, a massage with a certified practitioner.  If you’re reading this blog because you’re into yoga, you can even send one of our amazing teachers to a local public school to give an afterschool class—we’ll take a photo and send a thank you to the recipient.  

 

  1. Buy almost nontangible.

You need the necessary equipment in order for these to work, but purchasing music online is another way to cut down on unnecessary packaging.  Browse local bands on Bandcamp.com.  For children, we of course recommend Asana Alphabet’s Yoga Songs for Kids.

     3.   I MUST give a tangle gift.  If you’re in this category, at least consider buying from a local artist or from somewhere that will not over-package your gift.  Though it’s a “thrift store”, The Angel Thrift Store in Chelsea (NYC) often has fashionable, brand new items that anyone with fashion sense will love.  Our favorite kid items include Annika Jermyn’s beautifully designed teddy bears (great for leading a children’s savasana or incorporating into a family yoga class), the yoga book Yogi and Yogette Learn the Asana Alphabet, or cool yoga cookie cutters designed by Karen La Du.

Well, if you just don’t want to give anything material, you can spread the word of yoga, starting by hugging yourself and twisting from side to side. Inhale left, exhale right. 3 minutes.  You’ll open your spine, your heart and make yourself feel good!

Bilingual and Foreign Language Yoga for Kids

Though New Yorkers have been used to living side by side with people who speak languages other than English, bi-lingual education is becoming more prominent through out the United States in general.  By offering bi-lingual programs in yoga for kids, we are able to reach even more students and possibly bring those who feel isolated into a greater community of understanding.

What’s so great about teaching yoga and other movement modalities is that we speak primarily in body language.  So even if you can’t understand, “put your head to  your knee in janusursana”, certainly watching a teacher do the pose is an easy way to begin to figure out “how to”.

So what are some of the options for including yoga in a bi-lingual setting?

  1. Give a class in English for non-English speakers (the primary form given in schools now).
  2. Give a class in English with the help of a translator.
  3. Give a class in the native language with English-only speakers welcome to join in.

In NYC schools, we often encounter students who speak Spanish or Mandarin  amongst other foreign languages.  The yoga teacher who only knows English must rely upon doing more experiential yoga and techniques rather than relying on lecturing and with kids’ yoga, that’s the best technique to use anyway. Keep them moving and stop talking!!

A yoga teacher at La Escuelita demonstrates the pose rather than just talking about it.

Of course, if the yoga teacher knows even a few words of the other primary language other than English, this is helpful in the role of managing classroom behavior and attention. Visual aids such as flash cards or an illustrated yoga book can also help you manage a class with children who are non-English speakers.  Children are also very smart and can fool  you too…there have been several instances where a child actually does understand what is going on and pretends not to (since perhaps their parents do not speak English at home) in order to play and get around the rules…it takes a very keen teacher to spot these students!

Though it would be great to have a bi-lingual teacher in these classrooms, it also becomes tricky as populations change somewhat rapidly; for instance, at a local East Village public school where Asana Alphabet teachers volunteer yoga, we have seen it go from a primarily Latin American population five years ago to now a 90% Mandarin speaking population.

At La Escuelita on the Upper West Side, children aged two to four are given class solely in Spanish to students who are both native Spanish speakers and native English speakers.  Though some children may respond in English (and if needed the teacher may help them out with some English), most children readily take to the Spanish classes and in the oldest classroom, it seems that the majority of the children are bilingual from being placed in such an environment.  All of the teachers at La Escuelita are fluent in both Spanish and English. Yoga en Espanol at La Escuelita over the past years has been an incredible experience.  In this case, it is absolutely essential that the yoga teacher can speak Spanish in order to be in alignment with the school’s goals (learning enough Spanish to get by as a tourist in Cancun would not be enough).  Just like many other young kids, the students at La Escuelita love learning about the animal yoga poses like el perro (dog pose), gato (cat), vaca (cow) y la cobra!  Many of the stories and games you use in English are applicable to a yogic Spanish translation, but incorporating Spanish songs into the mix or looking at specific stories from Latin America is where that extra special touch may come in handy.  This bi-lingual school has been quite successful since their opening in 2002.

At an Early Head Start Center on the Lower East Side, parents and kids aged 3 months to 2 years come in for “Parent and Child’ yoga classes with the majority of the parents (and sometimes grandparents) speaking Mandarin, though there are a few Spanish-speakers in the room.  In this instance, the yoga teachers deliver simple instructions with lots of visual reinforcement in English and a Mandarin translator is provided.  The translator is very helpful in communicating the benefits of some of the poses and techniques and giving the class in English even allows some of the adults to learn simple English words such as the numbers and letters of the alphabet as many of the adults are new to the United States.  A yoga teacher in this type of classroom situation may take a few weeks to get the “rhythm” of using a translator and, as stated before, show many of the techniques instead of talking about them in detail (so parents do the yoga instead of listen and wait for translation).  These are truly joyful classes as the parents are full of hope and encouragement towards their children and they truly participate with 100% effort.  One way the yoga program is differentiated is also to take into account some of the special holidays they celebrate, like Chinese New Year.  When the kids’ showed up wearing Rabbit Ears in honor of year of the rabbit, we sang the bunny hop and incorporated simple yoga poses into the song. This family program is extremely popular with a  waiting list of over 300 families! Clearly there is a need and desire for these types of alternative physical education classes and family providers.

As an aside, being able to communicate through body language and spoken language also helps us bring teachings abroad, as you’ll see here in the small beach town of Puerto Cayo where an Asana Alphabet’s director shares a yoga game in Spanish.

And new to the Princeton, NJ area, we find Yoga in French at WildChildYoga.

Recent scholarships and work-study options have been given to trainees under Asana Alphabet’s yoga teacher training program in an effort to keep these programs alive.