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Overwhelm, Yoga, and a Break [thru]

"Where is your school spirit?" a colleague demanded to know as Friday's dress code includes school garb with jeans. I am usually in the spirit. That Friday, I was not. I retorted, "I am lucky I got dressed today" as I walked by him fully shutting down any potential for a conversation.


The following weekend in January was full of "shoulds". I had a honey-do list for myself that really had no end. I should do house chores such as the never ending laundry, help my disorganized little one clean her room, deal with the basement and the pizza boxes which are multiplying on the back porch. None of those felt particularly exciting or do-able. My list for school work was longer: Catch up on emails, write evaluations, sign up for a grad course in Special Ed Law. I couldn't imagine cooking for my family so the pile of pizza boxes was about to get bigger.


Depression. It sneaks up on me. Then clobbers me senseless. And I put it all back together.



I began to give my morning routine the attention it deserves: I did yoga. I am a CYT-200 (certified yoga teacher - 200 hours of training). Instead of following someone else in a video or a class, I listened to my own body and what it needed on any given morning. I sat still. I won't call it meditation, though it was my version. I listened to my breathing and watched the ticker tape of thoughts roll by. I ate spinach. I don't know why but it was what I craved - with eggs, or vinegar, or raw.


None of my actions from being rude to my colleague, to doing yoga, to sitting sit, or eating spinach gave anyone any clue that I was struggling. My depression was not visible. But it was impactful. I was not sharing it outwardly, I was doing the things that brought me back but it took time. And in that time I felt a deep connection to my teenage friends - a feeling of bing misunderstood.


It is hard to feel misunderstood. It is equally hard to share the inward struggles. And combining the two... well, now that's tricky.


What came with me was a need to return to the basics of Restorative Practices.


The basics consist of the following beliefs:

  • Nurture healthy relationships: A belief that all people are worthy and relational

  • Repair harm and transform conflict: A belief that all people are worthy and relational

  • Create just and equitable learning environments: A belief that all people are worthy and relational

When these are in place, the experiences of all students, regardless of what external factors are shaping their experiences, begin from the same place: A belief that all people are worthy and relational. I can feel clobbered by depressions and still be worthy and relational. Someone else can come from a volatile living situation and still be worthy and relational. Another person can suffer from addiction and still be worthy and relational.


Look at the self assessment below. This can be used for a school, a classroom, or a family. The word "students" can be swapped with "my children" or "my son/daughter". The context can be swapped too, from classroom to home, or basketball team to art club.


Consider your current [classroom/school/home] environment. What is firmly in place? What do you want to strengthen?



Condition

In place

Partially in place

Not in place

Communicate high expectations and your belief that all students can succeed

Learn and use students' names and identified pronouns (if they share that with you).

Develop guidelines or agreements about interactions

Create intentional opportunities for students to provide feedback on their environment.

Reflection Questions:

What ways can I foster more belonging in our shared environment?

What can I do this week to make our space more inclusive of the needs of others so a sense of belonging can grow?


***

Having conducted this assessment for myself and using the environment of my school adult support system, I recognized that we had no guidelines for how we interact. My colleagues were worried about me but didn't know if it was okay to ask me how I was doing. To increase belonging and to establish a way to check in, we begin each day with a short and quick check in. We do not get down to work before we know how others are doing.


This feels better because our sense of belonging is growing.



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From our All-School Assembly, February 28, 2024 Written by Nell Dailey “On this rainy day in February, I want to share a story with you. So sit back, put your phones away, and give me your attention.

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