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Book Review: Yoga Girls’ Club by Tiffani Bryant

Review copy graciously provided by publisher through NetGalley.

Yoga Girls Club would be a great resource for any student or adult sponsor looking to start a yoga club at a school or after-school program. I think, and there is research to support the idea, that yoga can be very helpful in educational settings.  Calm and methodical stretching as a “brain break” is a common classroom management tool and helps not only with students’ self control but brain function, as well.  This book would be a neat way to introduce the a yoga practice to interested students as an after-school club or something similar.  Overall, it has many merits, but I do have a few hesitations about it, as well.

Yoga Girls Club by Tiffani Bryant.  Review copy provided by publisher through NetGalley.

Yoga Girls Club by Tiffani Bryant. Review copy provided by publisher through NetGalley.

Yoga’s benefits are not limited to girls, so I would like to see an edition of this book that is not so gender specific. I like the workbook elements incorporated into the book and that it incorporates more than just postures and breathing into its instruction. The book also guides girls to explore their own creativity and goals. The book goes into nice detail about many of the beliefs behind the practice of yoga. I think that this is valuable information to include, but it does elevate the reading level of the text. Additionally, it would be nice if this information was presented in a way that allowed a little more room for readers to consider and explore a yoga practice within their own system of beliefs.  I think that this background could be presented more as informational context rather than things inherent to a yoga practice. The instruction of poses and movement is accurate and detailed, but may be more accurate if reorganized and labeled steps. More pictures in this portion of the book may also be helpful.

Overall, the I think the book is a fantastic concept that has been pretty well executed save for the few recommendations made here.


Social Justice, Current Events, Diversity, and Peace for Middle School: Reflections from International Week

Recently, our school celebrated International Week.  Every year, our foreign language department and diversity committee plan a week of programs to help put world cultures and issues surrounding diversity at the forefront of our students minds.  Obviously, such ideas and concepts influence our lives daily, but I also think that it is a good idea to illustrate to our students that we think it is not only worthy of the interruption but important enough to take a break from our regular routine to look at the world around us more closely.  The theme this year was “Peace in a Divided World.”  Many students were astounded to learn that even though the Berlin Wall has fallen, there are many emotional,social walls, and even physical walls all over the world dividing people groups from one another still today.

The view from my classroom window.

The view from my classroom window.

A quick side bar: my classroom windows look out on to a very literal wall that my students frequently bemoan.  I think, though, that it makes us all the more grateful for the light that manages to sneak in around it.  There is potentially a nice extended metaphor here that may bear further exploring another time.

An event from the week that stood out the most to me was when Rafael Romo, the Senior Latin American Affairs Editor of CNN Worldwide, came to speak to our students.  He did an excellent job of engaging with them and was able to bring multiple perspectives on our theme to light for our students. He spoke of his own immigration story and his journey to reaching his current role.  He also spoke of the value of following current events and the importance of understanding the larger world around you.  I am afraid that I was not surprised when he asked an auditorium full of students how many knew the name of the President in France, and only a few could raise their hand.  Hopefully, they now see the value in this type of information and are encouraged to explore it further.

Romo also spoke of how important it was for him in his job to keep an open mind and explore all sides of a story.

One of the most important points I think Romo really drove home for our students was that it is important to understand reality and not to hide it, even if it is harsh, even if it is ugly, even if it is hard to watch.

His job as a journalist helps him to seek justice for those who may not normally receive it.  The danger in not paying attention is that it creates room for injustice.  I think that Romo’s visit helped many students to know only notice and acknowledge the walls in their world but also to envision ways around and beyond them.

It is a difficult thing for schools and teachers to put their regular routines on hold for programs, special schedules, and the like.  I am, however, grateful for this intentional pause we take each year to open our eyes and ears to the larger world around us.

And Then, Sometimes, They Get It.

There have been moments where I have told my students that they cannot silently out-stare me.  “When I ask a question,” I say, “you cannot stare me down to the point that I feel awkward, give in, and spill the beans on the answer.”  They try any way.  Among our students there seems to be a growing pattern of passivity.  They would rather be told than find out; they would rather get than build.  On a recent survey of my students, one in particular complained about the fact that I don’t just tell them answers but instead make them look it up and discuss possibilities with their peers.  The tone was negative, but I smiled slightly at the comment.  It meant I was doing something right.

As teachers however, we do not only want students to learn how to learn and think critically.  We also want students to learn to enjoy the process and make it a habit for how they approach and interact with the world around them – even if it’s hard.  As middle school students, the ideas and suggestions of adults are often dead-on-arrival.  What do grown-ups know anyway?  Still, we are planting seeds and hope that students will recognize the value of these days in the days to come.

Every now and again, though, they get it in real-time.  Some will share there revelation with you; others will try to hide it, but I bet you catch it anyway.  For my classroom, these moments most often come during my Romeo and Juliet unit.  There is much digging in of the heels and protesting at the start. “He wrote in Old English!” they cry.  “False,” I calmly reply. “Stomp your feet all you want. It’s okay. We will agree in a few weeks.”  Then, I get to catch them having fun.  It is the best kind of I-told-you-so.  Last week, I had a student verbalize this moment for the class.  We had spent several days writing our own sonnets.  On Friday, students were given the opportunity to share their sonnets if they wish, and a surprising number of students signed up.  Towards the end of one class period, one student shared with the class that she had been frustrated for most of the writing process and didn’t really understand why we had to do it.  “Today, though,” She said. “I’m so glad that we did!” Yes!  I wanted to plant her in each of my classes so they could hear her, as well.

Feel free to share your own “They get it!” moments in the comments.

Poem-A-Day Challenge Updated

So, I am mostly up to date with my efforts in the poem-a-day challenge. Each entry was written this month. However, I cannot actually claim that each was written on the day ascribed to it. Let’s think of it as “Thirty Poems for April” instead. If you are interested in checking out my efforts, go to the “Writing Teacher Writes” tab above, or you can just click here.  Keep in mind that I never promised they would be good!  If you would like to follow along with the challenge on your own, you can check out the daily prompts at Poetic Asides.

The promised follow up to the summer reading poll is coming tomorrow.  Get your votes in on the poll and check back Monday for my thoughts.

Here’s the Deal

Perennial problem of teachers everywhere are that their classroom walls sometimes seem to grow too thick.  We like the way we do things; we try to reinvent the wheel weekly (for some of us, daily); and when we hear the words professional development we sometimes hide quizzes in our notebooks to grade while listening to a speaker … for eight hours.  These statements certainly don’t apply to everybody all the time, but they are all traps into which we are endanger of falling.  It can sometimes be difficult to see and learn from the great things your neighbor is doing in their classroom, whether that neighbor be literally next door or across the country.  If you work in a a very small school, like I do, the world of education can sometimes appear even more isolated and limited.

However, professional development does not have to mean eight hour lectures or weekends spent in the backrooms of teacher supply stores.  The internet has broken down the walls of many classrooms and helped teachers to share and grow together.  Becoming an active participant in this global teaching community, despite a small personal community is one of my goals for this space.

I want to help my classroom walls to grow a little more transparent, allowing me to see out and you to see in.  Hopefully we can learn from each other and our students and our profession will benefit from this exploration.

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