I founded Opening Paths to advocate for the voices of students (1st) and educators. A mixture of pedagogy, instructional strategies, and educational concepts, this blog seeks to make you go “hmmm…” as I do, during my travels along pathways to explore new ideas and old challenges. Join me through this blog, especially the resources and follow me on Twitter @JMcCarthyEdS for open dialog about what our students need, and what we as professional leaners seek to understand. Contact me for dialog, coaching, and to inspire your staff along their pathways to helping all students learn and achieve.

yoga sitbone pose

Breathe in, Breath Out: Education is like Yoga pt. 2 by John McCarthy, Ed.S.

I attended Yoga on Sunday morning, having missed two weeks prior. To be honest, I dreaded going. It’s a slippery slope when you miss classes. Whatever strengths you gain are quickly lost due to lack of practice. The teacher was late, and I considered using her absence as an excuse to roll up my mat and slink away. But that would have required me to walk past everyone to get to the door.

Two minutes late, the teacher arrived and started the class. She started us, as she always does, with a focus on our breath. Breathe in, breathe out. Long slow inhale, followed by a long slow exhale. From warm-up to and every movement placed into a flow we were  reminded to breathe. The workout was as I feared, and as I came to embrace, immersed in sweat and unable to do everything at the same level as the other participants–except breathe in, breathe out. Deep inhale–when possible–deep exhale.

The world of education, and business, is the same. In schools, students and their parents bring along the baggage of home, along with there perceptions about their possible success or failures. If we’re to accept psychology regarding the developing minds and emotions of those who we teach, teachers expend lots of energy absorbing the crushing waves of learners’ NEEDS, while fighting against the undertow that strips away patience and understanding. How is such focus and strength possible? Breathe in, breathe out.

The cold, clinical truth is that educators must leave their baggage at home or in the parking lot. When they enter the building, all that matters are the clients’ needs. Professionalism is being present for those who we must help find their way to achievement and personal growth. How? Deep inhale, and deep exhale.

Let’s not ignore the challenges that administrators must overcome within themselves as they lead the development of culture that nurtures students, involves parents & community, and nurtures the health and compassion of staff. Administrators carry huge weights on their shoulders to keep perspective on these needs–students first is supremacy through loose-tight leadership. Staying calm, open minded, and a thoughtful servant leader requires thick skin and an open heart. Solution? Breathe in, Breath out.

Yoga flows can be full of strength poses or, harder still, poses that you must hold for long chunks of time. Yoga can push a person to their limits. The body strains, the throat constricts, and muscles scream for release. When the pressure nears a breaking point, I realize that I’ve been holding my breath. I force myself to breathe–deep inhale, deep exhale. Muscles spasms ease up. The constriction in the throat relaxes. Drenched in sweat, I find that I can go a little longer.

Sometimes in the school environment, the stress catches us by surprise by how much has built up. In those instances, it’s okay to step in the hallway, close the office door, gaze out a window, or just close your eyes for a minute. In Yoga, this is going to child’s pose for a breather. Collect yourself, before resuming the fast past world of education, where needs from multiple people in different directions can threaten to overwhelm. That minute taken to refocus may be the difference between increasing the anxiety or anger of students, or reducing frustration and reigniting hope for learning. There is little that we truly control. Success increases if at our core we remember…

…to breathe in, …breathe out.
Read the other in the series: