The burnout rate amongst rookie teachers is currently sitting at 50%. Youth suicide is the highest it’s been in Australia in 10 years. Classrooms are becoming veritable stress pools. Teachers are over-worked and under appreciated. Students, as young as 3, are navigating anxiety, depression and a range of other mental health challenges as they grapple with growing academic, peer and home pressures alongside the onslaught of social media.
As we hurtle towards a new decade, how do we create classroom environments where nourished teachers nurture students to become capable, creative, critical thinkers while maintaining their mental health and wellbeing?
It's easier than you think!
Beth Borowsky, of The Karma Class, teaches teachers how to easily weave mindful movement (yoga), breathwork and mindfulness into every school day, for just minutes at a time. “It’s a low cost and highly effective way to create calmer, healthier and more vibrant learning environments. And teachers don’t need to be health gurus either, they just need a few simple tools,” says Borowsky.
Why is this SO important?
“Because just a few minutes of mindful movement and deep breathing overrides the stress response, halting the flight-fight hormone production. Strengthening, lengthening, twisting, bending and stretching, coupled with smooth breaths, very quickly creates mental and physical focus which immediately helps students and teachers to be less reactive, and feel more vibrant, interested and better able to concentrate,” explains Borowsky.
“Mindfulness practices and deep breathing exercises stimulate kindness to oneself and to others.” The parasympathetic arm of the nervous system (rest and digest) kicks in, triggering the relaxation response, a term coined in the 1970s by Dr Herbert Benson, professor, author, cardiologist and founder of Harvard’s Mind/Body Medical Institute. “In a world that is chaotic and over-stimulating for all of us, especially kids, it’s important to offer what I call Peace Pauses – minutes during the day where students and teachers are drawn back into the present… to re-set,” says Borowsky.
She explains: “When students are expected to sit for too long, fidgeting, distraction and potential disruptions begin to bubble up. The body starts to tense, focus wanes, sluggishness sets in. Similarly, when a student is having a ‘melt down’, suggesting to them to be calm, or to take deep breaths, falls on deaf ears. When we are in a state of stress, we cannot function optimally, we cannot focus, we cannot concentrate and we will more than likely make the wrong choices.
But if we give students opportunities to move mindfully, for just a few minutes during long periods of stillness, and they are taught breathing tools for self calm, to energise and/or self regulate during regular class time, they begin to develop a wellness resource kit, a toolbox of wisdom that they can to turn to in rough times.”
“And if they feel stronger and happier, they will be keener to learn and kinder to themselves and others.”
By weaving bursts of daily yoga + breath + mindfulness experiences into the classroom, we minimize challenging situations from occurring. We are also gifting students with tools for life. And when a challenge does arise, teachers can remind their students to use their wellness tools - empowering them to make wiser choices that bring them back to a state of calm and composure,” Borowsky explains.
Beth Borowsky is an educator, yoga teacher, teacher trainer and mum of two adult daughters. She is the founder of JustBreatheYoga (www.justbreatheyoga.com.au) and The Karma Class (www.thekarmaclass.com.au ) Her accredited workshop A Calmer Classroom: Yoga, Breath + Mindfulness teaches Australian teachers how to implement culture change within their classrooms and school by easily weaving minutes of daily Yoga, Breath and Mindfulness into the day.