Iowa Assessments are looming, so the past few weeks have been dedicated to test prep. (I wrote about my feelings and why we're hitting it so hard in this post from December.) Our bi-monthly PD afternoons have all focused on sharing strategies and practice tips we've used in our classrooms to prepare our students for the testing deluge.
So I've been teaching yoga every day.
Yes, yoga. I can rage against standardized testing all I want, but it still hasn't changed that my district forces me to give these assessments every year. So how can I best help my kids? I can try to give them calm in the storm. Yes, I'm also going over practice questions and pointing out some common tricks they'll encounter on the language tests. But every day, we start with yoga.
I picked Half Sun Salutations because I wanted something that was easily accessible to all students. I found out from doing Warrior II earlier in the year that many students cannot do a simple lunge. Even the ones who are active in sports do not have flexibility. Half Sun Salutations provide them with an opportunity to focus their breath and move a little. They have the added bonus of seeing progress as they reach closer to touching their feet. I taught them the basic movement on a Monday, then every day we've done three to five rounds before the daily practice questions. I'm hoping this movement and breathing provides the dual actions of calming them and bringing them out of the school day haze.
After the first week of yoga, I also added in positive mantras. I told students to think of simple, positive sentences to repeat to themselves during the Salutations. I shared some that I've used in the past (stolen from Yoga Journal or Pinterest inspirationals): "I am enough, I do enough, I have enough"; "Today I will do all things with love"; "I am smart and awesome." I told them that it might be cheesy, but too often the meanest person in our lives is the voice inside our own heads. We put ourselves down constantly and our insecurities become our mantras. For the two minutes of Sun Salutations, I'm encouraging my students to think positive, even if they're faking it. It might be the only nice thing they think about themselves all day.
They laugh and roll their eyes at me for being a weirdo, but it's slowly working. They're starting to clap and cheer for each other when someone touches her toes for the first time. The 7th grade girls' basketball team started doing a few rounds before their games and started winning for the first time all season. The 8th grade girls tried it, and now they're winning, too. It's fun and it's positive and I feel like I'm using my influence for good instead of just contributing to corporate testing evil. I hope they can look forward to yoga on testing days and use their positive affirmations during other difficult times.
I'm not creating the revolution against testing that I dream of, but I am chipping away at standardization in my own small way. I hope it helps. I don't care about the impact on their scores, but I do care about how it could positively impact their lives.
I teach 7th and 8th grade English in rural Iowa and hope to reflect, connect, and share with other English teachers. Iowa Council of Teachers of English Executive Board member. Iowa Writing Project superfan. UNI MA:TESS graduate.