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news & tips

A collection of helpful articles on teachers and teaching

First Week of School

The first week of school is almost over. New faces, new schedules, new kids; same room, same budget, same constraints. I’m already exhusted and the kids looked tired on day one. Part of it lies in the fact that one day we are enjoying a relaxing, laid back summer lifestyle and then wham- the next day, we are thrown into a regimented, scheduled, work filled day complete with meetings, homework, rules, obligations, grades, assignments and lesson plans. Neither students nor teachers have any time during the day for self reflection, a place to pause and just “be”. Except in an arts classroom.  

Thankfully the arts offer a little space for reprieve. Our disciplines allow students a chance to “refresh” during the day by offering opportunities to indulge in expression and reflection. While the arts can be stimulating and energizing, inspiring and creative they can also calm and heal. In the first few weeks of school, when life around the campus is in constant revision, the arts can be the “prayer room” of the school with activities designed to decompress and soothe. I rarely begin large scale activities within the first weeks of school. Our schedules change daily and our rosters are in constant flux so I try to choose projects that are engaging and educational but that also provide a meditative component as well.  

This year I will be introducing the concept of line with “Zentangles”. Like tracing the lines of a mandala, zentangles are meditative and soothing. They allow students complete freedom of expression and are created with free form line done in ball point pen. The point of zentangles is that no line is a mistake- hence, “zen”.

Our lives are enmeshed in global uncertainty both economically and politically and educationally we are all facing another tough year. Zentangles is my small way to ease in to the new school year and provide some calm before the storm. What kinds of reprieves do you use in your classrooms? What exercises can you recommend for reflection? 

How do you start your new year?

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