In the very same moment, teaching can feel at once deeply rewarding and tremendously, overwhelmingly difficult. From our own experiences in the classroom, we know that some of these occasions can serve as insightful teaching moments for us as educators, and many times they occur when we face situations dealing with poor student behavior.

Even though the curriculum may remain more or less the same from year to year, each and every day our students present us with new challenges based on their dynamics with one another, their home lives, and their moods. We believe that as teachers, you know how to navigate these ebbs and flows in your classrooms the best, so this month we want to share with you ways to help enhance your current teaching strategies, freeing up more space for you to cultivate positive relationships with your students.

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1. Be Present

Engagement is absolutely essential for learning to occur. If you are in a constant state of distractedness, whether you’re caught up in your to-do list, your benchmarks, your personal life, or tomorrow’s worries, your students will be able to sense your disengagement, making it difficult for you to connect. As silly as it may seem, we like to think of engagement as unzipping yourself and hanging yourself at the classroom door when you come into the classroom to teach. Check your baggage at the door, and be present with your students each day. After all, the reason we come to yoga is to learn tools to help us shift into the present moment, so why not make this a daily practice in your class, one that your students can also model and benefit from?

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2. Establish Clear Boundaries

No matter their age, students crave boundaries. As the educator, it is your job to start off your very first class with the intention of letting your students know what the boundaries are. One way to establish these ground rules is by utilizing our Umbrella of Respect. Together as a class, brainstorm what both you and your students need in order to feel respected, and identify appropriate consequences for times when someone in the class crosses a line. Determining boundaries and consequences collectively lets students feel heard and empowered, and creates a culture of mutual esteem in their intentions, words, and behaviors.

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3. Understand the Brain

To understand how your students process and relate to the yoga you teach, it is helpful to have a grasp on what’s going on in your students’ developing brain. Brain-based learning takes what we know about how the brain works, and translates it into the classroom. Utilizing strategies rooted in principles of neuroscience, brain-based learning strives to optimally engage students in the ways they learn best (Jensen, 2005). By understanding neuroscience in the context of education, we can effectively use yoga class to engage students and maximize their learning experience.

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4. Time In vs. Time Out

Time-In is a more effective behavior management technique than “Time-Out.” Rather than focusing solely on punishment, this technique empowers your students to become self-aware. By providing students with the space for reflection, they can clarify their inner experience, make connections between their feelings, thoughts and behaviors, and enhance their problem-solving skills long-term. During Time-In, students are directed to find a quiet place in the room to assume a restorative yoga pose, such as legs up the wall, a forward fold onto the desk, or simply sitting in a chair. By taking a few minutes to breathe and tune into what is going on inside them, they can gain insight into what caused them to behave disruptively. When the student is ready to participate again, they can return to the mat and resume yoga class with their peers.