About Gateway Academy: Gateway Academy was created through the North Lawrence Community Schools in Bedford, Indiana as an Alternative School program that meets students where they are. Funded through a Lily grant, and several local donations, I was invited and hired to provide Yoga & Mindfulness to the students twice a week through the 2019-2020 school year, which began in August of 2019. Students ranged from 6th-12th grade each week.
The alternative school program was designed for students who may have had difficulties completing coursework, fell behind in their school work, or faced suspension or being expelled. The classroom settings were smaller, allowing more attention for the students to complete their school work, and provided a closer connection to their teachers. At Gateway Academy, students also participated in community services as part of receiving their curriculum credits. They did volunteer work around surrounding non profit organizations such as the Bedford Public Library and Bertha's Mission, a free community kitchen.
My Experience Teaching: Teaching at Gateway Academy has been one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my career thus far. Each week, we practiced Yoga, and learned about different aspects of mindfulness. The students were given a daily check in each week, which most took to heart and answered honestly. Through my time with the students at Gateway Academy, each new session provided it's own challenges and I learned so much from the students.
During our Mindfulness curriculum, the students learned about Resilience, Focus & Concentration, Goal Setting, Mindful Listening, What it means to be Mindful, Gratitude, Balance, Inclusion, and ultimately, how to stay and thrive in the present moment.
I only had 2 rules for the classroom- Respect & No judgement. Each time a new student would be in attendance, I often asked the regular students who attended weekly to share what our two rules were and what that meant. Respect for others in the room, and for yourself & No judgement of others or yourself.
While sometimes it was hard to tell if the students were truly absorbing the information I provided or not, I was always left a little bit surprised when they gave me review cards. Upon the guidance of the Director and their other teachers, they were periodically asked to write note cards of their experiences to give to me. While some were indifferent at times, many wrote about the benefits they were receiving in our classes together on Tuesday and Thursday mornings.
While teaching the students from August 2019-March 2020 (having to end abruptly due to Covid-19) I learned so much from these students. I learned that most of these students have had to grow up too fast, faced challenges within their homes, which ultimately resulted in struggles through school. I learned that Gateway Academy for some was a place where they could focus. I learned that when given the space and permission to be themselves and fully heard and seen, they will often share deep and meaningful thoughts.
We shared moments of hard truths and vulnerability together. We talked about real life challenges, and how those challenges can be overcome through Mindfulness. They learned lessons about the importance of resilience in life, how balance in life is just as important as balance on the yoga mat, and how to connect to their body and breath. They learned different breathing techniques and mindful meditations to explore outside of the classroom, when life gets stressful, and were given various mindfulness handouts each week.
While I know some students seemed uninterested at times, I wholeheartedly believe that the deep inner work, hard and true conversations we had, playful and challenging Yoga practices, and the mindful connections they made with one another and to themselves, made a lasting impact on each student who attended my classes at Gateway Academy. Through my time there, I saw many students open up about their challenges, flourish, become more mindful, and grow. I am so incredibly grateful for the opportunity to teach the students, learn from these youth, and grow right along with them at Gateway Academy.
December 5, 2019
"This morning at Gateway Academy, the teens & I discussed some pretty tough stuff. They each showed the courage of vulnerability by sharing difficult things that they are going through in their life, challenges through school, with peers, and challenges they are facing at home. And I am so proud of them for being brave and sharing. Because talking about tough stuff isn't easy, especially among peers.
And then we talked about the definition and importance of Resilience. I asked for a show of hands if they knew what this word meant. This was a new word for every student I had today, and they were eager to learn! We had a great conversation about everything from how to honor and move through grief to how to ask for help and support from teachers and trusted adults, especially when it feels extra tough.
We talked about the importance of self worth and self esteem. We talked about having permission to use our voice, to speak up in moments of discomfort or uncertainty. We talked about asking hard questions at school, and having conversations with teachers when school work feels overwhelming or hard to learn or understand. We talked about expressing our needs and communicating with teachers about our method of learning, and how sometimes that might be different than how they teach. We talked about being organized at school so that when challenges arise they are prepared as best they can be. We talked about a lot of tough stuff today... and about how to use the mighty tool of Resilience to get through this thing called life. I am so proud of these teens!
At the end of our session, after we did some movement, I asked the students to share with me one thing they learned or benefited from our group discussion today.
These are a few things they shared:
1. "I learned that I am allowed to use my voice to ask the teacher for help when I don't understand something, and that it is important to ask for support."
2. "I learned that my emotions do not control me, but that I am in control of my emotions."
3. "I learned that I am working on being able to bounce back."
Be brave. Be vulnerable. Be Resilient!"