Cultivating a Sense of Self Awareness in The Classroom

by | Sep 13, 2017 | Yoga Teacher Continuing Education

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Self Awareness In The Classroom

Cultivating self-awareness in the classroom is an important initiative. Lately, I’ve been working on grounding into Self Awareness and making a home in my present moment. I’ve spent a lot of time really looking at my values, and what I found was that my values, the values of a yogini who has lived nearly 40 years on this planet, are deeply rooted in Truth, Authenticity, and Accessibility. I believe that every being has all of the tools they need within them to survive and thrive. I also believe that in our society, where we employ the classroom rather than the world as our backdrop for education, we need to be focused on the student’s needs above all else.

The correlation between confidence, advanced consciousness, and basic education is profound. Accessible education is not an option anymore; rather than a luxury, public education has morphed into a necessity. Yet, even though legislators have made laws and rules to govern what our children learn; our children are not learning how to buy into their own self-worth. Ultimately, in my opinion, the system is fundamentally flawed.

The reason is simple, rather than putting the students first, society has put the emphasis on the teacher. The teacher’s performance is the measure of student success, but that is not true. We’ve bought into a way of thinking where we hold the teacher accountable for the child’s learning, but ultimately we are not giving student’s the tools to awaken into a higher state of consciousness.

I have some pretty amazing examples to back up my theory that standards-based learning is failing our students, but I’m positive that most readers don’t need to look far for examples of the crippling effects of standardized tests. The key to holistic learning is self-awareness in the classroom, and this is almost impossible when we are trying to teach in a standards-based system. We could pick apart the standards-based model, or we could look for solutions. I prefer to lead with some solutions for how we might reimagine academics in America.

Consider placing emphasis on every human being as an embodiment of God. Just for a second, consider that students, each and everyone, are born as perfect embodiments of life force. Without the need to compartmentalize this fact, just look at each infant as infinite potential. Step two is to then look at the world as an open classroom of experience. Experiences are neither bad or good, they are simply an education towards aligning your choices toward your highest potential.

Now, as adults, we can see that every child is not given the same exact support from the level of the family. This is what we call familial karma in yoga. Each family offers experiences that make an impression on the brain and are retained as memories. Humans are designed to use discernment to categorize experiences into buckets–good or bad. This is actually a function of the ego; it keeps us alive and helps us to thrive.

At some point in every human’s experience, they develop patterns. Patterns in the way they communicate, the way they interact interpersonally, and patterns in the way they treat themselves and others. If we know that every being is an embodiment of Universal Consciousness, and we also know everyone has their own formative impressions that drive their unconscious choices, then we can see our job as educators much more clearly.

Teachers, wouldn’t it be wonderful for your job to be more about seeing the light in your students and helping them to achieve their potential and less about kill & drill for a test? In my opinion, there are two reasons for the state of public education in America. The first reason is that we are all overstimulated with screens, devices, and projected energy that our sympathetic nervous system is running the show. This creates a deeper misunderstanding that there is scarcity. The second reason, and possibly the most inhibiting factor is that we’ve made education dependent on the teacher. This is a fundamental misunderstanding, and it has far more serious implications than simply stressing our children out.

Let’s first look at the overstimulation we face in our daily lives. With the advances we are seeing in technology we will soon find ourselves being stimulated every five seconds by a screen, app, virtual communication, or interpersonal connection. This is similar to the stress that rabbits feel when they are living in their daily life. Rabbits are one of the most prayed upon animals and consequently are constantly aware of their surroundings. Rabbits store this tension in their bodies, and when the rabbit reaches its limit it jumps into the air and shakes to release the pent-up nervous energy. This somatic release helps the rabbit deal with the stress of being stalked all the time.

If we look at social media for what it is, a tool to communicate overtly and covertly in the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual landscape then we can say social media is a psychic extension of experience. Whether we know it or not, our unconscious mind is constantly analyzing our actions, our interactions, and our perception in an attempt to understand how we are being perceived in the community. Interpersonal life is as valuable as one’s private relationship to self. Studies have shown isolation and alienation is part of the battle for those dealing with depression, anxiety, and suicide. When the unconscious mind is constantly trying to make sure that the idea of the individual self is not dead it begins to function on autopilot.

Fight or flight is our response to the fear of death, fear of loss, fear of scarcity. Our sympathetic nervous system is responsible for keeping us alive, so when we feel like we are up against a wall we react rather than respond. When we make education about a test the experiential learning that goes on in the classroom is diminished.

My daughter is in 4th grade. We are a month into school and she is already coming home with STAAR homework that is essentially kill and drill busy work. It is not teaching her place value, it is teaching her to be fearful of making the wrong choice on a multiple-choice test. Friends, this is not education.

When the focus is shifted in this way we lose sight of the student. Students come to us to learn how to be in the world. If we focused more on helping students create interdependent relationships with others, to resource themselves, and truly valuable experience they would be more prepared for life.  As education stands today, we are teaching enmeshment, codependency, and fear by promoting a system where the teacher is responsible for the student’s learning and success. The first rule in education should be that the student comes first. Period.

There is hope, though. More and more educators are reaching out to learn more about mindfulness, yoga, pranayama, and the way these tools affect the nervous system. Ultimately our ability to respond rather than to react is dependent on our ability to down-regulate the sympathetic nervous system and operate from the seat of the frontal lobe. I feel so passionately about it that I wrote a program for educators to learn how to apply mindfulness philosophy in the classroom, and I’ve been blown away by the way it has changed the lives of both the participants and their students.

We need to have a conversation about collective consciousness and uplifting our academic awareness sooner rather than later.  Practicing self-compassion is essential.  What’s more, compassion, love, respect are currency. Money, material worth, attention are not currency. When we shift our perspective future generations will have the foundation to awaken more fully into consciousness.

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