A Scottsdale Unified School District educator tells us why you should be selfish and how she’s allowed yoga to impact her teaching practice. If yoga poses, arm balances, and handstands were included on resumes, we know an educator who’d have qualifications aplenty. Andrea Mee is a second-grade teacAug 31, 2016
A Scottsdale Unified School District educator tells us why you should be selfish and how she’s allowed yoga to impact her teaching practice.
If yoga poses, arm balances, and handstands were included on resumes, we know an educator who’d have qualifications aplenty. Andrea Mee is a second-grade teacher at Navajo Elementary School in the Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD). Not only does she instruct within the four walls of her classroom, but also throughout the Phoenix community as a yoga teacher.
Mee, who grew up as a student in SUSD, says she began to practice yoga during high school. The University of Arizona alumna claims the stresses of college drove her to become more committed to the exercise.
“When I became overwhelmed, I practiced yoga to clear my mind and heart,” she admits.
Since obtaining a full-time teaching position, she depends on the exercise more than ever.
“I started teaching elementary school and yoga became my solace. It was the one part of my day when I didn't have to worry about any other little humans. Instead, I could stop thinking about work and start thinking about me. I know that sounds selfish, but if you are always giving, giving, giving of yourself, and never taking time to recharge, you begin to lose part of who you are,” Mee says.
The certified yoga instructor admits she gave herself the freedom to be selfish with her “after school” time to find restoration. As a result, she’s found ways to integrate yoga into her classroom learning environment.
“I teach breathing exercises and yoga poses to my second graders. A lot of poses are known to be energetic, so if the students are acting sleepy, like after lunch or during reading, we do some yoga to help get us ready to learn,” Mee explains, who was named a 2016 Outstanding Elementary Teacher by the Scottsdale Charros.
In addition, she also started an after school yoga club where students practice for an hour. “It's amazing what they are capable of learning. Yoga isn't just a physical practice, but a lifestyle. It's a way of thinking and a way of showing love to yourself, while spreading good vibes to others,” she says. “The yogic philosophy teaches you to focus on the now, and to be present with the task at hand. Although I have to multitask in the classroom, yoga helps me calm my mind of outside thoughts and be more present. Whether it's with an individual student, a class lesson, or a small group, I try to give my students undivided attention.”
While yoga is helpful, it’s not a cure for classroom chaos, unpredictable events, or the busyness of life.
“In the classroom, there are many times when it can be easy to lose your cool. This is when mindful breathing helps. My students even say, ‘Miss Mee is doing yoga breathing now.’ Sometimes when a situation gets stressful, I need to just step back and breathe before addressing it. It helps me be kinder and more compassionate.”
Mee understands yoga isn’t for everyone, but suggests teachers to give themselves freedom to focus on “self.”
She suggests teachers don’t define themselves by just one thing. “I am not just a teacher. I am a yogi, reader, hiker, runner, CrossFitter, and more. I am just simply me, and every day I work on finding my true self,” she explains.
“I would encourage other teachers to find what lights their fire… Do something that gives you time to self-reflect and turn inward. Nobody is perfect, but everyone, students and teachers alike, has the potential to be their best self.”
Mee can’t help but boast about the things students said they’ve learned by participating in yoga. In December 2015, her yoga club students at Navajo Elementary School said the following:
Yoga taught me…
- “to have fun and love myself.” – Maddie, age 7
- “to use ocean breath when I feel frustrated.” – Briley, age 7
- “to be calm.” – Colin, age 7
- “to relax.” – Allie, age 10
- “to relax and respect my body and not stress out about silly things. Also, how to fall asleep and do bedtime yoga.” – Ellie, age 9
- “to respect myself and the other people in the room, like my teacher.” – Valeria, age 7
- “ocean breath and how to respect my body. It actually helped me to calm down a few times, like when I'm at home and frustrated I do yoga and use ocean breath when my brother is mean to me.” – Payton, age 6
Looking for new tactics to improve your classroom learning environment? Join the Arizona K12 Center for a one-day event geared toward K-2 teachers called Fun and Engaging Best Practices for Teacher and Learning with Music and Movement.