This is the third of nine installments about how I attempt to teach the whole child. Last week’s blog reflected on how I teach Occupational Wellness in Physical Education and Health. It also discusses how I believe it is every teacher’s duty to teach the entire child. After writing my original blog on why I teach Physical Education and Health, I received feedback from Shrehan Lynch (@misslynchpe) that there are currently nine dimensions of wellness that are being taught at the collegiate level. Armed with that feedback and the encouragement of Mel Hamada (mjhamada) this has now morphed into a nine-part blog series. I fully expect that I am derelict in my teaching of several areas of wellness. This blog series will allow me to highlight those areas I need to improve.
This week we will be analyzing the what, how, and why I teach Spiritual Wellness. Spiritual Wellness may worry some public school teachers. After all, there is a separation of church and state. However, spiritual wellness is not only taught through religion. The University of California Riverside defines spiritual wellness as:
Spiritual Wellness is a personal matter involving values and beliefs that provide a purpose in our lives. While different individuals may have different views of what spiritualism is, it is generally considered to be the search for meaning and purpose in human existence, leading one to strive for a state of harmony with oneself and others while working to balance inner needs with the rest of the world. Link
This is the most intriguing of all the wellnesses to me. How do I get elementary school students to question why they are here on earth? That is quite a task! Especially when you think that children only stop being egocentric at the age of 7! Link Anyone who has ever taught at this level knows that having students identifying their own feelings is a monstrous endeavor let alone worrying about another person’s feelings!
You may have heard me speak before about Restorative Justice in earlier blogs. If you want to know more about it I would check out Ken Johnson’s book. One of the concepts that I have been using from RJ is circle time. We come in and do an instant activity where the students work on some aspect of fitness. After that, we sit in a circle and the students have an opportunity to share anything they want. If they do not want to share I ask them a question to get to know them better. I sit in the circle with them and we talk about the purpose of the circle. We discuss how everyone has an equal part in the class including myself. I stress that everyone sits in the circle including anyone out on medical. This allows the students to understand they are all connected in the class. It is a far cry from understanding our purpose on earth though.
We also discuss how someone’s actions affect the others in the class. This can come in the form of wasting time or it can be how people help each other out and create a class culture which allows everyone to enjoy their time together. Either way, they understand that they are not individuals solely going embarking on their school journey alone.
Physical Education provides resources for students to be in harmony with themselves. We practice yoga using Miss Jamie and her Cosmic Kids Yoga. We identify how movement lessens depression by releasing endorphins as well as the social aspect of gameplay. All of this helps with the mind-body connection. You can not be in harmony with yourself if you are ignoring either part of oneself.
My Health program is where we really delve into the idea of why are we here on earth. My fifth graders have a wellness unit and we discuss the idea that we are all interconnected on earth. The idea that someone’s actions in NJ can affect someone in Japan is something that is challenging for anyone to comprehend. I also plant the seed that we are on earth for a reason. I ask them to start thinking about their why. It is not realistic to believe that many of my students will fully realize their why in 5th grade. My hope is that being aware of spiritual wellness and the idea that they find their purpose in life will continue to grow throughout their schooling. After all how many adults do we know that can articulate their purpose in life?
Writing this blog makes me realize how important spiritual wellness is. The older I get the more importance I place on being a kind caring person over knowledge and physical activity. It may be that the world around me seems so angry all the time. It may also stem from the selfish reason that I want my children and grandchildren to live in a world that isn’t filled with greedy egocentric people. The idea that we are all connected in some way is nothing new.
I would be remiss if I did not include the fact that when I state that everyone is connected I mean EVERYONE! I make sure that my students hear this explicitly. You can not just be connected to those you identify with. That is another reason that understanding how our actions affect everyone else is so important for our students.
Michael Brown, the author of Finding the Field, offers the idea that there are five universal truths. His third truth hypothesizes that everything is connected.
The third universal truth is that all things—seen and unseen—are connected. All things are different faces of Consciousness. The Field, the Great Spirit, the Source, the Tao, the One: these are all names for the same thing. The universe is consciousness: an ocean in motion, a river of eddies, an infinite field of creative works in which the art is the artist, and the artist is the art. Consciousness, longing to experience itself, imagines us into existence, individualized, so that we can interact as if we were separate. What we create in that experience is also consciousness, and whatever object you can name—a mountain, a mouse, a fish or a fowl, a blade of grass or a puff of air—all of it is consciousness. Link
I love his book and would recommend you take a gander at it when you get a chance. I especially love his first universal truth that we all create our own reality.
I will leave you with a final quote that resonates with me about the idea that we are all connected.
The human individual, for example, is not a lone traveler amid the jungles of existence. He is a part of the world interacting in various ways with that world. Separate cultures are not closed, isolated islands. They are like great waves in the ocean of history, which work upon each other, often merging into even broader waves, often clashing with waves of a different dimension, so that the regular rhythm of the rise and fall of individual waves is broken. Like any other system, an organism or a society lives and functions as long as there is a certain interaction of the elements in these systems or of the systems themselves with other systems. Link