Written by Kayla Reetz, Yoga Instructor + Trauma Supports Team Member
Kayla teaching Yoga in the Schools
"And we are led to those who help us most to grow if we let them and we help them in return." - For Good, from the Broadway musical, Wicked
When I started writing this blog post, For Good, the song from the popular musical, Wicked, came to mind.
At first, I thought it was too hokey to include, but the music educator in me begged me to take a further glance.
So I did, and, as I listened to the words again, everything seemed to fit with the intention of this article.
Let me show you what I mean...
“I’m limited.” ~ “For Good” from the Broadway musical, Wicked
How many of our students walk into a classroom feeling this way?
Worse- how many of them speak this way?
How many of our teachers feel this way?
Take a moment to reflect on a time you, yourself, have felt limited or in some way now enough and how you reacted to it.
When I first came to Challenge to Change, I was a broken and burnt out music teacher.
I struggled with assertion, self-confidence, and even questioned my teaching abilities/purpose, which I had been sure of since elementary school!
A large part of this stems from things I can’t control- budget cuts from districts, budget cuts from state levels, challenging student population numbers, among other things.
And I felt I was constantly fighting for something I believed in and told I couldn’t attain it. I felt limited.
During the pandemic, I was blessed with something I never had prior- time.
I used it to take the online 95-Hour Youth Yoga Teacher Training with Challenge to Change so I could learn how to bring self-care and wellness into the classroom more.
I was inspired by Molly Schreiber, founder, CEO and former elementary school teacher, and her journey to bring yoga and mindfulness lessons into the public school system.
That’s right. The public school system. Talk about fighting for something you believe in and told you couldn’t attain it!
Why? What resolve did these four women agree upon? It stems from the Dalai Llama quote that is also painted on the our studio walls: “If every 8-year-old in the world were taught meditation, we would eliminate violence in one generation.” They took this to heart with Molly at the forefront.
Molly, Rachel Harwood, Lora Halfhill and Shawna Poppen, all went into the schools of Dubuque, IA and began teaching what is still taught today – Challenge to Change’s signature Yoga in the Schools Program. Fast forward to today where there are about 30 Yoga in the Schools instructors statewide who now teach in about 50 different schools throughout the State of Iowa.
“I’ve heard it said that people come into our lives for a reason, bringing something we must learn.” ~ For Good from the Broadway musical, Wicked
Could yoga and mindfulness really make such a positive difference? If so, Molly wanted to prove it.
She teamed up with Kansas City University to challenge this thought through research with the Dubuque, IA schools.
They came into the school once a month to teach a yoga and mindfulness lessons using the signature 5 Parts of Practice - a structure Molly came up with the help of her elementary education background- and also kept a control group that did not receive the lessons, as most research studies do.
And the findings from that first year showed an increase in and maintenance of student social-emotional learning as well as slight increases in the reading, writing and math stats.
The moods and tension-anxiety levels of each group- the students who received yoga and the students who did not- showed a significant difference in a positive way for the students who received yoga and mindfulness lessons to those who did not, although not significant enough to present a new statistic.
I can hear some of your brains now- “But that was 2016- almost 7 years ago! That was before the pandemic!”
Yes, yes it was.
So, Challenge to Change took another survey of their work.
This time, the questions were given to the teachers who received our Elementary Year 1 Yoga in the Schools programming in their classrooms.
According to the 2023 survey to teachers, we received the following:
96% of respondents agree/strongly agree that Yoga + Mindfulness improved my experience as an educator in the classroom.
96% of respondents agree/strongly agree that Yoga + Mindfulness improved the emotional regulation of the students in the classroom.
96% of respondents agree/strongly agree that Yoga + Mindfulness made a positive improvement in students behavior.
82% of respondents agree/strongly agree that Yoga + Mindfulness made a positive improvement in students behavior.
96% of respondents agree/strongly agree that Yoga + Mindfulness has helped students embrace a flexible mindset
96% of respondents agree/strongly agree that Yoga + Mindfulness has improved the students' relationship with their peers + others in their school community.
So, what does this all mean? How does it translate?
As we look back to the beginning of this article, I asked you to reflect on a time you felt limited and may have started to talk to yourself that way.
Think about the emotions that surround that feeling. What actions or reactions might we do when we feel that way?
I taught for 3 more years- including the bookends of a pandemic, which led me to teach my why in a whole new way.
I was reminded of my why once again: I wanted to create a welcoming environment for all students.
And, at one time, I thought I could do that through music in the public schools, but Challenge to Change’s programming was the only place I felt it was achieved time and time again.
So, in 2021, I resigned from teaching from my public schools and started teaching with Challenge to Change in various public schools the following fall.
I left my career of 10 years to start at Challenge to Change because I remembered how they made me feel during one of those recertification classes I spoke of.
I only signed up for credit, but I left with inspiration.
I was renewed in my why behind music education.
And, like the song says, "who can say if I am changed for the better?"
But, because I do this work in both my professional and personal life, I do believe I have been changed for good.
For Good from the Broadway musical, Wicked
Peace in the mind, the heart and the rest of your day.
~ Kayla Reetz
P.S. You can find that our entire library of meditations, yoga and fitness on our ONLINE WELLNESS PLATFORM, the C2C Hub. Get a free 2-week trial!