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  • Writer's picturekatelyn russell

Friday was a weird day. The kids were sick all week and by Friday, I was, too. Feverish and out of it, I spent most of the day in a daze. I felt like I was living outside of myself, watching what I was doing with a sort of detached judgment. I wish I could say curiosity but nope, judgment. The students’ incessant questions about an activity (with no attempts to problem-solve beforehand) became a, “what am I doing with my life?” internal narrative. That narrative spun out of control in the midst of preparing an activity for yoga. I sat in the dark in my basement classroom, alone, cutting out yoga postures and taping the cutouts to index cards. It took a while, at least a half hour, to prepare the activity, which will take the kids about 5 minutes to complete (then probably complain about).

That half hour was completely miserable.

Snip… “why am I doing this.”

Tape… “is this all there is to life?”

Cut cut cut…”I cannot believe at one point I was a fully funded PhD student and now I teach health for a living, a subject that feels like a joke in public high school education.”

Oof. The last one is the refrain that comes up every single time I feel a swell of discontent. It’s the nasty voice that berates me for not being more quote-unquote, “successful.” I don’t hate teaching - as a whole, I feel very satisfied with how I spend my days. I’m up and around, talking to kids and colleagues, exploring ideas, solving problems, learning, and pivoting on a dime. I have a lot of autonomy. I like the kids, I think they like me. What the nasty voice picks at, I think, is…it’s hard to describe. It's a manufactured discontent. It’s the worry that I’ve settled or that I “could be doing more” although I’m not sure what more is. It’s the feeling that the only way to succeed is to be a doctor or lawyer or Ph.D. or CEO, not a lowly high school teacher. It’s rage at the system that chooses to pay people in “business” way more than people in public service or construction or caregiving or farming and thus gives these business people power because money is power, isn’t it?

These feelings are so deep and true and real that they come across as trite, superficial, and insignificant. The truest things always do. They become cliched so that we don’t have to dig too deep to try to describe them - the description is there for us.

I’ve found the only way to quell the nasty voice is by action or getting outside of myself. A good talk with a friend, a walk, or shopping, which is what I did on Friday. I got out of my classroom as soon as I could and went to a store I really like that is out of my way and therefore a special trip. I walked around and thought about things that were not deep or existential, like do I actually like this shirt and want to buy it or is this an impulse? You can criticize this as capitalistic but I think of it as a mindfulness practice. Here I am, walking through the store, feeling fabric, hearing hangers rustling, looking at people going by. Here I am in what is happening right now, not in the problem I’ve made up.

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  • Writer's picturekatelyn russell

Here's Part 1 and Part 2.

Alright, alright, alright, we’re 4+ weeks into the 2023-2024 school year. A few thoughts:

  • Time-block planning FTW

  • Still working on not filling space with meaningless chatter (for example - Open House)

  • I’m almost 37 and still afraid of administrators

  • A good outfit gives street cred (shallow, but true)

I have two sick kids and have lost the will to wake up at 5 a.m. to write for a blog that I refuse to publicize. Time is of the essence, as they say, so I’ll cut to the chase, as they also say. If you are one of I don’t know how many other people in this world who teach high schoolers yoga for a living in a public school, boy are you in luck. Here’s a unit outline along with an assignment. It’s not super detailed or perfect - it's a work in progress and I’m sharing it anyway (thanks for the inspiration, Austin Kleon). Enjoy your Friday!

Overview weeks 1-4
Download DOCX • 312KB

Yoga Dictionary pt 3
Download DOCX • 8KB

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One of my favorite podcasts is Hidden Brain, hosted by Shankar Vedantam. I just finished a two-part episode spotlighting the decades-long work of Eliot Aranson. If you’ve ever used the Jigsaw method in your classroom, you know Eliot Aranson even if the name doesn’t sound familiar; he created the method in the 70s.

Here’s Part 1: How We Live With Contradictions and Part 2: Outsmarting Yourself for your listening pleasure. Cognitive dissonance is one of those terms that I probably learned about in Psych 101 but never truly understood. And because it’s woven into the lexicon, I’ve most definitely used it inappropriately. For those of you in the same boat, here is the definition of cognitive dissonance: when you have two beliefs that contradict one another. This doesn't feel good and because it doesn’t feel good (or, in psychology terms, is aversive) we try to reduce the dissonance by changing one of the beliefs. Or, as Arason explains in Part 2 of the podcast, by making up a story about why we believe what we believe or did what we did. It reminded me of the work of psychologist Dan Gilbert, who found that fewer choices and more concrete choices tend to make people happier.

What does all this have to do with health? In Part 2, Aranson talks about his work in health education, specifically sex education, when he created interventions aimed at increasing condom use. The interventions that spurred increased condom use in the short term didn’t work to change behavior in the long term. That is until Aranson had students create videos of themselves presenting why condom use was so important and encouraging others to use condoms and told the students it would be part of a high school health curriculum. This intervention produced significant increases in condom use that persisted to the 6-month mark.

Basically, if you make a video of yourself espousing the benefits of a health behavior that you think other people will see, you want to become a person who also does that health behavior. Not doing the health behavior and teaching others to do it would result in cognitive dissonance. We might, therefore, have students teach others in the community (in a very, very visible way) about the very health behavior that we are trying to encourage.

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