Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The importance of Physical and Mental Health

At the detention center we've been battling for the needs of our students.  This year our PE teacher made a great effort to create a fitness/classroom that would house his health classes.  Not only that, the facility could be used by anybody, including staff, and also a place to hold yoga classes and other small group activities.

The D home said NO.  Worse then that, they said they were turning it into a storage room.  Yep.  That's right, a place for stuff in boxes.  Worse then that, we were actually given $30,000 to create a multipurpose classroom and they still turned it down.  It wouldn't have cost the facility anything.  We were granted the money from the state.  NO.  They would rather turn $30,000 away and have nothing.

So we're trying to come up with a plan B.  We are still granted this money, which is quite a lot.  We have so many ideas, but of course all of them have to get approved by the facility.  I've been doing my part by trying to incorporate yoga with one group after school, and we'll be offering yoga to 2 groups this spring.  The problem is this center.  The people who run this place seem to not care about the well being of the kids. I don't know all the reasons.  I bet you can think of a few on your own.

I decided to go on record about what I think.  And here it is.....

Hi Mike (and co-teachers),

I probably won’t be in tomorrow’s meeting so I thought I would write my own thoughts and feelings about this issue here.  This represents my beliefs and ideas.  I want in no way to offend anyone.  I feel that this issue is extremely important to our school program, but most importantly to our students. 

Firstly, I am so sorry to hear about the abandonment of Plan A (plan to create a health/fitness room for youth and staff).  I think one of the most important topics to our students are health issues.  I feel like our students crave knowledge and accurate information that pertain to their own health and fitness and it is a shame that we cannot give them a physical space to safely explore, understand, and research those issues.

I think this is also a great time to evaluate how I teach.  I think that finding a way to weave in health issues to my own curriculum can be beneficial to my class.  Of course this takes some planning time and a different approach.  I would like to suggest that maybe I could possibly team teach with Mike on occasion about certain things that are within my knowledge base and abilities with fitness and health.

As a whole team we are a knowledgeable group of teachers and already bring our own vast knowledge, creativity, and a wealth of personal experiences to our students.  Could we work across the curriculum in a productive and useful way that meets the needs of our students without overworking ourselves?  Maybe re-evaluating the schedule to accommodate physical health, mental health, and fitness centered classes is an approach worth considering?

Another idea for consideration, may be to plan a health and fitness “expo” for our students?  Or once a week or once a month offer something that aims focus on the holistic well being of our students in all (or most) classes?  Can we get some guest speakers to come in and give in-depth, hands on experiential lessons on health and fitness?  Can we invite people who create workshops on particular topics that are aimed at our population?  Can we attend conferences and workshops ourselves so we are trained to provide those experiences for our students?  Does anybody know where to look for such things?

What is the long term goal of the health and fitness program at NVJDHS?  Will we see this type of funding every year?  Do we ever anticipate having a “home” for the health and fitness program?

I have also already applied for at Dream Fund Grant, and will hopefully be able to continue the after school yoga program with at least 2 units this year (Unit 3 and 4).  I have also looked into other national grants to apply for additional funds to bring in volunteers and possibly receive training.  As you know I will be fully certified in yoga in the beginning of June, and I am already certified in Yokid Yoga Teacher Training.  I would be more than happy to provide yoga classes to students during the school day.  I would be happy to gain training in climbing (I used to climb in New Mexico). 

How can Merilee help us with this road block?  Would she find it acceptable to create a different type of learning environment or change scheduling?  Are we able to offer course changes to include things like yoga? Would funding be available to specific trainings for teachers?

I can also check to see if some of my yoga teachers would know anything.  Many of them are athletes, social workers, artists, and volunteers.  Maybe they or someone they know would be able to offer up some different ideas.

Other ideas:
Wii fit

Take Unit 7 to an Outdoor Education Trip

Bring experiential education to the D- home (there are facilitators that would come in and do team building etc…)  -- This would also require some long term work to actually have a benefit with kids.

Health workers come in to work with units in small groups to discuss sexual health and diseases

Partnerships with Alexandria Mental Health Facilities, Art groups, youth advocates

I do think that changes need to come in some way to the detention home and I feel that we could make a lot of change within the school. We just need to think outside the box and consider things that may be different and not of the “norm”.  We have to remember we do NOT teach the “typical” (whatever that means) student.  All of our students come from a variety of backgrounds, and I think it’s a disservice to not meet them where they are at.  This year in particular, we are fortunate to have a small population in which we actually have the capacity to make a greater impact. 

I think it’s important for me to let my students know that I’m here for them and I’m going to offer them the best that I can, so they can do the best that they can.  Equity in education is such a huge issue in this country.  Every one of our students should get the education they need.  Our population needs education in all subjects, but in particular they need knowledge about their own health, mental and physical well being.  I will do what I can to support you, Mike.

Thank you all for reading this e-mail, I will get off my soap box. 

With warm sincerity,



We'll see what happens......

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