Put Your Back Into It

I am happy to say that the “aha” moment that I wrote about in my last post has since left me feeling much more positive towards my learning project. I have been practicing yoga regularly, using the videos featured in my previous posts. I can feel my body getting stronger, and it’s been a great outlet for when I am feeling stressed! Today, after a long day at work where it felt like I was on my feet or hunched over all day, my back was pretty sore. I’ve struggled with lower back issues in the past, and wondered if there were yoga poses that would help ease the pain. I quickly jumped onto Pinterest and came across this article about the benefits of yoga for back pain, complete with poses to help relieve back pain. However, while I liked reading about the benefits for pain that yoga can have, some of the poses definitely seemed a little too challenging (ahem, plow pose  and reclining single leg twist ). So, I continued on my search!

Eventually, I found this article from Yogiapproved.com. Success! While I’ve stuck to videos thus far in my learning project, I thought it might be nice to use pictures of poses and written out instructions, to see which way helps me learn more effectively. Some of the 12 poses were ones I had already learned and posted before, but many were new. Here are examples of some of the poses that I tried today:

 

 

Conclusion:

  • I did not end up relaxed. I thought the descriptions of each pose  were kind of confusing, and was constantly stopping to consult my iPad throughout to see how I was supposed to start the pose, how long I should hold it for, etc. It was difficult to just try to clear my mind and relax.
  • It is easier for me to learn a new sequence when I am able to see the natural flow from one pose to the next. This helps me see how they all connect and helps with that “disjointed” feeling.
  • The poses themselves were pretty effective. They challenged me and stretched me, however, I am not sure that they helped ease my pain, but this could definitely be something that you need to do often and then feel the effects over time.
  • I am really happy that I opted to post pictures this week, as the video footage of me trying to just get my legs aligned with the wall during the last pose is pretty comical!
  • I will probably stick to videos over just pictures and descriptions. So far, the videos have helped me get in the moment and have helped me learn poses more successfully.

My favourite pose from this session: Thread the Needle. You can find a description on the pose and its benefits here. I liked this pose because the way that the arms and body are positioned, there is a lot of stretching happening, and it helped release some of the pain in my back. The way that the head is positioned makes it a more calming pose than some of the others.

My least favourite pose from this session: Leg up the Wall. You can find a description on the pose and its benefits here. Okay, when I was finally in the pose it felt good. But when I was trying to actually get into the pose, there was a lot of flailing. So much flailing.

Have you ever used yoga or other forms of physical activity to help with pain or an injury? Did you find that physical activity lessened the pain or made it worse? I would love to hear personal experiences! 

 

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“Just As We Are All Treaty People, We All Need To Bear Witness”

Last week, I had the opportunity to listen to a powerful lecture based around the ideas of identity and reconciliation. During his lecture,  Honourable Justice Murray Sinclair shared about the profoundly negative impact that residential schools had on the First Nations culture, and continue to have today.  Justice Sinclair brought up many excellent points about how important reconciliation is for everyone, not just First Nations people. All too often, it seems that many feel that the impact that residential schools continue to have is not their problem. Some popular arguments I have heard include:

“It’s not like we were around during residential schools, so why are you blaming all white people?”  

“They (First Nations people) should be over it by now… it happened years ago.” 

Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but these types of arguments just make me angry. Angry that residential schools ever happened in the first place, but also angry that our education system has done such a poor job of educating others on the impact that these schools have. As stated previously, residential schools have not just impacted First Nations culture. During his presentation, Justice Sinclair stated that residential schools have also impaired non-First Nations peoples’ knowledge and perception of the First Nations culture. It seems so strange to me that a part of history that has had such a profound effect is talked about in schools so rarely.

While we cannot and should not ever forget the past, it is important that we also consider the future. Many of my peers, including Ryan and Ashley, have written excellent posts reflecting on their own commitments to reconciliation. My commitment to reconciliation is to first better educate myself on the TRC and their invaluable work, and from there try to create a classroom environment where residential schools are not an off-limits topic, and all students’ ever-forming identities and experiences are valued and celebrated.

When I think of residential schools, as well as how they are portrayed today, I often think of the simple explanations of bullying that I received in elementary school. Back then, bullies were simply thought of as those who did harm to others for their own gain, victims were those who helplessly received the harm, and bystanders were those who stood around and watched the harm happen, but did not speak up or step in. When it comes to the portrayal (or non-portrayal) of residential schools and the generations of harm that they have done to First Nations people, I refuse to be a bystander.

“The Perfect Crime” by Aaron Peters is an honest portrayal of the effects of residential schools 

That “Aha” Moment

As reading week comes to a close, I have started sleeping poorly and stressing myself out over what is to come in the next few months (assignments, interviews, etc.). So, after a particularly short night of sleep, I decided that this morning was the perfect opportunity to try out some yoga to both wake myself up and calm myself down. I wanted to leave this yoga session feeling relaxed yet energized and ready for the day. I visited the “Do Yoga With Me” website hoping to find a beginner hatha yoga video that would fit my needs for the day. While on the site, I found a video called “After Work Revitalizer 2”. The website describes the video, led by an instructor named Rachel Scott, as being fun and lively, with a focus on the neck, spine, and hips. While I wasn’t sure that this video was exactly what I was looking for, I decided to give it a shot because of the description, and because it was around 20 minutes.

I am so glad that I gave this video a chance! It turned out to be exactly what I needed. Upon completing my yoga session, I feel calm and in control. While following the video, I finally had that “aha” moment I have been waiting for, where the point of doing yoga finally started to make sense. I believe that this was my most successful yoga session for a multitude of reasons:

I focused solely on myself and the yoga that I was doing. When documenting my yoga sessions for my learning project in the past, I couldn’t seem to just “let go.” As much as I tried to focus on just being in the moment, I was constantly pausing the videos that I was doing to check and see if my laptop was still filming, whether the camera was pointed exactly where it needed to be, and whether I looked ridiculous. Today, I just let all of that go. I made sure prior to starting filming that my laptop was set up exactly the way it needed to be in order to include my full body, and then just didn’t care after that. I knew that even if not all of the footage turned out blog worthy, I would still at least find something to work with. As for worrying about whether I looked ridiculous? I just decided that I don’t care! I am not a yoga instructor or someone who has been practicing for years, so it’s natural that I wont look exactly like the instructors in the video. I am learning to accept and embrace that. By just letting myself focus on the yoga, I found that I felt calmer and was able to benefit from it more than usual.

I am getting stronger. Even though this is only my third post since starting yoga, I have been starting to practice more often without documenting it. Since finding the Flexibility and Range of Motion video that I reviewed in my last post, I have been making a point of doing the 9 minute video every day. As a result, I am starting to feel more flexible and finding it easier to hold more challenging poses for long periods of time. It helps that all of the videos that I have used incorporate some variation of a sun salutation, so I have been able to practice the same basic poses multiple times.

The video itself is amazing. I know that I have liked every video I have written about so far, but this one is excellent! The instructor, Rachel Scott, is energetic and moves through the poses at the perfect pace. I loved the poses used because they are a mixture of fast, high energy sequences, and slow, relaxing ones. I did find many of the poses very challenging, but they were not impossible. Whenever a pose did seem especially challenging, it was usually followed by an easier, slower one. I left my session feeling decompressed and energized for the day.

I used the savasana pose to end off my session. After my last few sessions of yoga, I have found myself feeling like something is missing. The videos would just abruptly finish and that would be the end of my session. The video that I used today made me realize that what my yoga sessions have been lacking so far is the savasana pose! The savasana pose, or corpse pose, comes at the end of a yoga session. During savasana, you basically just lay on your back on the floor with your arms and legs relaxed and your eyes closed. While it is definitely a simple pose, it has so many benefits, as stated in this article. Savasana has always been my favourite part of yoga, because it allows your whole body to relax, and makes you feel incredible. Even if the videos that I find in the future do not include the pose, I plan to start doing it at the end of every yoga session no matter what.

 

Overall, this morning’s session of yoga has left me feeling revitalized and excited to continue my learning project! For the first time since starting, I can confidently say that I am looking forward to my next yoga session and making more progress.

Have you ever started learning a new hobby and skill and had that “aha” moment where it all finally starts to feel worth it?

 

I Bend So I Don’t Break

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While scrolling through Pinterest this morning, I came across a yoga related quote that stated: “I bend so I don’t break.” Since starting my learning project, I have let procrastination get the best of me (as usual). Since my first post, I convinced myself of many reasons not to take the time to do yoga. My inner thoughts prior to today went something like this:

“It’s super embarrassing posting pictures and videos of myself practicing yoga. Why didn’t I choose a learning project that did not involve me documenting myself twisting my body into all sorts of weird positions for the whole internet to see?” 

“I don’t have time to do yoga. Between homework, work, job applications, house hunting, and portfolio-making, yoga is the last thing on my mind.” 

“Why would I do yoga when I can sit here and eat junk food and spend all my free time on social media?” 

As you can tell, I am obviously a naturally optimistic person (haha). It wasn’t until I found the quote “I bend so I don’t break,” that I finally decided to get moving again. The quote is simple, but effective. Yes, I am still young and healthy(ish), however,  I chose yoga as my learning project because it will benefit me and hopefully have an impact on my lifestyle. So, with a refreshed mindset, I continued to search through Pinterest for a new yoga related resource. I really like the site that I have been using, but wanted to try something new. While on Pinterest, I found this article, which gave a few great yoga related youtube channels. Because of that article, I decided to try out Livestrong Woman’s  Youtube channel, specifically, Tara Stiles’ video titled Flexibility and Range of Motion.  Even though I have practiced yoga sporadically and took dance classes from the ages of 3-17, I am an incredibly un-flexible person. I wanted to try out this video in particular because I believe that increased flexibility will help me become better at every other aspect of yoga. Here are (in my opinion) the pros and cons of the Flexibility and Range of Motion video:

Pros:

  • It’s free and easy to locate.
  • It’s short. The video is only around 10 minutes long. While this may be too short depending on what you are looking for, I think it’s the perfect length for those who are looking to incorporate yoga into their daily routine.
  • It gets down to the basics. I’m almost wishing that I would have done this video before using the sun salutations video from my last post, as it uses some of the same poses but at a more basic level.
  • It’s HARD. Because I have done yoga before, I assumed that this video would be a breeze. I was incredibly wrong. Maybe it was because I have not done any sort of physical activity in a while, or maybe because I am just an un-flexible person, but either way this video was definitely a challenge for me! The poses stretched me much more than I thought they would, and I was actually sweating by the end of the video.

Cons: 

  • It’s HARD (Okay, this is just me complaining. The difficulty was really a pro for me, but still, I can’t say I enjoyed it the whole way through).
  • The instructor goes through the poses quite quickly. While I felt really stretched, sometimes I didn’t have enough time to really get into one before moving onto the next.

Overall, I am looking forward to continuing my learning project and trying more of Tara Stiles’ yoga videos. I think that the flexibility video is one that I will continue to use as often as possible in addition to other resources.

Now for the technology side of my learning project: I have been using my iPad to watch the yoga videos on, and my MacBook and iMovie to record myself practicing yoga. For pictures, I have just been screenshotting stills from the videos I make. I am finding it difficult to stay focused on letting my thoughts drift and practicing yoga while making sure my computer is tilted at the right angle and still filming. What is everyone else using to document their own learning project? Do you find it hard to just let go when you still want to be focused on the tech aspect of the project?

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The Importance of Digital Identity

Photo Credit: jadepitre via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: jadepitre via Compfight cc

Since starting my ECMP 355 journey, I have been given much opportunity to reflect on my digital identity and the presence that I have created online. According to Binary Tattoo’s “About Us” page, digital identity is “the permanent collection of data about us that is available online.” Admittedly, when I hear the word permanent I start to get nervous. It can seem terrifying putting information out into the world knowing that it is there forever.

But why does it have to be terrifying? 

Prior to university, I did not give a lot of consideration to my digital identity. I used Facebook and Twitter, but had high privacy settings on both so that outsiders looking in could not get a glimpse into my life. While most of what I posted was fine, I remember attending a first year lecture and almost being made to feel guilty by the professor about having a presence online at all. I immediately went home and started deleting things from my Facebook and Twitter, and turned my privacy settings up as high as they could go. Deleting content that I would not want a future employer to see was necessary, but looking back I cannot help but wonder whether my own PLN could have grown more in my first few years of university had that professor worded his opinions a little differently. “Forget the resume: Online profiles the tool of young job seekers” explores the idea that resumes are being faded out of the employment process. More and more often, employers are seeking online portfolios to learn more about job candidates. Even if candidates do not have an online portfolio, it is better to have a positive digital presence that can show future employers your skills and accomplishments, rather than have no presence at all. Presently, I believe that I have a fairly strong, professional digital identity. When my name is googled (with the additions of either “Kenaston” or “Regina”), you will find my professional twitter, about.me page, blog, and various newspaper articles about my high school and internship extracurricular activities. While my first year professor may not agree, I believe that these are all things that I should take pride in and want others to see.

An article titled: “Digital Speaking/Positive Digital Footprints” raises some excellent points about digital literacy. The article discusses how while the scare tactics often used by people in positions of power when discussing digital literacy may encourage students to think before they post, these scare tactics also, whether inadvertently or not, discourage students from developing a digital identity at all. According to the article, scare tactics “prevent students from seeing digital footprints as potential tools for learning, finding like-minded peers, and building reputations as thoughtful contributors to meaningful digital conversations” (Ferriter, 2011). Thinking about one’s digital identity and its permanence does not have to bring up feelings of stress or nervousness.

So how do we teach our students about the importance of digital identity without scaring them away from having one? 

While I think that it is vital that students understand the importance of thinking before they post, I think we need to stray away from the thinking of “will this get me into trouble?” and move towards asking “can I take pride in what I have just posted?”Showing students examples of digital identities, teaching them how to use various social media platforms, and implementing technology into the learning process can provide students with a positive exposure to technology and social media. When a positive exposure to technology and social media happens at the school level, students are more likely to continue developing a digital identity that they can be proud of outside of school.

Has anyone broached the idea of digital identity and digital citizenship with their students? What kinds of projects, apps, etc. did you use to make students see the importance of creating a positive digital footprint?

Sun Salutations

After much procrastination, I have officially kicked off the “learning” portion of my learning project. To be honest, most of the reason I procrastinated so long was because I was nervous. When I chose yoga for my learning project, I was just excited to do something good for myself. However, I did not give a lot of thought to what the process would actually look and feel like. As the days went by, I kept putting off my learning project. I knew that I wanted to film myself doing yoga, but was terrified about how a video would turn out. Would I look awkward and incapable? Would people see the video and laugh at me? Would I even be able to figure out how to film myself? Today I finally decided to face my fears and just go for it.

For my first day of yoga, I used this website that I discovered last week. “Do Yoga With Me” requires users to create an account, but is free of charge. It has a variety of options for every yoga learner. Today, I went under the “Yoga Classes” section, and searched for 0-20 minute, beginner Hatha yoga classes. While searching, I found a 20 minute video called “Sun Salutations 1.” I first tried sun salutations in the yoga class that I attended in the fall, and always enjoyed the simplicity and repetition of them. As it’s been months since I completed a sun salutation, I thought it would be a great way to ease back into yoga. You can find the benefits of sun salutations listed here, and a chart showing the poses used in a sun salutation here.

I really enjoyed the video that I used, as the instructor talks participants through each pose step by step. While this would probably be annoying for anyone more experienced, it was perfect for beginners or people like me who have not done yoga in months.  I found the sun salutations to be very relaxing, and enjoyed that there was a progression. The poses started out fairly basic, and then more challenging poses were added after each salutation. By the end of the video, I was definitely feeling challenged and tired. Next time, I think that I will use this video again so that I gain more practice and can monitor if any progress has been made. The below clip is how I looked about halfway through the sun salutations practice video. While I am pretty apprehensive about sharing this video, and kind of embarrassed by how it turned out, I am excited to document my progress throughout my learning project!

Has anyone else felt apprehensive or self conscious throughout the learning project process? Does anyone dislike watching themselves on video? I would love to hear from you!

 

The Wonderful World of Blogging

This week as part of my ECMP 355 class, I signed myself up for a Feedly account and started navigating the wonderful world of blogging! When I first logged onto my Feedly account, it seemed a little daunting. With so many blogs out there how would I know which to subscribe to? How could I find blogs that would be of interest to me and my views as a pre-service teacher? Well, it turns out it’s simple. First, I read this article  that gave a variety of great education blogs to follow. I did not follow every blog on the list, but instead read each description, and figured out which would be the most beneficial for me and my interests. After using the article, I simply typed “education” into the Feedly search box and went from there. I quickly found quite a few  interesting blogs this way, one being Edutopia. I then realized that I wanted to narrow down my search and focus in on educational topics that were of the most interest to me (mainly educational technology and inclusive education).

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Above is a screenshot of my Feedly page

It was during my search for inclusive education related blogs that I found a blog called The Autism Helper. The Autism Helper is a blog that aims to provide tools, resources, articles, etc. that can help support those working with individuals on the autism spectrum. The blog is split into different categories that enable readers to easily find what they are looking for. The categories include “Academics, Behaviour, Communication, Shop, and Get Involved.” From there, each category is subcategorized. For example, when looking under the “Behaviour” section, readers would find the subcategories “Data, Intervention, Organization & Classroom Set Up, Schedules, and Visuals.”After exploring this site, I think it is a wonderful resource for parents, teachers, and others working with people with disabilities. The articles are easy to read and personal, and the resources are very helpful. Even if readers do not want to buy the resources, they can still gain some great ideas that can be created and adapted to fit their own classroom. All articles and pictures can also be linked to Pinterest, so that I can go there and easily find any ideas or resources that I found especially helpful. I believe that this blog is invaluable for educators looking to adapt their teaching to fit the needs of all learners.

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My Learning Project: Becoming Stretched and De-stressed

After reading a fellow blogger’s post about starting to write for himself instead of others, I have set myself the goal of writing more informal blog posts that sound more like me and less like essays. So naturally, I tried to come up with a witty title for my first learning project post. I then quickly realized that coming up with witty titles is a challenge! So, forgive me for my first attempt. Anyways, after much deliberation over what I should choose for my learning project, I finally decided on yoga. At first I was unsure because I noticed that there were quite a few people thinking about doing yoga, but the more I thought about it the more it just seemed like a good fit for me. This semester I am focused on becoming a healthier version of myself (better food choices, more exercise, etc.), so yoga fits right into my focus. Doing yoga for my learning project will (hopefully) improve my overall health, and because it is for a class, the idea is that I will feel more accountable than I would if I were just trying to do yoga on my own time. I get anxious and stressed out easily, so I am also hoping that yoga will be an outlet that I can use to relax in high stress situations.

I have unsuccessfully attempted to make doing yoga a habit a few different times. In my first year of university, I signed up for a weekly yoga class with full intentions of having it become part of my lifestyle. Even though it was on campus and I also lived on campus, I think I showed up to two classes. Then, this past fall while living in Kenaston for my internship, I signed up with two friends for another weekly yoga class. This time, the class was actually a pretty positive experience. The yoga itself left me feeling relaxed, I really enjoyed the instructor, and I liked going with my two closest friends. However, as internship started to become more and more stressful, I started to show up to yoga less and less. I think I went to the class maybe four times total. While I do have some experience, I believe that it’s limited enough that I do not have a very high baseline.

In order to decide what type of yoga I should focus on (I have briefly tried both vinyasa and hatha), I read this article  so that I could learn more about each type. I found the article to be very helpful, as it was written in a simple, enjoyable to read way. After reading the article, I also took a fun quiz (located at the bottom of this post). The quiz and the article helped me see that hatha yoga is probably the best choice for me. Hatha yoga is a type of beginner yoga that is slower paced, and focuses on breathing.

Now that I have decided what type of yoga I will be doing, I will be spending time each week practicing various poses and sequences. I’m still a little unsure about how I will go about this, but am hoping to figure out the details this week! I hope to use Youtube, Pinterest, and Twitter to research techniques, tips, and poses. To start, I found an awesome website with tons of different instructional yoga videos. I haven’t explored it extensively, but I love that I can zero in on exactly what I’m looking for, as the site allows you to choose the teacher, level, style, length, wellness focus, body part, practice focus, and pose focus. I’m looking forward to trying it out this week!

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A screenshot from greatist.com

More About Me

Hey there!

My name is Ashton Mills. I grew up in small town Kenaston, Saskatchewan, with my mom, dad, twin brother, and younger brother. I attended Kenaston School from kindergarten to grade twelve, and was involved in a variety of sports and clubs, including volleyball, basketball, student rep. council, dance, track and field, and drama. I loved being at school and helping others, so becoming a teacher always seemed like a natural fit. I chose to attend the U of R because I had heard so many great things about the program. I am currently in my fourth year (and final semester) of my BEd PreK-5.

After finishing my first year of university, I returned to Kenaston for the months of May and June and worked as an EA for a seven year old boy with Global Developmental Delay. I then went back to Regina for July and August and worked as a summer program worker at the Autism Resource Centre. These experiences made me realize my passion for working with individuals with disabilities, and since then I have worked as an EA in the Saskatoon Public School Division, and as a summer program worker at Autism Services in Saskatoon. I strongly believe in inclusion in the classroom, and hope to eventually obtain my inclusive education certificate through the U of S.

This past fall, I interned at Davidson School (Sun West School Division) in the grade one classroom. I could not have asked for a better experience. I loved my class, supervising teacher, and the school’s environment in general. While at Davidson, I was able to coach grade 5/6 volleyball, help direct the grade 3-6 drama production, and help start up an elementary student leadership team. Sun West is a division that puts great emphasis on the use of technology in the classroom. I was able to learn and implement a variety of new technology tools into my teaching, and immensely enjoyed it. Sun West is starting to move towards personalized (or blended) learning. Personalized learning uses technology to allow students to learn at their own pace. While my teacher was not starting the official personalized process until January, I was able to observe other classrooms in the division and attend workshops based on personalized learning. It was so awesome to see the benefits of technology in the classroom firsthand.