TLS at Oak Tech High School: From Special Education to Honors Biology

When Niroga started at Oakland Technical High School with in-class TLS sessions in January, the teachers were cautiously optimistic. Most were not sure if their students would respond positively to yoga, breathing techniques, and meditation. Many were concerned about the value gained by taking 15 -30 minutes out of their lesson plans in social studies, english, science, and math for TLS. The classrooms ranged from Special Ed with 3 students to Honors Biology with 33 students.

At the beginning some students were enthusiastic about our program, but some were not. At the end of the semester, however, nearly all of the students said they enjoyed learning TLS, and a large number of them stated that they use it on their own outside of the classroom when they feel stressed, sad, or angry. They've been applying these dynamic mindfulness practices before they sleep, when they wake up, while doing homework, and when competing in sports.

A majority of the students expressed an increase in self-awareness and self-control. One teen shared that the most useful concept she learned was, "that I can control how my body behaves and how I feel". Her classmate said that it has helped him to concentrate on his work. One young male exclaimed, "I feel calm afterwards and better about myself", while another observed changes within himself revealing that "I've been acting more peacefully to others".

The teachers' initial concerns have dissipated as they see the students transform in subtle and profound ways. A special education teacher notes, "Some of my students are now able to detect when peers need help breathing or when they need space. I often see my students tell each other to breathe or do a stretch when they get anxious/upset." An honors teacher reports, "I am amazed at how focused students can be with tools and a space that allows that."

Like the students, the teachers have also been applying what they have learned in the TLS sessions. One teacher, who works with severely handicapped students shares, "I use the breathing techniques to give a coping strategy with my students and I do them to reduce my own anxiety in stressful situations." Many of these teachers envision being trained to teach TLS themselves with the entire school engaging in dynamic mindfulness practices. One Oak Tech special education teacher believes that "if we can get all students to understand basic breathing techniques, we can only go upward and outward from there!"