Above, Gage Middle School is piloting a transcendental meditation program designed to help students reduce stress so they can focus on academic success.
When most people think of the winter holidays, they envision festive events with family and friends, kitchens filled with the scents of cooking and baking, finding and exchanging the perfect gift.
But the reality is that the season also can be a time of stress, filled with family pressures, financial worries and looming deadlines.
L.A. Unified mental health experts say that self-care is the key to not simply surviving but thriving during the holidays and other times of stress. This means slowing down and taking time for yourself. Stretch your muscles before you get up in the morning, stick to your exercise routine and take time to take a deep breath and slow down.
“It is imperative we understand and practice the concept of ‘self-care’ in order to be at our best at work, with our own families and ourselves,” said Pia Escudero, director of School Mental Health.
Because mental well-being is also essential component in the classroom, L.A. Unified is piloting an effort to teach self-care techniques to students, helping them identify and de-escalate tension so they can focus on academic success.
Through a grant from the California Endowment, funded by the David Lynch Foundation, students and staff at Gage Middle School are practicing transcendental meditation (TM) for 10 minutes every morning and afternoon. Gage Principal Cesar Quezada built support within his school community to bring TM to students.
“This is part of a wellness effort to support schools in communities impacted by social and economic issues,” said Escudero, adding that TM is not a religion or philosophy. “We know that trauma is prevalent in these communities that affects families and children. By teaching students how to become calm and well-regulated and resilient in the face of adversity, they can be ready to learn.”
During the meditation sessions, students sit at their desks, their eyes closed as the silently repeat the sounds that make up their mantra.
“Academically and socially, students need a way to center and ground themselves, which allows them to focus on their work,” said Angie Morten, a certified TM instructor who was brought by the Lynch Foundation to teach the program at Gage. “They, in turn, are more engaged in the classroom and learning is more fun for them. Students tell me that they are more rested and are able to get more out of their academic experience.”
Following a TM session earlier this week, students at the Huntington Park campus said the technique is having a positive impact on their schoolwork and their lives.
“I have more focus when doing my classwork,” said Nathan Matthew Trujillo. “I also use it when I get ready for a football game.”
Classmate Sebastian Menchaca said TM has helped him cope with the angst of adolescence and keep his emotions and behavior in check.
”TM helped me get all my pieces together and has helped me settle down,” Sebastian said. “I also use it at home and on the weekends. And, I will use it the rest of my life.”
Marching bands and color guards from 35 L.A. Unified high schools took to the field in the District’s 43rd annual Band and Drill Championships. Sponsored by the District’s Beyond the Bell Branch, the event represents a culmination of months of preparation for thousands of students and dozens of educators as they showcase half-time field shows with marching musicians, ‘pit’ percussion, color guards and dance teams.read more
Dozens of aspiring young medical professionals are learning from the people they want to be when they grow up, thanks to a unique partnership between Eastman Avenue Elementary School and USC’s Latino Medical Student Association.read more
The Science Academy STEM Magnet is the only public school in California where 100 percent of the students met or exceeded standards on the math portion of the rigorous Smarter Balanced Assessments. Coupled with its 98.29 percent score on the English assessment, the Science Academy also posted the highest combined score in California.read more
Los Angeles Police Department officers visited 800-plus students pledging to “Just Say No” to drugs, gangs, crime and bullying.read more
It took the two dozen law-enforcement officers weeks, months and even years to grow their mustaches but just a couple of minutes to shave their upper lips clean during an event that raised more than $26,000 for the City of Hope National Medical Center.read more
The Mirror, the student-produced newspaper at Van Nuys High School, earned recognition recently as one of the nation’s top high school publications by winning two awards from the National Scholastic Press Association.read more
An L.A. Unified junior experiences ‘the best three weeks of (her) life’ as an exchange student visiting Nagoya, Japan.read more
With his own story of overcoming adversity, San Fernando City Councilman Robert C. Gonzales inspires restorative justice counselors to help students change negative behavior so they can stay in school and succeed.
CSTA and Code.org announce the 2017 Champions for Computer Science – Medium magazine
How L.A. Unified Cultivates Districtwide Digital Citizenship – Common Sense Education
Around the world, and earning all A’s – The Newport (R.I.) Daily News
LAUSD, IBU and DAS Collaborate to Create the New Merchant Mariner Apprenticeship Program – Apprenticeship/California Department of Industrial Relations
Opinion: Students accepted through preferred gender pronouns – Los Angeles Times Insider
These 10 L.A. high schools are the best at getting their graduates to college – Los Angeles Times
LAUSD Making a Comeback with Instructional Technology – Converge Magazine
Dr. Frances Gipson honored as Top 30 Award recipient – Converge Magazine
New EdD in Educational Leadership graduate Michelle King named National Superintendent of the Year – USC Rossier School of Education
Pin Up, Don’t Shut Up – Public High School Art for the Scapegoats of Humanity – Random Lengths Magazine
East Bay Softball Inks Catcher Desiree Jimmy – Cal State East Bay Pioneers Athletics
California Teacher of the Year from North Hills to throw first pitch at Dodger Stadium – Los Angeles Daily News
Cleveland High band program marches on after years with no teacher, little money – Los Angeles Daily News
LAPD officers spread holiday cheer at Van Nuys elementary school – Los Angeles Daily News
Burrowing Owl delights students, staff at urban school – SoCalWild.com
Dorsey students complete College Board pilot class. – L.A. Sentinel
Girls Academic Leadership Academy: A unique opportunity.– Jewish Journal
West Valley Occupational Center celebrates 50 years. – Los Angeles Daily News
Linked Learning the focus of innovative high school. – Education Writers of America
Music, arts programs at LA schools increasing after years of decline. – Los Angeles Daily News
Coeur d’Alene Elementary: One school’s journey towards instructional excellence. – Cotsen Foundation
Student identity through the arts. Huffington Post
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