There’s a whole body of research around restorative practices. The premise is that people are happier, more productive, and more likely to make positive changes when those in positions of authority do things with them, rather than to them or for them. In my ninth year now as a City principal, I have learned that when teachers and administrators give students voice—allowing them to speak up and for themselves—a culture develops that is conducive to learning.
If your only image of yoga involves White women in Lululemon garb, then you don’t know the Baltimore-based non-profit Holistic Life Foundation (HLF). Most often, you’ll find HLF founders Ali Smith, Atman Smith, and Andres Gonzalez teaching yoga to African-American youth in a public school gym. Most of these students are exposed to significant trauma—fallout from growing up in poverty-stricken urban neighborhoods.
When Baltimore City erupted on the afternoon of Freddie Gray’s funeral, many adults froze in front of their television screens. The imagery of high school students hurling bricks and bottles at police in riot gear was, to many, stunning, shocking, astonishing. I was not astonished. Instead, I was saddened, because I was watching evidence of something I’d long known: We’d failed our students.