Guest Blog by
Leigh Brown, Theater Teacher
Claudine Ranieri, Dance Teacher
Paramus High School
This year mindfulness and wellness are two new buzz words throughout education. However, these two words are essential parts of all artists’ practices, especially for Dance and Theater Educators. In an effort to provide Professional Development for staff members at Paramus High School, Dance Educator, Claudine Ranieri, and Theater Teacher, Leigh Brown created professional development workshops for their colleagues addressing mindfulness and wellness best practices at this past February’s Staff Summit, where teachers are teaching teachers in an effort to provide meaningful and impactful professional development.
Over forty staff members attended the two workshops. In her Summit “Just Breathe … A Daily Dance for Finding Your Breathe”, Claudine wanted to create a session that nurtured educators who are managing everyday daily stressors. In an effort to share her daily dance experience, Claudine’s workshop incorporated her BrainDance warm-up series and guided practices that she has successfully used in all her dance classes including dance classes for students with autism. Teachers had an opportunity to experience the power of dance and its multisensory environment that stimulates all areas of the brain while clearing the mind, strengthening their focus and simply remembering how to breathe. The summit concluded with guided visual meditation and focus on the use of breath to relax and reenergize.
Leigh Brown’s Summit offered the basis of what he hopes will be a daily practice among more people, especially educators if they choose to apply mindfulness to the classroom. Unlike Claudine’s summit, in this Summit participants simply sat in school chairs. But like Claudine’s, the focus once again became the breath. Leigh uses the practice regularly in his acting classes for both focus and relaxation. Even a couple of minutes can help students to be more mindful of themselves and be more “in the moment”, an elusive but critical skill to the actor who hopes to be authentic. This Summit offered a glimpse into the regular group mindfulness sessions that Leigh is running on alternate Thursday afternoons throughout the school year for Paramus faculty and staff.
As School Counselor Sandra Vanderzee shared, “Since our day-to-day lives are nonstop and jam-packed with TO DO LISTS, you often forget to just BREATHE! The Just Breathe Staff Summit gave me a chance to close my eyes, calm my thoughts, stretch my body and breathe. After just 45 minutes, I walked out feeling rejuvenated. My mind and body felt more awake and relaxed than it has all year. I can’t thank Claudine enough for facilitating such a wonderful, and well-needed staff summit!” English Teacher, Ellen G. said “Thank you so much for such a wonderful session yesterday. I often feel as though I’m drowning in chaos. As a result, I forget to breathe – and your session couldn’t have come at a better time. Your words inspired and motivated me beyond measure, and the movements you had us engage in helped to relieve a great deal of tension. It’s no wonder your students love you and dancing so much! Thank you for sharing your gift and love of dance with us.”
Through the art of Dance and Theater, Claudine and Leigh hope to continue to provide and encourage everyone to take the time to hit pause, quiet their minds, find a moment to regain focus and ignite the power of the mind and body connection.
Feel free to contact Claudine and Leigh about professional development sessions.