Yoga Helps Focus Teaching, Learning

Kate Ginley, Staff Writer

World History teacher Diane Bessette may spend her schools days teaching, but outside of school the certified yoga instructor can be found pursuing her spiritual center, and occasionally teaching Yoga to close friends.

Wanting to “try new things,” Bessette took up yoga a few years ago. “I went to a nine month program in a Yoga studio,” Bessette said. The program was offered through Piedmont Yoga Studio in Oakland. “I studied to become a teacher. I didn’t intend to teach it, but I wanted to learn more about Yoga. Occasionally, I teach friends.”

“I was looking for a different way to exercise. I think that it helps to keep me flexible and strong. I think it has positive effects on your brain and keeps you calm,” she said.

Her experience with Yoga has inspired Bessette to use it with her students.  She has instituted “60 Second Yoga,” before tests, on rainy days, or after long work sessions in the classroom. “I do it because it’s helpful to move around a little in the day and I do think concentrating on a particular part of body helps with focus,” said Bessette.

“I’ve only done it 2 or 3 times but I’d like to do it more,” she said of the 60 second ritual. “I did it the first time after break because I figured most students were a little tired and relaxed from break and it would help concentration at the beginning of the class.”

Freshman Elena Koshkin thinks the class benefits from Bessette’s use of Yoga.  “I think that it actually helps because, one, it unites our class since we are all doing it together. Two, it gives us a minute to relax just before doing work, that way I personally see things more clearly,” she said.

“But I think that Ms. Bessette’s Yoga should be a little more engaging and physical. [She should] have us do more stretches and maybe even outside to really step up the level of concentration students can have afterwards,” Koshkin said.

Anya Li said, “I definitely think her 60 second Yoga helps because after lunch your brain is a little worn out and it helps to relax and refresh it.”

“I think teachers have to do what they enjoy but I think getting kids to move around before test time helps focus concentration,” said Bessett.

“Part of what Yoga is about is not just being flexible physically but being mentally aware and focused,” Bessette explained.

Before Bessette started teaching this year, she was a lawyer. “I practiced [law] on and off for about 16 to 15 years,” explained Bessette. The history teacher studied at UC Hastings Law School, which is the oldest law school in the West.

Bessette no longer argues cases. “I wanted to try something different and decided I had done law for enough time and was up for a new challenge.”

“I love history and enjoy working with teenagers and colleagues; it’s pretty fun,” Bessette said.

Comparing her previous job to being a teacher, Bessette said, “it’s certainly more challenging to engage 130 teenagers everyday” rather than getting someone out of a parking ticket.

After her first few months of being a full-time teacher Bessette believes she has found good strategies to be successful: “In every class, I try to use 2-3 different ways of teaching like watching a video and writing, creating a map, and analyzing documents because I realize students learn in different ways and I want to be able to reach all my students.”

“All students are lovely, intelligent people and I enjoy teaching and I enjoy teaching all of them,” Bessette said.

Bessette’s goal is “to continue teaching and become a good history teacher.”