How do you teach choir online? This is the challenge Johnson Middle School teacher Amanda Monreal and her colleagues across the district have faced over the past months.
Not one to back down from a challenge, Monreal got creative and started making weekly meditation videos that enhance the social-emotional learning, or SEL, of both remote and in-person choir students.
SEL equips students to work and relate with others well, set goals and make decisions, as well as cope with emotions in a healthy way. Monreal’s meditation videos vary week to week, sometimes focusing on positive affirmations, mindfulness or abdominal breathing exercises. Each provides the time and space for students to pause, reflect and refocus their thoughts.
“For some of the kids, it feels a little weird at first. But I always ask them afterward how it made them feel. I’ve had a lot of students say they feel calm, they feel relaxed,” says Monreal.
At first Monreal was a little unsure about these videos, but she shares that they have helped both her and her students gain confidence and perspective along the way. More than that, several other Irving ISD choir teachers have been able to incorporate her videos into their classroom warmups and lessons.
“It took off! I did one and my colleagues were really receptive,” says Monreal. “They said that the students were really loving them, so I just kept going and researching, coming up with ideas that I could put my own spin on. And, it’s been really healing for me too.”
Monreal recalls a video she created about positive affirmations that had a powerful impact on the students in a colleague’s classroom.
“It led to this huge heart-to-heart discussion about self-esteem, which I thought was amazing,” says Monreal. “Realizing that a lot of our students don’t know how to do that, they don’t know how to say nice things to themselves and it feels weird saying ‘I’m awesome,’ ‘I’m smart’ or ‘I’m capable.’ It made me realize how important it is to remind the kids of that.”
What started as a small idea has transformed into a project that has impacted the lives of students and colleagues in ways Monreal never imagined.
“It’s been really special, really meaningful,” says Monreal. “It brings me so much peace and joy to know that I’m helping the kids and my colleagues, who I care for very deeply.”