Three Steps to a Harmonious Classroom and…Life!

If you could have the perfect life, what would it look like? Imagine your life exactly as you wish it could be. Now, what if I told you that you were given these unique desires because you were meant to fulfill them?  You are meant to fulfill your dreams and accomplish your goals.  How, you ask? Feng shui can help!

What exactly is feng shui?

You have the power to change nine areas of your life with the help of feng shui. Using a tool called the bagua map, you will be able to see which area of your home, office, or classroom connects to specific areas of your life.  The nine areas are: wealth, reputation, relationships, children & creativity, health, family, knowledge, career, and helpful people & travel. Using the bagua map, you can address any area of life and see results almost immediately. 

Ideally, a feng shui home will have good flowing energy in all nine areas.  However, just as life is ever-changing, so must your feng shui practice continue to evolve.  Once you declutter a space and decorate, you will need to check in on that area of your home from time to time to keep it healthy.  The knowledge of feng shui is a very powerful tool that you can use as situations arise in your life. 

When you are ready to start applying feng shui to your classroom (or office), decluttering and organizing is a great place to start!  First and foremost, you want to tend to your personal desk.  Then, it is most important to organize the furniture, such as student desks and tables, in a way that allows optimal flow of chi. Finally, help your students organize their personal desks and the materials in the classroom so that you feel more energized and peaceful in your classroom. Let’s get started!

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Step One: Clear Desk, Clear Mind

Did you know that you could lay the bagua map on your desk?  That’s right, you can elevate the energy of all nine areas of your life simply by cleaning and organizing your desk with your intention.

If you are like most teachers, you probably do not spend that much time in your desk. However, when you are at your desk you are probably doing some important documentation or planning that needs your full attention. Make your desk inviting and clear so that your mind feels lighter and you can focus with greater ease.  

  1. Empty each drawer one at a time.  Drawers carry very stagnant energy because there is nowhere for the energy to escape. The best way to refresh the energy of the desk and release old chi is by removing objects and getting rid of what you no longer need.  There are probably many teachers or students who could benefit from some old supplies that you no longer use.

  2. Now that your desk has been organized,  you are ready to minimize the surface of the desk. Start by taking everything off and dusting the surface of the desk.  Next, place your items strategically based on the bagua map and the elements which represent each gua.  For example, I like to place a bamboo plant on the upper left corner of my desk.  The upper left gua is the wealth gua, activated by the wood element.  The bamboo symbolizes wood and represents upward growth.  The hollowness of the bamboo signifies the openness to receive abundance. The chart below shows the bagua map and suggestions for each gua. Remember that the element is most effectively represented by the shape.  

  3. Place the desk in a “power position.”  You want to able to see the door from where you are sitting.  If your back is against the door, you could get startled if someone walks up behind you.  You have more peace of mind knowing exactly who is entering your space.  Try to have a solid wall behind you if possible.  This school year, I moved my desk from the relationship corner to the wealth corner. Those are the preferred guas since they are considered the most powerful, anchoring positions.  Although there is a window at my back, I have a much better view of the door.  If your desk has been in the same position for a couple years, I would recommend simply turning the desk to face another direction.  Whenever you move furniture, it freshens the chi and gives you a new perspective on life and your classroom.

 screen-shot-2016-09-28-at-10-55-23-pmCaption: If you are conscious of the bagua map as you organize your desk and classroom, it will help you create greater harmony. The bagua map is the same as the one you place on your house, but there are some additional suggestions on  how each gua specifically affects your classroom or career path. 

 

Step 2: Furniture Arrangement: Creating Optimal Flow in Your Classroom or Office

You started organizing your desk, and placed it in a power position.  Now, you can arrange the rest of  furniture for the greatest flow of chi.  You and your students will be able to focus better when the energy circulates unobstructed through your classroom.  Before you start moving everything around in your classroom, there are some key points to remember when arranging your space:

Round is the Way: Chi flows best around rounded edges.  If you arrange desks in a formation that creates a lot of straight lines and sharp turns, the energy will not flow as well.  

Energy as a Stream: Energy is constantly moving in a forward motion.  The energy flows in each time you open your classroom door.  Imagine the energy as a stream of water.  As it flows in through the classroom, where does the water flow quickly?  Does it get stuck in a certain space?  Try to arrange the space as best as you can so that the “water” flows does not get blocked.  This is another reason why opening up a window at least once a week is important.  When you open the window, it allows stagnant energy to exit, and refreshing chi enters to revitalize your space.

Mountain Behind You: You want a mountain behind you.  As the instructor, you need the power position so that you feel confident when working with the students.  I have a couple of tables in my classroom where I meet with small groups of students for literature discussions and other activities.  I have placed my chair so that my back is to the wall, and I have a unobstructed view of the whole classroom.  In particular, you should be able to see the door from where you sit.

Use the Elements: As you decide where to place furniture, remember that each gua is best activated with a specific shape.  One of the tables I use for small group instruction is a kidney shape. The rounded shape could represent metal, so I placed this table in the Children & Creativity gua.  Another big table is a long horizontal rectangle.  This shape represents the Earth Element, and it is placed in the relationship corner with an even number of chairs.  The relationship corner is best activated with pairs of objects, or even numbers.  This promotes partnership and successful collaboration.

No Space is Ever “Fixed” for Good: Although your classroom can stay in the same formation all year, it is best for students to switch desks every four or five weeks. Even if the desks are in the same formation, the simple movement will boost the energy.  Additionally, your students will appreciate the change of perspective. They will be more alert and recharged. You could even shift your desk if you are starting to feel drained in your day-to-day activities. 

screen-shot-2016-09-28-at-10-56-00-pmCaption: Every classroom is different, but here  is an example of how I strategically arranged my classroom this school year.  I used the elements, and the five suggestions above to help me make my design choices. 

Student Desks:

Group A:  The students are on an angle so that it creates a more “rounded” configuration.  This allows the chi to flow.  All students are facing the SMARTboard and can see the front door. The students are not in a group of four, but they all have a partner.  When I want students to work in groups, they can move to the large work tables or turn their chairs.  An additional note:  Try not to have students in line with the door.  As chi enters the door, the energy rushes in.  Group A is not recommended for your students who are hyperactive or have difficulty concentrating.  This space has active chi because of the door, so keep this is mind when sitting students here.


Group B: This group of four students are on an angle so that nobody has their back to the SMARTboard and everyone can see the door.  Again, the angle also helps the energy flow.

 

Group C:  The two groups in the center of the room have their backs to the East and West walls. Everyone can see the door.  Although no one is facing the door or SMARTboard, if they look to the side they can see them. The group is not angled, but the center of the room is a “grounding” point.  The center is the Health gua, and it is represented by the Earth.  The desks create the square/horizontal rectangle which represents the Earth element.  

 

Group D: All students in group D have their backs to the wall.  The solid wall creates a “mountain” behind them. It is very auspicious any time you can have a solid wall or chair behind you. The solid back creates support and boosts confidence and productivity.

 

Checklist for Student Desks

  • Is there a solid wall behind you and your students?

  • Can your students see the front door?

  • Do the desks allow optimal flow of chi, or are they creating sharp turns?

 

Step Three: Getting the Students Organized

You have worked hard to clear your classroom of unnecessary clutter and arrange the furniture for optimal energy flow.  Now, the key is to stay organized and keep your classroom functioning at peak efficiency.  Here are three quick tips that will help the students take ownership of the classroom and accept the responsibility of maintaining the positive vibes. If you are a teacher who is evaluated based on the Charlotte Danielson framework, this area could be used as evidence of managing your classroom environment!

Friday Desk Cleaning:  It sounds so easy, but how many times do you allow your students to clean out their desks?  We get so busy, that sometimes this only happens once a quarter!  Try to give your students 10 minutes every week to clean out their desks. The mess in their desks is causing unnecessary chaos in their minds.  When the students have time to organize their personal space, they will be more efficient, remember their homework, and feel calmer.  In addition, when all of the desks are organized, the overall chi of the classroom is improved.

Classroom Jobs: Many teachers assign classroom jobs.  Do you have have the students dust the book shelves, counters, and common-area tables? My students love doing these types of jobs.  Use whatever products your school approves, and notice how much fresher the room feels.  Your classroom’s chi will be heightened immediately. Again, I would recommend
doing this weekly.  If possible, open up the windows at the same time the students clean the surfaces.  This will really boost the effectiveness as you let fresh air elevate the chi.

 

Explicit Organization:  Do you spend time with your students finding a “home” for every school supply?  Students need direct instruction on exactly where everything goes.  At the beginning of the year students put all of their pens, pencils and erasers in their pencil pouch, and they learn that their scissors, glue and crayons belong in their art box.  During our Friday Desk Cleaning day, we review where everything goes. My famous line is, “There should be no loose papers in your desk.  Remember, everything has a home.  Put papers in your ‘Take Home’ folder that need to go home.  Place papers that you still need in your ‘Stay at School’ folder, and anything that you don’t need can be recycled.” Even high school students need reminders of how to organize their space.  They too need to understand the value of keeping their personal space clean and organized.

 

For optimal results, I really encourage teachers, or anyone looking to improve their career, to try feng shui in their homes too  No matter how neat and organized your classroom or office is, if you are coming home to disarray, you will not feel rejuvenated for the next day of teaching.  We need to feel like our house is giving us a big warm hug every time we walk into the door.  If you have a strong foundation at home, your professional life will start to fall into place.

For a daily feng shui tip, join me on  Facebook or follow me on Instagram or Twitter!
Until Next time,
Namaste!
Kristina Hollinger

 

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The Work of Healing

Some of us are experiencing life-altering twists, and things are far from the hum-drum routine. My dear friend Leslie is one of those people. A Utah native, Leslie traveled to Chicago to become a teacher. I had the pleasure of working alongside her. It has been about five years since we last saw each other, but she has left a footprint in my heart. I especially feel very connected with her since she has shared her heartbreaking, truly inspiring story on A Sunday Kinda Love.  Without further ado, here is Leslie’s story…

The Work of Healing

I told one of my friends the other day that I feel like I’ve aged 100 years in the past few months. I’m only 29, so why do I feel like this wise old grandma these days? In one word: Loss. You see, my daughter passed away this summer. It’s a long story, one in which I document on my blog, but my daughter, Hadley Grace, was born 10 weeks premature with a very serious blood infection due to Group B Strep. To say it has been a shock is an understatement. This week was my due date, I had plans to take maternity leave at work, a room in our home is a beautiful coral and aqua nursery created just for our baby girl, she had a closet full of clothes, drawers full of diapers, and a prominent space smack in the middle of my heart. I’ve always been a woman of faith: a lapsed Episcopalian who attended Catholic school for 10 years, I now consider myself a non-dominational Christian. I believe in grace, love, and faith. I believe following Christ impacts one’s life on a daily basis in the form of thousands of little decisions that say “yes” to God. But on June 18, 2016, when my sweet baby girl died in my arms, suddenly that beautiful, peaceful, often convenient faith become raw, distorted, and precarious. My heart and mind repeated the questions “how?” and “why?” over and over again. We believed in the power of prayer. We believed in miracles. But our prayers weren’t answered. We didn’t get our miracle. How do you sit comfortably with that type of pain?
 In the days and weeks following Hadley’s death I began to furiously study loss, grief, faith, and prayer. I read countless books, spoke with wise people of faith, attended counseling, and most of all, I talked to God myself. Why didn’t you listen to me? The truth is, He did listen to me and He still does. But listening doesn’t always imply that God will be doing exactly what I ask. I’ve gone back and forth over whether God has a “plan,” if it all “fits together”. I’d be lying if I told you I had it all figured out. I cried out on the way home from her funeral, “I will never ever understand.” That still holds true and it always will be. What I have discovered, though, is great wisdom and the pockets of grace that emerge in the wake of great loss. Jerry Sittser writes in his book “A Grace Disguised,” that “The screaming pain I feel over loss reflects the pure pleasure I felt in knowing her presence.” Being a mom was my greatest joy and unlocked a well of happiness I didn’t know I had in me. But even in sorrow, I know I will feel that again one day. I received my gift: I just didn’t get to keep it. I have found that life is short and wildly precious. I hope I always have a strong sense of life’s fleeting nature and what that means for my daily life. 
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One of the most significant things I have learned is that you have to put in the hard work of grief by being proactive. The following are some steps I have taken (along with my husband) to keep Hadley’s memory alive and help heal our hearts. The wisdom that accompanies loss can be accessed fully if one is active in the process. You must take responsibility for grief and healing and channel it in your life. If you let the pain simply happen to you, it will knock you off your feet. You must, instead, relentlessly pursue healing and wholeness. That cannot occur, I have discovered, by running from the pain, but by diving in and working with it. 

1) In our home: We have a vase of flowers on our dresser and in the bunch of flowers, there is a single pink lily that represents our sweet girl. Another item is a beautiful blanket with her name crocheted on it. I slept with this blanket during my whole ten day hospital stay before Hadley was born. Once she arrived, she had the blanket with her. We keep this laid out on her nursery rocking chair which we have moved into our master bedroom. It’s one of my favorite reading and journaling spots. We also have a printed canvas of her hand stacked on ours and it hangs prominently in our bedroom. It’s the first thing I see when I get up in the morning.
2) Jewelry: I love wearing jewelry to remind me of my sweet girl. I have an “H” necklace from Kate Spade I wear everyday that my husband bought me after we returned home from the hospital. On the back it reads “One in a million.” She never got to wear her monogram so I wear it proudly for her. It makes me think if each word I speak, action I take would make Hadley proud. I also have some angel wing necklaces and a cherub Alex and Ani bracelet I wear sometimes.
3) Photo Album: Looking at pictures of my angel baby is such a comfort to me. I made a Shutterfly photo album for all members of our family. I truly think I healed in the creation of it. I poured over every picture and carefully selected the perfect images and words. I treasure this book and I am so looking forward to sharing it with our future children one day.
4) Good words as decor: Good, soulful words have really soothed my heart this summer. Just as everything I see reminds me of Hadley,  it seems everything I read can connect to our experience. I found two of my favorites this summer in small shops and both are featured in our home. One reads, “I believe hope rises up to meet our biggest struggles” The other is a quote from L.R. Knost that says, “Life is amazing and awful and then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and the awful it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living: heart-breaking, soul-healing, awful, ordinary life and it’s breathtakingly beautiful.” I connected with this quote instantly!
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5) Books: I have poured over many books about grief and loss. They have been tremendously helpful to me. They include, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People” by Harold Kushner (this was a gift from my incredible doctor who delivered Hadley and it has flipped my faith life upside down in a good way. I cannot sing its praises enough), “Through the Eyes of a Lion” by Levi Lusko, “Ended Beginnings” by Claudia Panuthos, “A Grace Disguised” by Jerry Sittser, “Tear Soup” by Pat Schwiebert,  and “Fight Back with Joy” by Margaret Feinberg. This loss thing was so very new to me and I have loved relying on the wisdom of those who have forged this path before me.
6) Talking: Whether going on a long trail walk with my husband, crying my eyes out in counseling, or sharing our story with a college friend over the phone, talking has been greatly beneficial for me. My husband and I have reached out to two different families who have experienced the loss of a child. These meetings and conversations have been life changing and have helped to stitch up my broken heart. I have discovered new realizations and connections through conversation.

“I no longer pray like I used to…”

 

7) Praying: I no longer pray like I used to. I do not ask God for specific actions to be performed outside of myself. Rather, I pray for God to be with me and for my spirit and attitude to be positive and enriching for myself and others. For example, I would not pray “Please let me stay healthy this school year.” I would instead now pray, “Please be with me and give me grace to endure your will with courage.”
I am no expert on healing after loss. This is a whole new world for me but I have found the above items helpful to me as I navigate a world of questioning God’s plan, discovering a new sense of faith, and healing my spirit after profound loss. It is possible to have an aching, longing heart and a deep well of wisdom at the same time. Pain and wisdom go hand in hand. It takes work, though–tear-filled, gut-wrenching, mind-numbing work to make connections and achieve wisdom. But it is so very worth it, my work of grief will never end. My dream in life now is to rise from this experience and help others heal. 
There are no words that can express my gratitude to Leslie for gracing us with the greatest gift of all, Hadley’s story.  If you would like to know more about Leslie’s journey, you can connect with her on her blog A Sunday Kinda Love or follow Leslie Steele on Facebook.  My heart goes out to you Leslie and AJ. I will never understand why either…
Until Next time,
Namaste!

Back to School: Get Your Feng Shui On!

Green Head Shot 2

Today was the first day back in my classroom after the summer break. I walked into a room with chairs piled on the counter and the students’ desks clustered in the center of the room. My floors were glistening, so I am not complaining.  I was looking at a clean slate, and it was time to reconsider the layout of my classroom. It had been in the same general formation for years, with the exception of the students’ desks.  Like many teachers, I would play around with different seating arrangements.  For the first time, I decided to use all that I knew about energy flow when designing my classroom.

I laid the  bagua map (see image below) on my classroom as my guide. Now, when you walk in my room, you will see a round kidney table in the Children/Creativity section which is enhanced by circular figures to represent the Metal Element.  Imagine all the creative ideas the students will have working together in this area! A large rectangular (horizontal) table is in the relationship corner with an even number of chairs to promote partnership and collaboration. My desk is located in the wealth corner.  Since the wealth and relationship guas are the “power positions” on the bagua map, these are great spaces for the teacher’s desk.  Although I spend little time at my desk, it will be good to occupy the wealth area and welcome in abundance in all of its many forms!

Bagua Map (BTB Feng Shui)

Wealth

Element: Wood

Shape: Vertical Rectangle

Colors: Green, Gold, or Purple

Fame/Reputation

Element: Fire

Shape: Triangle

Colors: Red, Bright Orange

Relationship

Element: Earth

Shape: Square or horizontal rectangle

Colors: Pink, Skin tones, Earth tones

Family

Element: Wood

Shape: Vertical Rectangle

Colors: Green, Brown, Gold or Purple

Health

Element: Earth

Shape: Square or horizontal rectangle

Colors: Yellow, Earth Tones

Children/Creativity

Element: Metal

Shape: Circle

Colors: White, Bright And Pastel Colors, Grey

Knowledge

Element: Earth

Shape: Square or horizontal rectangle

Colors: Blue, Green, or Earth tones

Career

Element: Water

Shape: Wavy/Odd

Colors: Blue, Black or mirrors to represent water

Helpful People/Travel

Element: Metal

Shape: Circle

Colors: White, Bright And Pastel Colors, Gray

FRONT DOOR ENTRANCE LOCATED ON THIS WALL

 

In addition to placing the furniture with intention, I used my bulletin boards to enhance the different guas.  Purple paper covers the large board in the Wealth Gua, while a calming blue takes over the board in the Career Gua. Since there are boards all around the room, and all the guas are represented by different colors, it makes for a very colorful classroom with variety and, most importantly, balance.

Staying Organized

On the first day, the students will proudly unload their brand new folders and sharpened pencils. We will organize their desks and go over everything’s “home” (because “everything has a home.”). Yet sixth graders are bound to throw loose leaf paper in their desk without a folder or leave random capless dried-out pens sitting in their pencil pouch. That is why every Friday we take 10 minutes to clean out our desks, even dust them.  Students who finish early bring out the broom and help sweep the floors.  Others dust the bookshelves and wipe off the surfaces of the countertops and tables.  The students love the extra responsibility, and they feel so much better when their space is organized and well tended to.

classroom library
This Classroom Library would be excellent in the wealth, wisdom/knowledge, or children/creativity guas.  The greens and blues represent abundance and depth of knowledge.  The circular accents bring out the creativity of your students.

Adding Yin Energy

After teaching for a decades, I have learned that it takes a couple of days for the students to warm up and come out of their shell. Once we get into the school year, kids tend to get really comfortable in their home-away-from-home and talk a lot more! This is why I pull out my “feng shui bag of tricks” everyday to keep the classroom calm when it needs to be. Remember the balance of yin and yang.  The classroom already has a lot of yang, or active energy, by nature.  Children, computers, and the fluorescent lights produce a lot of energy that needs to be balanced out.

Add yin, or soft energy, to the environment by playing soft classical or new-age music in the background during work time, especially if the lights are on.  Consider turning the lights off during direct instruction time. If your school allows, use aromatherapy with a diffuser.  Lavender will calm everyone, and citrus scents encourage alertness.  If you don’t have a diffuser, you could place a bowl of fresh orange peels on your desk.  Once they wilt, they not longer have a potent smell and you could replace them.

Sage Spray

Just like  at home, you can conduct mini space clearings in your classroom when the students are out of the room.  Sage lavender spray smells delightful and it clears the energy after any stressful situations.  You can go around the classroom and clap your hands from low to high to break up the stagnant energy.  Open a window to let in fresh air at least once a week.  However, with twenty to thirty pupils in a room everyday, it is probably best to let fresh energy in daily.

Feng shui crystal
Crystals are a great way to deflect negative or harsh energy.   They  will keep teachers  from feeling drained.

Crystals

You can protect your own personal energy and prevent yourself from feeling drained as well.  The feng shui faceted quartz crystal is very powerful.  It can clear any negative energy and deflect harsh energy from computers or people’s negative vibes.  You could carry the crystal in your pocket for protection.  I have even put a crystal on the computer cart in my classroom so that it breaks apart the harsh energy from the tablets.  If you wanted to hang a crystal, cut a nine inch red thread and loop it through the crystal. Hang it in any area of your classroom (or office) that you would like to see improvements.  If you are located near a busy road, you may consider hanging a crystal in the window, or placing it on the ledge of the window, for protection and to calm the energy of the room.

I hope you have a wonderful beginning of the school year!  I will be here all year to answer questions or address any specific concerns that come up throughout the year.  We are entering Mercury Retrograde which means electronics may act up!  Try to have a sense of humor about it, even though this may be the most inconvenient time for your SMART board or e-mail to  go haywire. Join me on facebook for daily tips and positive inspiration!

Until Next Time,

Namaste!

Kristina Hollinger

KristinaHollinger.com