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  • Writer's pictureConvening Storytelling Team

Creating Embodied Learning Spaces

For this week’s AFL Stories from Aurora, we are sharing two reflections from educators. In Yvette Lanari’s, “Four Weeks,” she shares the impact of learning to be “comfortable with being uncomfortable,” and the power of moving as a collective in the process of creating liberatory education systems. While Lanari focused on the interior space of the educator, Kamilah Brown’s, “Nurturing Brilliance,” moves between the internal reflection of the educator and the world we are striving to build for learners. In her reflection, she explores the relationship between wellness, self-awareness, and academic excellence. Moving from the educator to the learner, these pieces push us to consider how we create embodied learning spaces for both adults and young people, moving towards a sense of wholeness. 

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Four Weeks

 Four weeks it took

Took me to think my thoughts

And write down the loudest voice

To the hardest of people “This PD I went to, let me tell you about it” 

It changed my world.

It changed my process.

It shook the system top down.

My system is not your system

One reach of a hand

One solid nudge

The greatest leap of faith.

And with the largest voice




With the spiciest of passion we sprinkled


Our future 




Shouted at the top of out lungs 

“Be comfortable with the uncomfortable”

We can be it. 

We can hold it. 

We can do it. 

We are all here with you.

Hold tightly.


Nurturing Brilliance: The Symbiosis of Wellness, Self-Discovery, and Academic Achievement

In the fast-paced world of academia, where grades and achievements often take the forefront, it's easy to overlook the profound connection between wellness, self-discovery, and academic success. As educators, it is our responsibility not only to impart knowledge but also to foster an environment that nourishes the holistic development of our students.  After the Aurora Convening experience, my (many) reflections were centered on the connections between wellness, learning, belonging and academic success.  In this blog, let’s explore the symbiotic relationship between wellness, self-awareness, and the pursuit of academic excellence.

Foundation of Wellness

Wellness is not merely the absence of illness but the dynamic interplay between physical, mental, and emotional well-being. As educators, we must recognize the impact of a student's overall wellness on their ability to learn. A healthy body and mind create a fertile ground for intellectual growth. These principles were evident after the scholar interviews at William Smith High School (WSHS).  One student reported, “a lot of people work to make and help me feel comfortable in my own skin”.  When discussing schools and living in Aurora, another student shared, “people establish a really loving and welcoming environment”. The “Apprentice of Peace”, Ronnie “Qi” Harvey added, “wellness is how I connect to my best self."

Power of Self-Discovery

Self-discovery is a lifelong journey, and fostering this process in our students is a key component of effective education. When students understand who they are, their strengths, weaknesses, passions, and values, they gain a sense of purpose that transcends the academic realm. Encouraging self-reflection, goal-setting, and mindfulness practices allows students to develop a deeper understanding of themselves, fostering a positive self-image and confidence that can significantly impact their academic pursuits. 

Building Resilience and Coping Skills

Wellness and self-discovery go hand-in-hand in developing resilience and effective coping mechanisms. Academic challenges are inevitable, and students equipped with the tools to navigate setbacks are more likely to persevere. Teaching stress management techniques, time management skills, and providing a supportive environment where students feel comfortable seeking help are crucial aspects of promoting both wellness and academic success. At William Smith HS, some of these strategies are explored in the popular “How to Stress Like a Genius” class.  According to the WSHS students, there is a culture of advocacy, trust and a spirit of “we’re in this together”.  

Enhancing Learning Environments

Creating a positive and inclusive learning environment is essential for the flourishing of both wellness and academic achievement. This involves fostering a sense of community, encouraging open communication, and embracing diversity. When students feel seen, heard, and valued, they are more likely to engage in the learning process wholeheartedly, leading to improved academic outcomes.

As educators, we play a pivotal role in shaping not only the minds but also the well-being of our students. By recognizing the intrinsic connection between wellness, self-discovery, and academic success, we can cultivate an educational landscape that nurtures the whole person. In doing so, we empower our students to not only excel academically but also to lead fulfilling lives grounded in self-awareness, resilience, and a deep understanding of their unique potential. Ultimately, fostering the symbiosis of wellness and self-discovery is an investment in the lifelong success and happiness of our students. 

Needless to say, I left Aurora both energized and inspired. 



Yvette Lanari


Yvette Lanari is originally from San Diego, California. She currently resides in Washington D.C., as a Social Studies teacher at Wakefield High School. She is always excited to bring back new ideas and insights with her back to her classroom.

Kamilah Brown

Vice Principal

A passionate educator and advocate, Kamilah Brown has served students and families throughout Los Angeles and San Diego Counties for 15+ years.  She has worked as an educator and school administrator in grades K-12.  She currently serves as vice principal at The Preuss School UC San Diego.  Kamilah also volunteers with non-profit organizations that focus on literacy, youth leadership development, STEAM, equity, and social justice.  Brown believes access to high-quality education to be a basic human right!  

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