This week we wrapped up our first semester of the school year at our middle school. And the stress level was palpable. Teachers were feeling the crunch of what seems to be a never ending to-do list. I swear every time I opened my email there was another thing to do. And I wasn't the only one; my students were feeling it too. I asked what in the world was going on when I saw one of my kiddos looking exasperated -- her reply, "there is just so much to do." Meanwhile, other students were acting so off task it was as if they had never been in a classroom before: a sure sign that their formative minds are completely overwhelmed. I honestly left my building Thursday afternoon, frustrated (like, where did I go wrong; how did I let myself get so stressed and why did I let myself stress my students out?). Time to dig deep and try to come up with solutions. I called my stepmom (a huge support in my life for decades and a veteran teacher with more than 30 years of experience) for ideas and also of course hit up some favorite blogs and websites. In case you had a week like mine (AAAHHHH - make it stop!), here's what I found.
This Mindshift article "How Self-Compassion Supports Academic Motivation and Emotional Wellness" is a must read for the teachers and parents. Teaching students to be kind to themselves is critical to their success and well-being.
My stepmom suggested we have a classroom meeting to discuss the difficulties, and challenges students are facing and how we might as a group work to solve them. As a secondary teacher who only sees my students for 45 minutes a day (and has so many standards to cover) I am reticent to give up time for these practices. But really what's more important, that my students feel like they know how to cope with stress and how to be successful in a classroom or knowledge of history? I probably should be holding these meetings once a week in order to empower students and build relationships. But meetings are not in my wheelhouse so I did a bit of research. I especially loved this easy to implement strategy Appreciations, Apologies and Ahas!
A major issue I am having with one of my classes is that they won't stop talking. Usually I can look at kids and they stop talking, but my tried and true methods aren't working with this particular group. This article from Cult of Pedagogy really resonated, offering some new approaches.
I also know that self-care is vital to keeping my stress level low. When teacher stress level is high, students feed off of it and it creates a vicious cycle. I highly recommend Yoga with Adriene on YouTube. It's free and she has tons of yoga practices (and series) designed to help you recenter. I am currently doing the Dedicate series and love, love. love it. Last week was a reminder to set time aside each day to stretch and be mindful.
Finally, an ASCD article, Make Time for Play, provides reasoning for introducing "play" into our collaborative school teams. When we work hard, it's easy to forget to find the fun in our work. This is article is a great place to start.
How are you heading into second semester with renewed energy and calm? We'd love to hear from you!
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