Step by Step

I cannot begin to tell you how many times in the last 2 years that I’ve talked to educators that all tell me how different student populations are now than they were just a few years ago.  This is year 13 for me, and I can see a drastic difference.  Every teacher I know is asking what the difference is.

I have a theory that there have been two societal shifts in the last few years that have greatly impacted educators and student learning:  1.  the change in family home environments and 2. the advancement of technology in everyday life.

Let me explain my thoughts here and why this should matter to educators.  We all know our students in our classroom are increasingly coming from trauma filled lives.  Trauma is just like everything else and is not a one size fits all problem.  We’ve got students coming from broken homes, students facing life without incarcerated parents, students dealing with household drug and/or alcohol abuse, and the list goes on.  I’ve often heard the question, and asked it myself, how can students learn when then go through so much at home? The short answer to that question is they can’t.  However, there is some hope….just keep reading!

The second change is the advancement of technology.  For years, we’ve known as educators what an impact this has on vocabulary and language development for young children.  Now, I think it is starting to make an impact on behavior.  When students are experiencing so much screen time, they are missing out on the face to face communication with other living human beings.  They are also missing out on problem solving opportunities, creativity, how to get along with others, the ability to focus, and again the list goes on.  Sound familiar?  The 21st century technology that inundates our world is also one of the reasons our students do not have what we call 21st century skills.

So, we do know there is a problem.  What do we do about it?  The beauty of this problem is that it is something teachers can readily integrate into everyday classroom life by starting to teach simple social/emotional learning and coping strategies.  Back in the day (not that many years ago), students developed these skills at home.  Times have indeed changed though.  Now, teachers must integrate these skills into everyday classroom life.

One of the goals of this page is to share ideas and FREE resources for teachers to do just that.  Today’s strategy involves combating stress.  Did you know that stress and academics share the same neural pathways in the brain?  Stress can actually hinder the executive functions (reasoning, critical thinking, attention, flexibility, etc) in a child’s brain. When you read my book, you will know this is the prefrontal cortex area of the brain.  Every new learning objective automatically causes at least a small level of stress.  You can read more about the relationship between stress and learning here.

To help this, and also help the brain calm after all the stressors students come to school with each and every day, teachers can (and should) implement breathing exercises in the classroom, develop opportunities for intentional movement throughout the school day, and teach visualization as a strategy.  It is brain science that before taking a test, students should either visualize passing the test or even think happy thoughts before starting!  Both of these visualizations, though it sounds simple, does lead to more positive outcomes for all students.  This article is full of more easy to implement ideas teachers can use the classroom.

It is important to note here though that you can’t give to others what you don’t have!  I’ll sign off this week’s post by saying please treat yourself to a stress reliever yourself this week!!  If someone questions what you’re doing, just tell them you’re practicing brain research!  Laughter also is a stress reducer. 🙂

I hope this gives you some things to think about and strategies you can use!

Until next time, happy (and stress free) teaching!

Beth

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