The Transylvania Times -

Everyday Education: A Sense Of Calm In The Classroom


September 17, 2018

At the time this goes to print, students have spent a few weeks in classrooms across the county completing lessons and continuing routines, but at the same time, following the path of Hurricane Florence and wondering about landfalls and landslides and flooding and power outages. Teachers in Transylvania County where asked by administrators to go ahead and prepare Virtual Day lessons — activities or materials developed and guided by teachers that continue learning on days when regular school is unable to take place—just in case of such emergencies and took a class period to calmly go over directions with students.

This is just one example of the many moments this school year when teachers, administrators and school faculty will work together to help students continue their days with a sense of calm.

It isn’t hard to imagine all the academic, social and emotional challenges facing young people in the rapidly changing world today. Students are facing a greater sense of responsibility and higher levels of stress and anxiety earlier in life. Kids carry the residual effects of these stressors into each corner of their every day exchanges and activities. School plays a huge part of that day-to-day life. This is why teachers have taken on the mantle of reducing pressure and helping students find the calm in the eye of the hurricane.

Sometimes you’ll see our teachers doing this in how he or she sets the physical space of a classroom; big comfy floor cushions to settle into for reading time, beanbag or butterfly chair corners where groups can do activity sheets together, bouncy chairs for those needing more movement when thinking. Others help the calmness in their set routines that kids count on as unchangeable, 180 days of a setup that doesn’t alter. Teachers will tell you kids should feel good because they have a sense of belonging, a sense of usefulness and optimism about their education when stepping in the classroom, too, a critical aspect for maintaining a calm and happy student.

Kids will mess up, of course, and teachers know that. But discipline means teaching the calm, too—it’s how we handle the issue that matters: “Each day is a new day,” I’ve often told my own students. “You mess up today, we have consequences today. Then we start again tomorrow. No harm, no foul.”

This consistency helps students organize information, know what to expect and better understand information in their world. Counselors, school resource officers, coaches, administrators, nurses and social workers do weekly or more check-ins on other life needs so that students feel seen, appreciated and heard for more than academics. No one disappears, so students can feel a sense of peace about that.

There’s laughter in creating calmness, too, with a teacher trying the newest teen dance in front of students just because it’s Friday, with peppermint rewards all around. Little classroom families grow that way and kids feel safer. Other experienced educators realize that quieting a restless student soul might mean stepping away from curriculum for a few moments and addressing a higher need, like when Rosman High School students wrote letters of support for students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. last February.

Much scholarly research has begun to take place on youth, mindfulness and resiliency. Becoming resilient is an action and a long one, and it is one of adapting and of adapting well. To be resilient is to be able to draw on learned strategies and sources of strength to “bounce back” from sources of stress, moments of difficulty and environments of adversity.

As students continue to face challenges in and out of the hurricanes of their lives, resiliency can be seen as part of a new set of 21st century skills, with finding a sense of calm at its root. Educators have perhaps known this for a long time, but cataloging serenity under “classroom management” or “routines and procedures.” It is much more than that now, as guiding students into ways of controlling and coping negative thoughts and emotions underpins their success in perhaps all other areas of their lives beyond the school doors.

As all seemingly unsurmountable events do, the hurricane will pass. The clouds will part, and the sun will shine. The school bell will ring, and another day will begin. There will be all sorts of action and play, activity and drama among our students, but there will be calm, too. A deep breath will be drawn to fortify us for the next big storm that comes.

(Marshall is the Rosman High School’s Exceptional Children’s Teacher in English and History)


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