Down time? Free time? What are these things to an educator? We spend countless hours thinking/discussing/analyzing everything from lessons to posts that will help us improve our craft. We are looking for anything that will help us create a classroom that our students want to visit daily. And when they do, we're hoping they don't want to leave.
My "down time" anymore revolves around my children. I have been coaching their sports' teams ever since they started playing seven years ago. I enjoy working with the players in soccer, basketball and baseball. Just so happens, they were the three sports I played in high school. I was fortunate to play soccer in college as well.
My daughter's basketball team played last night in a Christmas tournament that we were using as a "preseason" before our season starts after New Year's Day. If you were listening to the parents sitting in the stands, you might have thought these 12 years old were playing for the National Championship!
As soon as the game got tight, you could sense the anxiety level of the fans increase dramatically. Many began yelling at the refs for their calls, or lack of calls. They began to frantically yell instructions to the players on the court. These poor girls did not know what to do with themselves.
Needless to say, their play suffered. They began to make mistakes. As coaches, we attempted to talk during time-outs in a calming voice. We did our best to remain as calm as possible, even as fans were yelling "motivational" phrases around us.
That got me thinking about the calming effect educators must have on our students. We need to create an environment that is a distraction from their everyday hustle and bustle. Our students need to see us as the calming influence in their lives. They are watching how we handle the student(s) that just won't listen. They are watching how we handle frustrated parents. They are watching how we handle our coworkers when they come to us complaining about something.
Our students have a lot of things to deal with during the day. Changing classes. Peer pressure. Forgotten homework. Sports. Clubs. Family Responsibilities. Jobs. College applications/acceptances...
It is our classrooms that should be an escape from all of that stuff. We need to be the calming force in their lives. Students are just kids, regardless of their ages, and kids learn best when they are in a setting that is as calming as possible. Please do not confuse my use of calming to mean we should not challenge them academically. Just the opposite! We should constantly try to improve our students. I believe there is a difference between a student being uncomfortable intellectually and having anxiety. Anxious students are generally poor performing students...
Which brings me back to my daughter's game. We ended up losing that game last night. I was proud of how they battled in a hostile environment. We have things to work on during our next couple of practices. We will use that time to make minor adjustments so we do not repeat those errors. With this extra practice, my hope is they will be calmer when faced with the same pressures in the future.
What strategies/techniques do you use to help stay calm when things get hectic? Just remember, a kid somewhere is watching how you react. Be the change...