Shake it out.
Move what’s weighing you down. Taking a one-minute dance break helps to release tension and move pent-up energy. Plato said that music gives “wings to the mind,” and this short exercise can help free up space in the mind so that both you and your students can think more clearly and become more productive.
In the same way that you know when there’s a high level of anxiety among your students, they can also sense when you’re stressed. Take either of these as cues that it’s time to have one minute of movement.
Talk it out.
Allow space to release. You and your students need a safe space to share your thoughts and feelings, particularly about situations that may be stressful. Begin by sharing what you feel. Consider the “Yes, and…” technique when you respond to students, which will allow everyone to have their words either affirmed or reframed, both of which encourage a positive perspective. When someone replies by saying “Yes, and…” followed with a positive reframe (if it was a negative feeling) or added context to affirm what was stated (if it was a positive feeling), powerful things happen. The simple act of saying “Yes, and…” validates the person’s feelings without judgment. I find that this exercise is a great way to transition between activities, or when dealing with something new.
Cut it out.
Carve space for support by assigning roles to everyone. You have the responsibility of helping your entire classroom succeed, which is a lot of work! It’s important to establish structured roles within the classroom community so that the onus of success is on everyone.
Assigning roles to students not only helps with classroom management, but it also instills a sense of confidence and pride. Consider having roles that support everyone’s emotional well-being, such as an Accountability Partner (where a student checks in regularly to assess their progress toward goals) or a Champion Partner (where a student provides encouragement and support). You can model this practice by first assigning roles to people in your life. These roles can work in the virtual classroom too.
The data don’t lie
Each of the techniques I’ve suggested provides an outlet for your stress and anxiety—and your students’ too. Researchers have found that when kids express their thoughts in a healthy manner, their test scores significantly increase, “particularly for students for whom test anxiety had become a habit.” Another research study revealed that “Students with low-stress teachers had the highest test scores and the best behavior.”
The daily process of teaching and learning can be stressful for everyone. Make self-care a priority for yourself and your students. Keep it simple by starting today with what you have: your love for teaching, yourself, and the students you serve.
A former middle school math teacher, instructional coach, workshop facilitator, trainer, and consultant, Fenesha Hubbard is passionate about creating authentic learning experiences and helping others grow. She’s currently a content designer on the Professional Learning Design team at NWEA.
Portions of this article first appeared on Teach. Learn. Grow.. It was edited by the author and used here with permission.