Before some kids can enter the “ready to learn zone” they need to deal with some unpleasant issues. It could be as simple as, “I think Sue looked at me with a mean face,” to the more serious, “My mom is going to jail today.” With help from a caring figure at school, hopefully the student will be able to switch gears and be ready to receive the FUN lessons of the day. Don’t brush these issues aside.
One way to keep the class moving forward while dealing with childhood stress is to include a great read-aloud into your classroom routine. According to research by Dr. David Lewis, reading is the best and fastest stress buster around. How lucky for us as teachers! I know when I am reading a Junie B. Jones or a Skippyjon book to my class, all eyes are on me with that relaxed look of complete engagement. What a beautiful sight to see from my perspective!
Another way to reduce anxiety in the classroom is through human touch. Touch causes the human body to produce a brain chemical called oxytocin. Research is still being conducted on this chemical, but oxytocin has been shown to relieve stress and increase feelings of trust. I know the idea of human touch in the classroom can be a scary thing depending upon your age group and school policies. But this can be as simple as a hand shake, fist bump, high five, patting someone on the back, or having kids hold hands to make a circle. In my classroom hugs happen all the time, but if you have older kids, avoid hugs or teach them to use a side to side “teacher hug” with arms over the shoulders. Oh yeah – we get our own special hug – that’s right.
Your classroom could become a child’s sanctuary from the stress of their world. A place to relax, learn, and have FUN.
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