Summary: Is the world spinning out of control? It feels that way with the speed of negative issues that seem to impact everyone, everywhere, all at once. Here are some ways to help students cope with the complexities of modern life.
Dear Dr. Sylvia,
I am a high school English teacher.
My kids are hurting big time.
Each day many tell me privately that their education is worthless.
Furthermore, as I dig down past their short sentences (no one talks in paragraphs anymore) to see what they mean, it ends up about the violence everywhere, all the time.
All things considered, I teach in a privileged suburban area, and the kids have enough to eat, often beautiful homes, and by the time they are seniors, most have their own cars.
Psychological safety and physical safety in schools lead to better grades and cooperation.
However, it boils down to the following comment, “There is no physical or psychological safety.“
I need some suggestions for how to help them find the courage to engage, rather than hide, from life.
Thanks for your help,
Hopeless to Hopeful
I will leave hopeless out and address you as hopeful. Since even by asking what can be done, there is a fraction of hope.
In short, I researched to see if this era is worse than in the past.
Ultimately, it all depends on the lens you look through.
Psychological safety and physical security are needed in schools, work environments, and homes.
All in all, there have always been ugly times. Slavery, the civil war, a major economic depression, and two world wars caused the loss of life.
Also, remember the other wars; think about The Korean War, The Gulf War, and The War in Iraq.
And, of course, there have been many tragic confrontations worldwide.
Today we must consider the impact of The War at Home; yes, it is real!
As I write this, we cannot ignore what is happening in Ukraine and Russia.
Along that same vein, there is violence and death in many homes where family members struggle to support each other.
Then, of course, there were health concerns before Covid. There have been flu epidemics, polio, Aids, Sars, and so on.
One of the most significant issues now on top of mind is climate change.
We can see how floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, and extreme heat can add to the violence that seems to be everywhere.
It used to take decades for change to occur in a culture; now, it seems to take mere hours.
In any case, this is to remind us that there have always been life dis-affirming issues with which to deal – the difference is the speed of how fast we all know what is going on, everything, everywhere, all at once.
Firstly, how can we help the youngsters (and ourselves)?
I suggest my short, easy-to-read book “Invisible Stress (It’s NOT What YOU Think)” as one your English class could read, along with Shakespeare.
Ultimately, here you can get an extensive view of good stress/lousy stress and what to do, as I like to say, to “practice safe stress.”
Teachers need strategies — not guns — to keep all students engaged and willing to discuss complex life issues.
As an illustration, here are some ways, along with the book Invisible Stress, to move forward:
As a teacher, it’s essential to recognize that students face many different stressors, which can significantly impact their ability to learn and thrive in the classroom.
Fortunately, there are many strategies that teachers can use to help their students cope with stress and build resilience that will serve them well throughout their lives.
Here are some practical ways for teachers to help students cope with stress:
1. Create a Positive Classroom Environment
A positive classroom environment can help reduce student stress. Teachers should strive to create an environment that is welcoming, supportive, and free from judgment. Teachers should also ensure students have access to all the necessary resources to succeed, such as textbooks, online materials, and other resources.
For example, while this often seems impossible with all the demands, simply starting the day with a few minutes of silence with relaxing music in the background can help.
Often the fastest way to classroom rapport is through a few minutes of singing or clapping together.
2. Teach Mindfulness Techniques
Teachers can teach mindfulness techniques such as deep breathing, visualization, and meditation. These techniques can help students calm their minds and focus on the present moment, reducing anxiety about the past or future. Likewise, mindfulness techniques can help students reduce stress and anxiety and improve focus and concentration.
One method that helps is as easy as counting to ten. Have students do this ten times. And might I add, either closing their eyes or looking at their hands. It does help to calm down the tension before it becomes destructive.
3. Encourage Physical Activity
Physical activity is a proven stress reliever. Encourage your students to engage in physical activity, whether playing sports, dancing, or walking during lunch. Physical activity helps reduce stress hormones, boost endorphins, and improve mood.
Watch the healthy energy surge in the class when a lightweight ball is tossed around the room for five minutes.
4. Foster a Growth Mindset
Encourage your students to adopt a growth mindset. A growth mindset helps students see challenges as opportunities for growth, which can reduce anxiety and stress. This means embracing challenges, learning from failures, and recognizing success comes from hard work and dedication.
For example, show students how one word can make all th difference. Thanks to Yoda, we can say clearly, “There is no try, only do or not do.”
By eradicating “try” and reinforcing the word “do,” magic can happen. Give it a GO!
5. Connect with Students
Take the time to connect with your students on a personal level. Talk to them about their interests, hobbies, and concerns. This can help them feel valued and supported and create a community in the classroom. When students feel connected to their teachers and peers, they are less likely to feel stressed and anxious.
Often students have no one to talk with at home. You, the educator, can help them feel heard.
6. Change from negative to positive thoughts
Negative self-talk can be a significant source of stress and anxiety for students. Encourage your students to replace negative self-talk with positive affirmations. For example, instead of saying, “I’m terrible at math,” encourage them to say, “I’m still learning math, and I’m getting better every day.”
Similarly, “I am” sentences focusing on success can make a positive difference.
7. Provide Opportunities for Relaxation
Create opportunities for students to relax and recharge during the school day. This could include setting aside time for quiet reading, listening to music, or taking a short nap. By providing opportunities for relaxation, students can recharge and reduce stress.
Including time for looking out the window to daydream can lead to unique projects.
8. Teach Time Management Skills
Effective time management can help students feel more in control of their lives and reduce stress. Teach your students time management skills such as prioritization, setting goals, and breaking large tasks into smaller, more manageable steps.
Use the Pomodoro Method. It’s fun and easy and will help youngsters feel more in control of their lives.
9. Model Healthy Behaviors
Model healthy behaviors such as getting enough sleep, eating nutritious foods, and engaging in physical activity. As a teacher, you are a role model for your students. When students see their teachers caring for them, they are likelier to adopt healthy behaviors.
Showing the best of yourself will make a difference to those who follow your lead.
Say what you mean and do what you say is a strong mantra for all educators to pass down to students.
10. Encourage Help-Seeking Behaviors
Encourage your students to seek help when they need it. This could include seeking help from a teacher, school counselor, or mental health professional. When students feel comfortable seeking help, they are more likely to get the support they need to cope with stress.
In conclusion, stress is a part of life but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. As a teacher, you can help your students build resilience and cope with stress by creating a positive classroom environment, teaching mindfulness techniques, encouraging physical activity, fostering a growth mindset, connecting with students, encouraging positive self-talk, providing opportunities for relaxation, teaching time management skills, modeling healthy behaviors.
If you take the time to teach practical ways to handle stress, I promise you will be remembered long after many specifics of where to put a comma in a sentence are forgotten.
In summary, be the teacher who gives life lessons and the required curriculum.
Here’s to your success,
PS. We are offering our Stress Mastery online program for free to high schools that want to make positive change happen during these uncertain times. It will take all of us to stop the fear and the violence. Contact me for details at email@example.com.