We had a good talk this afternoon at Evening Meeting. We talked about stress and how some of the things we think are going to be huge problems or "get us in trouble" are really no big deal. Now that's not saying our feelings are no big deal, but that sometimes the problems or worries we have might indeed be nothing to fret about because we are surrounded by people who want to help.
We can't have kids overly-worried about things such as their incomplete work at school, tests that have not yet been announced or quizzes we didn't do well on. Of course we all need to be responsible for ourselves and our own success but there is a limit to what we can and cannot control.
This is a very relaxed classroom with expectations that are consistently followed. In fact, that's the reason we can be so relaxed and light-hearted...because expectations and procedures are indeed followed. I do not spend my day putting out fires related to behaviour or procedures. We spent a lot of time at the start of the year establishing our routines and that's why we make such good use of our time now. I think we put in two days worth of learning for every one.
I want my students to apply this same idea to their owns lives: because they work hard, follow expectations and do their best on each and every task, when they make a mistake, the consequences are logical and not something to stress about. I want them to be able to self-talk, so that they can calm their minds when they feel worried about things. So, if they spill water on a page they have been colouring, they'll likely need to start over. If they cut a piece of paper the wrong way for art, they can take another one. If they forget their homework at home occasionally, they can write themselves a reminder note and bring it the next day.
My job as their teacher at this age is to help them to be successful academically now, but also to help them develop the skills that will assist them ten years from now and this includes stress-management.
By communicating with me now about why their homework will be late, they'll develop the confidence to tell their professors in 10 or so years that they have two exams scheduled for the same time period and need to problem solve.
What we don't want is for children to be so worried about these small matters now (such as forgetting to get a test signed), that they don't develop that confidence in both themselves and their teachers. We live in a more complicated world now and many children have more on their plates then we did at their age. With that, must come an understanding that things are not always black and white and everyone deserves a break sometimes.
We're not saying it's okay to be forgetful and irresponsible all the time, but because mistake making is routinely demonstrated in their class by their teacher, they see that I'm still a good person for wishing them a Happy Birthday a day early or forgetting one child's test on the dining room table.
I also think we need to be honest with kids and help them put things into perspective by helping them to understand that when we make honest and minor errors, there aren't Disney-villain worthy punishments that follow.
I want students in my class to do their best, be kind to themselves when they are not as successful as they'd like to be and to know that the people in their lives who care about them are always willing to listen because that's what we want in return. We want to be heard, understood and treated with compassion and respect. We are going to continue this discussion for some time, I will continue to model mistake-making ;), help my students challenge their worrying thoughts and communicate their concerns and feelings effectively.
Here are the main points from our discussion today:
- sometimes we all worry about things needlessly (e.g. we have a level 1 problem and we're worried like it's a level 3 problem)
- how can we help ourselves during those worrying times?
- we can communicate our feelings or predicament with our parents and teachers and they'll help us problem solve
- there might be logical consequences to our actions (e.g. having to start a task over or needing to study longer)but we can handle that
- when people truly love and care about us, they cut us some slack and understand themselves that life doesn't always run as smoothly as we'd like it to