The news has never been my happy place, but it's been especially upsetting in 2018. From mass shootings in places of worship and schools to mail bombings, our world is a scary place. And obviously, we are all very upset about this.
But why are we not addressing mental illness in this country?!
Sometimes I feel like screaming. There is never enough time in the day to get everything I need to get done. I'm literally running at my highest capacity every minute of every day. I've never felt so stressed in my life.
We are all running on high all day; intensifying and exhausting our emotional and mental capacities.
Our students are feeling the same.
And now, we are both forced into the integrated experience of the classroom, where naturally, our actions and words affect the actions and words of others within the same microcosm of the classroom.
Previously, students could be targeted and remediated on a case by case basis, but with today's prevalence, SUPPORTS MUST BE MAINSTREAMED.
And those supports MUST address our students mental health needs.
Okay, so this isn't going to be simple. And we can start with baby steps.
In moments of heightened anxiety, we can stop, breathe, and re-center ourselves. Similarly, if we insert these moments, forcibly, into our day, including our time with students, where we stop and breathe (i.e. a mindfulness activity, yoga, go noodle, etc.), we can stop running at such a high level, and perhaps, we begin to regulate our emotions as well.
We need to teach this to our students because it does not come naturally anymore. This is the world now. This is us. These are our students.
1. Build a Classroom Community
A classroom community means that students trust and support each other. They feel safe to accept and give feedback and take risks.
Spend the first month and some time each week throughout the year playing a classroom-based community-building game to build trust and problem-solving and cooperative learning skills.
2. Address SE (social emotional) needs
Start your Mondays off right - by addressing your students' social emotional needs!
Welcome them into the week with a friendly morning greeting! Ease them back with some conversation to set the tone... What's one thing you are looking forward to this week? What's one thing that will make you happy this week? What is your goal for this week?
3. Infuse SEL (social emotional learning) into our current content
We barely have time in the day to use the restroom, right?! How could we possibly fit another block of time into our day to teach SEL? Well, you don't have to. Much of our current curriculum lends itself to SE learning skills. Stories in history and ELA, games in Math, giving and receiving feedback, and working collaboratively in the science lab all lend themselves to SE skills. What we do need, then, is professional development on SE skills! Are you listening higher ups?
4. Explicitly Teach Pro-Social Skills
Teach expected behaviors and do it explicitly. State the rule, role play what the rule looks like and doesn't look like, discuss the rule, praise students you see displaying the rule, etc.
AND hold students accountable. Consequences are a natural part of life. Develop reasonable consequences that match infractions AND make sure they are enforceable. Consequences must abide by the school rules, but they also have to be consequences that you are willing to implement. If you say a student is going to stay in for recess, does the school allow this AND are you willing to give up your time to be inside with this student?
5. Make Teacher Self Care a Priority
You are good to your students. Be good to yourself! The saying is true - you cannot pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first!
~By Miss Rae
One of the most important factors in behavior management is data tracking!
Without the data, interventions are just an opinion! How do we know what’s working and what’s not working without the data?
We track the data! Tracking the data is the way to change the behavior!
Let me give you an example of data tracking with a common classroom issue -
How do you handle a student who swears in your classroom?
For the minor offense (i.e. it slips out in conversation or out of frustration), I acknowledge it and I redirect...
“Let’s watch our language as that is inappropriate for school.”
(As with all redirections of behavior, you want to make sure you explain why you are asking for the behavior to be corrected. Answer the question: What is the behavior’s negative impact?)
With a major swearing offended, you are going to take a different approach. A student who chooses to swear or swears multiple times in one period is a major offender.
With these major offenders, DO NOT acknowledge the swear!
And I repeat - DO NOT!
By acknowledging the swear, you are actually reinforcing swearing.
start by obtaining a baseline. You will get this if you have tracked the data or by tracking the data!
Example: Cam swears 20 times in 60 minutes on average…
Next, have an honest conversation with your student...
"Your goal is to swear less and here’s why we need to reduce your swearing..."
Then, implement the intervention!
AND begin tracking the data!
The intervention is to reinforce the expected behavior. When the student doesn’t swear...
"Oh good job, Cam! Here's a merit for not swearing in the last 5 minutes."
Build the time frame of the reinforcer! Depending on baseline data and continued progress monitoring data, the reinforcer (i.e.merits) can build toward a bigger reinforcer (i.e. lunch with the teacher, homework pass). The reinforcer should be something reinforcing BUT within reason!
Over time, the reinforcer fades as the behavior is phased out!
~By Miss Rae
Back to School Icebreaker
Set a tone for your school year!
Icebreakers are effective and interactive team-building activities that typically precede the big event, and in our case, the big event is class! They enable students to get to know each other in a relaxed setting and buy into the purpose of the event - learning! They also allow for diverse learning styles and opportunities to help each other.
Research has demonstrated that students will learn when they are physically, mentally, and emotionally involved. Games allow educators to meet these needs.
Icebreakers convey a tone of working together through communication, support, and laughter.
Here is an example of a back to school icebreaker:
The Name Game!
Materials: soft tossable object, timer (optional)
Students stand in a line or sit in a circle. The first person says their name and a favorite thing. The second person then says their name and a favorite thing, as well as the name and thing of the person before them. Each person after that adds the names and items of all of the people before them.
★ Have students say their name only
★ Do not time the students. Simply use it for learning each others’ names.
Variation for the School Year:
•Instead of names, have students wear index cards or stickers…
••with sight words, vocabulary words, etc. on them. Students will have to read and/or spell the word they are tossing to.
••with a math fact on them. Students can say the fact and answer before tossing the object.
••with names of items in a sequence (think ABCs, planets, life cycles, events on a timeline, etc.) that students are learning about. Students have to toss the object in the correct sequence.
Get a free pdf version HERE!
This activity and more can be found in my Back to School Small Group Activities resource!
Have fun breaking the ice this year!
~ By Miss Rae
On May 16, 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, commonly referred to as the CDC, released a report compiling estimates of the number of children living in the U.S. with specific mental health disorders. The report asserted 13 to 20 percent of children suffer a mental disorder in a one year time period.
The most prevalent parent-reported social emotional related diagnosis of children ages 3 to 17 years were as follows: attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (6.8 percent), behavioral or conduct problems (3.5 percent), anxiety (3.0 percent), and depression (2.1 percent). Based upon the collected information completed during 1994 through 2011, the CDC’s report indicated an expected increase in the predominance of such conditions.
Negative emotions are correlated to lower levels of student engagement (Reschly, et al., 2008). These negative emotions can stifle learners. Negative emotions can result in emotional deficiencies, and such deficiencies can result in academic derailment.
Positive emotions, on the other hand, were found to be correlated to adaptive behaviors. This results in increased student engagement. As a result, adaptive behaviors, then, in turn, promote positive emotional skills such as an ability to handle change, work with a team, and improve interpersonal relationships.
The reality is that today's educators don't have a choice. We MUST address our students' Social Emotional needs.
The second reality is that educators do not always know where to begin to even address such skills. The budgets of school systems are bursting at the seams; finding the funds to provide professional development and a Social Emotional curriculum can be a moot point.
So what's the answer?
We must infuse Social Emotional Learning into the curriculum, using our content as a springboard!
And here are some ways to do that!
Use the lessons, morals, character development, plot, theme, etc. to drive Social Emotional Learning conversations!
Check out my Social Emotional: Short Story Empathy to learn how to teach Social Emotional Learning with texts!
Stories can provide a basis to prompt discussions and to determine a life lesson to be learned!
2. ADVENTURE GAMES
Connect learning goals to cooperative learning games. Think a Tug of War game to model the Revolutionary War AND elicit discussion around Social Emotional goals (i.e. How did the sides feel?)
Check out my Social Emotional Classroom Adventure Game: Goal Setting to learn how to teach Social Emotional Learning with games!
Games can prompt discussions around teamwork, setting goals, adjusting goals, and MORE!
Work hard, play hard, learn hard!
~ By Miss Rae
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [Mental Health Surveillance Among Children — United States, 2005–2011]. MMWR 2013;62(Suppl 2).
Reschly, A. L., Huebner, E., Appleton, J. J., & Antaramian, S. (2008). Engagement as flourishing: The contribution of positive emotions and coping to adolescents’ engagement at school and with learning. Psychology In The Schools, 45(5), 419-431. doi:10.1002/pits.20306