It's a stressful time of year for high school students. The semester is ending and exams are quickly approaching. Those who did little all year are in full blown panic mode (or should be) and the over-achievers are little balls of stress, worried that they won't be able to reach their goals. And, of course, there are those who could use just a little stress...but that's another story.
For my IB class, exams came early. Because they have more courses than our other students, they can't fit all of their exams in during the exam week. We always have one or two of their exams outside of the block, and this year, it was mine. Now this particular IB class does stress better than any group I've had before. They wallow in it. They obsess about it. They get themselves curled into little balls of I can't do this I suck I'm gonna fail. You get the picture.
So, I decided to take five minutes before we started to do a little meditation with them, to see if I could get them a little more relaxed before they began. I had my youtube video all cued up and my speech planned about the importance of relaxation. Then, they began to arrive. Every one walked through the door with a statement like: I'm so stressed. I think I'm going to be sick. I can't do this. It was worse than I thought!
I got them settled and we did some guided meditation for five minutes. After the first uncomfortable giggles, they seemed to buy into it, and I could literally see some faces relax. Not all, but enough to see that it was a worthwhile exercise.
I also talked to them about the all importance of breathing. It's an involuntary process, but many of us don't do it very well. I get myself in trouble all the time because I'm taking shallow breaths and getting all clenched inside. When I remind myself to take slow, even breathes, the stress literally falls away... most of some of it anyway.
After the exam was over, many of them shared that the pep talk and meditation beforehand really helped. So, I've decided to make mindfulness a part of my classroom routine. Here are some ways I hope to lessen the stress level in my teens:
1. Stop and breathe: it's the simplest and easiest way to go. If we're doing an assignment or assessment that I know is causing a bit of anxiety, I'll remind them to breath. I'll remind them to slow it down and take deep breaths from their abdomens.
2. Stand and stretch: Stretching helps relax tense muscles. Getting students to do so takes so little time but will reap great benefits.
3. Two minute stress-out: Sometimes we just need to vent. If you know stress levels are high, give students two minutes to get it all out with a partner. Once the two minutes are over, have them breathe or stretch and then get back to work.
4. Play relaxing music: It's a well known fact that music can be used for stress relief. But what's the best kind to play? Experiment with your class and find out what works best for them. Work together to create a playlist of relaxing music you can listen to as a class--or let them use their earbuds to listen to their own.
5. Share your own stress and strategies for dealing with it: Teach your students that stress is normal and that there are ways to deal with it. As with everything else, be a good role model for your students.
Have a relaxing new semester!
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