For every minute you are angry, you lose 60 seconds of happiness
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
There is a common theme each year as our older students (3rd-5th) report higher levels of stress as we get closer to the end of the last term. This month, I began focused lessons on how we can use what we know about brain science to help utilize specific coping strategies for managing our personal and school stress.
I always try to start my lessons with a funny little story or an engaging piece of information to get them ready to learn. I told them a High School student told me recently that they were very stressed about their school work and I added, "yeah, I can believe it, lots of my elementary students are reporting feeling stressed about school as well." The High School student looked surprised and said, "No way! What could a 3rd-5th grade student possibly be worried or stressed out about?" Well, of course, the majority of my 3rd-5th grade students found that High School student's statement hilarious! I told them to tell me all about it, so I can set the record straight once and for all. So, listen up, here are some of the worries the kids reported:
So I asked them, would you like to learn a couple of quick and easy strategies for managing some of these issues? The answer was a resounding, "Yes!"
I began with one of my favorite books, "Wilma Jean the Worry Machine" by Julia Cook. This fun and humorous book addresses the problem of anxiety in a way that relates to children of all ages. It offers creative strategies for parents and teachers to use that can lessen the severity of anxiety. During this story, Wilma Jean works with her beloved teacher (and mom) to list out all of her school worries. Each worry is placed on a note card and then she places it in one of two piles: Problems I can control OR Problems I cannot control. Well, guess what we did? We stopped reading our story at this point in the book and each student took one sticky note and wrote their biggest school worry on it and placed it on the I can or I cannot control problem stack.
The pic to the left is what a typical classroom work session looked like. Notice that most of the kids thought their problems were not within their control. We then finished reading the book to discover what Wilma Jean and her team decided to do.
I then taught a quick introductory lesson using three images representing how we think, feel and behave when faced with a problem. For parents reading this, here's a little more information on CBT (Cognition, Behavior, Thinking evidence-based practice): <click here>
We began by examining the anonymous "problems" in the I can't control section and placed the problem into our CBT triangle. I taught the kids that this kind of problem solving trick was simple, change at least one of the elements of the triangle and we begin to see changes in the other two. Voila! Our attitudes about what we had control over began to change and amazingly, we could do it all on our own! The students came up with some great coping strategies and reported feeling more empowered to get right to work.
Here's a pic (left) of what our work looked like when we finished this exercise. So, you might be wondering what that one little sticky in the I can't section is? You guessed it---- the weather!! For that one, we need the worry box or the worry hat...there will be some things that we simply can't control and the weather is one of those things! We discussed that these types of problems will definitely require adults to help us out.
Imagine a world where our kids felt empowered to handle nearly anything presented to them, where we create future leaders that are not inhibited by fear if failure, but excited about possibility. At Sycamore, we teach the WHOLE CHILD by providing the skills necessary to handle strong emotions with a sense of confidence, persevere in the face of doubt, and tackle new academic challenges with GRIT. Today is a great day to be a member of the Sycamore family!