For all of the ways in which my cooperative teachers have inspired me, one of the immediate influences has been on the presence of movement in my life. For so long I have pushed back a desire to commit to yoga, citing my packed schedule as an excuse, and my very active lifestyle as enough exercise. Well not anymore! If I am to be an educator who not only talks the talk but also walks the walk, I need to act.
Seeing the teachers in my fifth and second grade student teaching placements incorporate movement and relaxation techniques throughout the day set a light bulb off over my head. The fifth grade teacher was very transparent in her method, telling the students that she thought they could all use a moment to move around – and she did everything with them. One activity involved having a conversation with a partner, while maintaining eye contact, and here’s the kicker: while maintaining a squat. Sure, some kids gave up quickly, but most were determined to outlast their partner, or another pair. This activity encouraged socializing and incited giggles. Laughter helps to break stress, too!
The second grade teacher was very creative in incorporating different activities and games that the students adored. On one occasion she combined musical chairs with “Have You Ever.” With one chair fewer than the number of us playing, we all began seated, except for the teacher who posed a question like, “Have you ever been in the Atlantic ocean?” Those who had been to the Atlantic Ocean got up and moved to another seat, while the others remained seated. The last person standing had to ask the next question. I thought this game was brilliant, not only for its movement, but also for pulling in student’s experiences from life outside of school.
This teacher also had one boy teach the rest of the class some dance moves between lessons one day. This not only was a much needed opportunity to get the whole class moving, but it also tremendously helped the boy teaching, who had great difficulty focusing in class, but was clearly a talented dancer.
From second grade, to fifth grade, to graduate school and beyond, I think we have to try to remember that we all need to dedicate time to movement and stress relief. A demographic that falls to the wayside in this area is teens, according to a recent Associated Press article From Pets to ‘Recess’ : High School Stress Relief.
If you don’t have a teenager in your life currently, think back to your days in seventh to twelfth grade. Stress comes not only from academics, and extracurricular activities, but also pressures from college, social life, family issues, and these days from issues of safety in schools.
When is enough, enough? Many school administrators are trying new approaches to helping students minimize and manage their stress. Principal of Chanhassen High School in Minnesota, Timothy Dorway has instituted homework-free nights and plugged breaks into daily schedules, where students can socialize, have a snack, or work on assignments. Now, the school even has the motto: “Balance, Perspective, Growth.”
Often such free time is completely absent from student schedules, but really ‘recess’ is just as crucial for everyone – young and not so young. Think of how recharging yourself benefits your work.
Of course, it may be a while for most schools to implement these practices, but individual teachers can make a difference. It may take a little creativity and logistical finesse with tight schedules, but it is possible to address the whole person! If we make the effort to incorporate movement and stress relief in the school day, we are showing students that we value it. Who knows, teaching youth how to manage stress may turn out to be one of the most valuable lingering lessons you can provide.