Rushing Through Childhood – How to Slow Down!
Okay, so nowadays it’s just reality, our students’ lives are mimicking their parents, fast paced, running from one activity to the next. Our society values speed. Super highways so we can go faster – get places sooner, high speed Internet enables us to communicate and research faster, fast food to hurry eating, microwaves to help us cook faster and much, much more. It’s a fact and the reality of our world.
While it’s great to keep busy, be involved (the whole idle hands are the devils workshop theory) and stay active the lives of today’s children are busy to an extreme. They are hurried, rushed, pushed to achieve in sports, academics, the arts, everything. The result is they are being pushed through childhood into adulthood way too soon – with irreversible, sometimes deadly consequences.
The results of leading these hectic, hurried lives rear its ugly head in the classroom. Bad attitudes, lack of concentration, peer issues, bullying, etc. are just the tip of the iceberg. Studies have shown that kids pushed too hard to achieve are the children who fail in school, become involved in delinquency, drugs and even commit suicide.
These are oftentimes the students who complain of headaches, stomachaches, are chronically unhappy, hyperactive, lethargic or unmotivated. All the results of stress from pressure to hurry and grow up.
How You Can Help
Teachers are there to teach, you know, the traditional ABC’s, 123’s to well nourished, rested, well taken care of kids, but today that is really just a fantasy – at least where I teach. From lack of parental involvement to over scheduling and everything in between being a teacher takes on much more than academic lessons. Parents have good intentions, but are sometimes unknowingly are catalysts of stress to their children.
If you’re a teacher you have the opportunity to help your students to learn ways to cope with stress and pressures they are dealing with on a daily basis. As I see it, this is one of the most important lessons to teach, one that will help them for the rest of their lives. After all, we won’t change society or what’s going on at home but we can help them to learn tools for dealing with it all.
Being aware of where they are coming from on many levels is essential to success. That’s just the first step, addressing how to meet them on their level is next.
Teaching How to Slow Down
When our students worlds are packed with sports, clubs, social activities and the like, your classroom may be the only place where they stand a chance of slowing it all down. To me, if my kids are rushing through life, one of the most important lessons I can teach them is to learn to slow down despite the frantic pace of their world and enjoy life. This lesson will be the foundation of everything else for them.
With our own teaching requirements to meet, skills to teach and assess and competencies our students must reach this may seem like a daunting task.It doesn’t have to be. If you start to think about slowing it down in your classroom and creative ways to do this you’ll be amazed at the results.
You’ll have a happier classroom where students are learning more and treating each other with respect.
It’s similar to taking five minutes to relax when you’re overwhelmed, you often walk away from the tasks and return with a new outlook and fresh perspective that breathes life into the task at hand. If we help our students learn to do this then success and peace will be theirs.
The first thing to keep in mind is that children are emotionally and intellectually on different levels than us. They aren’t ‘little adults’. Re-acquainting yourself with Piaget’s four stages of child development is a great place to begin. These stages are:sensori-motor, preoperational, concrete operational, formal operational.
Create a Relaxing Atmosphere
In your classroom you should create an environment of relaxation and peace. Yes, there are lessons to learn and accomplishments to be reached but don’t make it a race. Create a pace in your classroom that isn’t rushed. Don’t try to do too much in one day.
Schedule in Play Time or Free Time
Encourage play as much as possible while still teaching the necessary lessons. Play, free, uninhibited play.We have forgotten to do this and even how to do this.Let your students lead the way. This is a huge stress reliever for children and adults too.
Encourage fantasy and using the imagination in your lessons and everyday activities. As you make your lesson plans choose ones that will focus on allowing the student’s free thought, imagination and fantasy. It may seem challenging at first but you can incorporate this into all lessons and subjects. After you do it for a while, it will become easier each time. The payoff is invaluable.
Never Become Impatient
When working with students it’s always essential to be polite. It may seem simple but it means so much. It is possible to disagree with the choices your students are making and still be respectful of their decisions. Opinions and input must be presented to children in a polite manner with thoughtfulness and consideration. This actively shows our students that we value them as individuals and care about their feelings.
Teach Strategies for Dealing with Stress
Finally and of vital importance it to teach a time honored tool for dealing with stress passed down to us from great philosophers like Epictetus and warriors such as Marcus Aurelius: live in the present moment. Don’t regret the past or dwell on it; don’t worry about the future and what it will hold. This goes for everything, daily events such as test results to longer term issues such as what college they’ll get into, or if their team get into the playoffs.
You can be a wonderful role model and example by living this too. Take time everyday, in your classroom (& life) to indulge in the present. Watch a bird; check out the sky, some clouds floating by. Make this a priority everyday in your classroom, many times through the day. Talk about it; how to incorporate this into their lives outside of school.Ways you make it part of your life outside of school.
Gently, subtly you’ll be teaching them a philosophy of living that will last forever. This is a lesson for life.