In 2020, we have more reasons than ever to be worried about the state of public education.
Yikes! This time, five years ago, I was writing about school violence. Let’s be more honest, five years ago, none of us guessed where we’d be today.
The current pandemic has left many states not returning to live classrooms this year and in those states that are returning, there is an option for families to go virtual. Let’s take a deep breath, admit that we’re here, and talk about things to make it easier.
If you’re working at home, schooling at home, or still caught in the whirlwind of the new normal, unsure of what the next school year will look like—here are three things guaranteed to make it easier:
1. Incorporate some mindfulness and breathwork.
Activities such as breathwork, yoga, and mindfulness bring each individual, no matter his age, into the present moment. It raises our awareness of our physical bodies and physical presence in time and space. Being in the present moment eliminates a lot of unnecessary distractions.
It’s time to turn down the volume on the world around us, and turn inside—and it’s time to teach our kids to do the same. Something as simple as focusing on the breath can turn the volume down on the world around us until those distractions fade into the distance. Offering relaxation into the curriculum (whether it is mindfulness, yoga, or breathwork) has also been shown to improve academic performance, increase self-esteem and positive behaviors, and improve physical fitness.
Research has shown that students who experienced one year of a relaxation curriculum achieved a higher GPA, along with higher marks in work habits and cooperation, than students without exposure to the curriculum. These practices have been adopted by many mainstream and public schools and education systems. Try it at home and see the difference for yourself.
2. Get outside help.
In a classroom, even the best teacher has an aide. Many times, in a home learning environment, there is the additional stress of working from home. If only you had a classroom aide like they have in public school!
There are now private teachers and tutors available as quickly as you can click a button on your screen. There are many ways to find outside, reliable help. We’re in uncharted territory for all of us, but outside help is available.
3. Create a routine.
I like to call it the magic of the divine ordinary. Children need a routine. They need to know what is coming next. Many things we learn about our environments come as lessons with age. We know what is socially acceptable and what is not. We know where the road leads. We know what we’re doing next. Common things we, as adults, are aware of, children are not. This adds to the distractibility and difficulties focusing. Kids don’t just have one question, they have 10 questions.
The easiest way to ease some of this is to set a schedule for the at-home school day and post it somewhere that everyone in the house can see it. Then stick to it. Don’t forget to add in fun times and plenty of positive reinforcement. If being on a timeline doesn’t work for your household, create it in a list format, so the youngest ones can know the order of events as the day is unfolding.
Why are we doing this?
2020 is an unprecedented time for all of us. Take what works and leave the rest. When I started incorporating these tricks into my classroom teaching, it wasn’t until after I realized that I was on to something big that I began researching why exactly this was working. What I learned amazed even me.
Continue to practice gratitude and positive reinforcement and watch how your student lights up. When they feel good, they act better.