More on Distractions.
Last February I wrote: I am distracted… just like my students. It’s no different this year I need to correct their revised essays; this year, I just want to binge watch Arrow, instead of reading a book. I get it, the distraction, a way to cope with feeling overwhelmed. The distractions that keep us from following through on what needs to get done! I continue to be distracted by the question I posed last year: what do my students need, really need?
I started this blog, to model a writing practice for my students, and I have not written another post since last February… FEAR of revealing my writing publicly, as well as school, grad school, and LIFE, too much in an already filled life!
For a while now I have been enamored with neuroscience. And last year I obsessively studied the teenage brain. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Adolescents are primed for learning, “in terms of sheer intellectual power, the brain of an adolescent is a match for an adult’s. The capacity of a person to learn will never be greater than during adolescence”. If this is the case why are so many of my students apathetic about school? And why are so many stressed to the point that it impedes their learning? According to one American Psychological Association survey, during the school year adolescents feel more stress than adults. So what is causing this stress? I do not have an answer. “The Science of Happiness”, says part of the problem is information overload, constant emails, texts, instagrams etc, as well as the expectations to have a decent resume by the time they graduate; in other word too many commitments- too much pressure.
What I do know is that stress releases cortisol, which has been named “public enemy number one” by Chris Bergland, writer for Psychology Today. Too much cortisol can cause depression and anxiety, as well lower immune function, and inhibits the storing and recalling of information. So if this true, what are the implications for learning?
Stress is the culprit for many of our distractions. I asked my students what they do when they feel overwhelmed: “Binge watch Netflix, sleep, play sports, do nothing, cry, try not punch something, eat were some of their answers. Stress — how do we help our students to cope with feeling so overwhelmed that it interferes with their learning?
In February’s blog, I wrote: “Last year I instituted Motivational Mondays – I show a short inspiring video and my students and I set our intention for the week.The intentions range from personal to academic. “Some of their intentions: get to bed earlier, use study hall effectively, write down homework, shave time off my run, have a better attitude when we lose a game, eat healthier”. Fridays we check in, how did we do?? We get stickers if we stuck to our a goal, (even if sparingly). At the end of the year my students they felt that the goals helped them stay focused personally and academically; more importantly, they felt better about themselves.
I continue to do implement motivational Mondays. Now, I ask them questions like, how do you deal with your stress; what is causing your stress? The purpose of these questions is to hopefully begin a metacognitive query. My fascination with the brain expanded to looking for ways to relieve stress and empower the brain! Personally, I have been meditating for a long time. And it hit me… mindfulness reduces my stress and there is tons of research out there that mindfulness is good for your health. So, I took a class, Mindfulness for Educators through Mindful Schools. And voila — a possible solution; in the spring semester, I will add an 8-week mindfulness course. This will give students some skills to relieve stress! Mindfulness is cool in so many ways… It teaches us how to respond rather than react; how to be present; choice of where to place our attention; and improves executive function skills.
So there you have it!