Every teacher and administrator wants a school climate that is calm. We want a conducive learning environment where students can learn without significant behavior issues or disruptions. Kids will do kid things! That’s human nature; however, what happens when kids’ behaviors are unusual, violent, or unacceptable?
Daily our students arrive with an array of emotions. Some students have extremely difficult home lives. Others may experience emotional or physical trauma. Then, they come to school with bottled up stress, anger, or fear. Often, all of these emotions spill out in the classroom. These outbursts can lead to increased disruptions, or decrease instructional minutes.
When this happens, teachers, administrators, and staff members wonder how to handle these situations. While there isn’t a magic solution, there are ways to improve the climate of your school or classroom. Here are five ways to create a calmer environment.
We hear quite a bit about restorative practices or becoming a restorative school. What exactly does it represent? Restorative approach is a method used to resolve conflict and prevent harm. If students are angry, stressed or fearful, they lash out. When lashing out, it is possible to harm others. Consequently, hurting others cause emotional stress to other students.
Restorative practices or approaches helps the students who’ve been harmed to convey the effects of the harm to those responsible. Also, those responsible for the damage recognize how their harmful actions affect others. If done correctly, this method, restorative practices is very compelling.
According to www.mindfulschools.org, there’s healthy stress and toxic stress. Both students and teachers experience stress. For students, toxic stress creates impairments of attention, mood regulation, and learning readiness in our classrooms. For staff members, toxic stress begins as decreased productivity and creativity. It increases to more serious symptoms like anxiety, dissociation, frustration and possible burnout.
What is mindfulness? Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing. Also, it is our ability not overreact or become overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. It includes meditation and breathing exercises. This method is wonderful during daily transition times. Students and staff can do breathing techniques or meditative practices during morning routines, after lunch or recess, or whenever necessary. Then, some incorporate yoga movements after meditation.
Develop a care team or student support team. It is a team made up of counselors, administrators, SROs, social worker, school psychologists, and nurses. It depends on what support staff your district provides. One person is the leader. Usually, the leader is the school counselor or psychologist.
A care team meets weekly or bi-weekly to discuss specific students, behaviors, and services provides. Refer and add students to an agenda. Both, teachers or members of the team can refer children. Reasons for referrals are suicidal, depression, behavior issues, medical issues, cutting, anxiety, violence, etc. Share anything that would cause concern for a student.
During the weekly meeting, each team member shares out concerns they have about specific students. Team members take notes and problem-solve next steps. Then all are in the loop on students we need to keep an extra eye out for or additional services, including counseling, anger management, Check-in/Check-out, or social services. Also, share information with the each student’s teacher for continuity and consistency.
Sometimes, as educators, we have to try something different. Therefore, be creative in trying ideas that may create a calmer environment inside individual classrooms. Here are two suggestions.
Classical music can have a positive effect on classroom management. Play classical music to help reduce tension and anxiety. When students enter the classroom each morning, have the music playing in the background. Also, play the music when students re-enter the room after recess, lunch, P.E., etc. Then, while students work on assignments, play classical music in the background. It helps with concentration and attentiveness.
Diffusing essential oils in the classroom is another option. There are certain essential oils know for relaxing and calming qualities. Lavender, chamomile, cedarwood, and lemongrass have these qualities. However, teachers know the medical conditions of your students. Certain scents may trigger asthma, headaches or allergies. Therefore, do your research and homework before diffusing essential oils.
First, teachers receive permission from your principal to use essential oils. Administrators may want to consult with the district office. Always cover your anatomy from liabilities. Another word of advice is to inform parents of the use of essential oils and get written consents.
Creating a school climate that is calm takes time and energy. We want our students to have a safe atmosphere and engaging learning environment. Therefore, we must implement programs and activities that best suit our students. Restorative practices, mindfulness, care teams, classical music, and aromatherapy are just a few things to get you started. Remember to start small, and then take one step at a time.
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