I’m not sure how many teachers understand my dilemma, but I just recently took the TELPAS calibration test! Weeks prior to the calibration day, my nerves started to get the best of me. Why was I nervous? Unlike my students – I’m a grown up.! I’ve taken this test for the past 8 years!!! I get two different opportunities to pass this test! Why was I nervous?
So, I reviewed. I gave myself a pep talk. I even went into the monitored testing situation with a positive attitude and a growth mindset.
Now, if this was happening to me: What was going on with my students?
How were they dealing with the pressure? What kinds of testing “positive talk” did they have? What techniques do they have to keep them focused and in the right mindset?
My teaching philosophy has always been to NOT just teach content objectives but to also help them build character, get ready for ‘real’ life and prepare them to overcome obstacles. ( These are those qualities my mother instilled in me so deeply that I sometimes have a hard time being “just good enough”)
So, I had my mission: Prepare them for a positive mindset. ( short video explaining)
Throughout the year, I have helped my students understand the power of a Growth Mindset through quotes, video clips, and story excerpts. There is something wonderful, maybe even miraculous, that happens in a classroom when students are given the opportunity to share out, have conversations, and to reflect/connect to text and media. This is when students make the most growth, this is when students become the young adults you would want running for STUCO or class president, this is when students start to realize who they are. The growth mindset is the belief that in failure we can learn (as long as we persevere by finding different strategies to use). I’ve also used brain teasers to help identify those who still have a fixed mindset and help them overcome obstacles.
Recently, I have started teaching my students how to meditate. I know- she’s gone off the deep end!!! But, hear me out. I have noticed the trend with Mindset and Mindfulness at the book stores so, I looked for someone using it in the classroom. I read an article by Lauren Davis from The Atlantic about an English teacher that started her day off with a 5 minute ‘mindfulness’ practice. While reading the article I noticed my classroom was similar to Ms. Gonzalez’s classroom; attention issues, impulsive decision making, emotional baggage and stress. I know exactly what you are thinking – “that is just a pre-adolescent.” Yes, I know.
What if I could harness those things? What if I could help students become aware of their emotions or when they are being impulsive or stressed?
The mood is set; the lights are dimmed, the Pandora station is set to Yoga or Nature Music, and the looping video of the fireplace is crackling is on the television. My students are either laying on the floor, sitting in their chairs or sitting on the floor as I take them through breathing exercises, tension exercises, or a visual exercise.
If meditation, mindfulness or yoga is a new concept for you, there are plenty of apps and sites that take you through 5-30 minute sessions on youtube. The benefits outweigh any negative feelings you may have. Here are just a few…
improved resilience for STAAR passages
increased energy level for those long testing days
lowered anxiety levels – decreases the high cortisol levels
boosts working memory
more cognitive flexibility
less emotional reactivity
My students have thanked me for the time I give them to meditate and be mindful. They have talked to me about practicing at home.
If I can help them feel comfort in the stress that we all feel during testing season, then I will do so.
Give it a try- the worst thing that could happen is that you may have a student fall asleep during meditation. And if that is the case, let sleeping dogs lie!!! 😉