Thursday, February 20, 2014

Don't Forget to Breathe!

On the mornings when my AP Econ and Government class meets, we (almost always) take time to breathe.  We pledge allegiance and then we breathe for three minutes.  I tell my students to stop what they're doing, close their computers, put their cellphones away, stop eating and just stop and do nothing more than breathe and think.  They can think about whatever they want.  They can focus on their breathing like yoga breathing, they can plan their day, they can go blank and space out, they can close their eyes and relax.  The idea is to get them to understand that they can stop in the middle of their busy days and they can disconnect in the middle of their busy senior years.  They don't have to always go, go, go.  When we stop breathing, they can get back to their hectic schedules and lives, but for three minutes it's OK to stop.
Our breathing is part of a greater scheme to help my high-flying students manage the pressure of their senior year and keep their lives in balance.  On another level, I have my students list their classes from most important to least important with no ties.  They need to make a choice of one over another before they have to make that choice during the high pressure times of mid terms, finals, or AP tests.  The idea is to stop (yes, it's that word again!) and examine what they do and how they do it.  We look at their lists from time to time and we rearrange their priorities depending on how their doing in their respective classes.  The bottom line that I constantly emphasize to my students is that we can't be all things to all people and we can't give 100% to all of our classes.  We need to choose what is most important and then give that level of commitment and effort to what is most important.  We also need to be good with the classes that are less than most important.  Some students can get A's in all their classes, but that doesn't mean that they give 100% to all their classes.  The classes that are most important get the most effort and those that are less important get less effort.
As a teacher, I have to be good with that.  My classes are not the most important classes in all my students's lives and schedules.  The question I ask my students who are not giving their all in my classes is, "are you doing well in the classes that you're giving more effort to?"  If the answer is, yes, then they've done a good job prioritizing and are getting the results they should.  If the answer is, no, then we have a conversation about what is important to the student's overall academic goals and we rearrange his/her prioritizes as needed.
I also have to be good to make sure to take the time out of MY hectic class schedule to make sure this gets done, because if we take some time early, we will save lots of time and angst later when the time gets shorter and the pressure gets higher.
We also work on prioritizing what are their favorite and least favorite classes and getting them to remember to take advantage of what's fun and enjoyable to them.  We also list their extracurricular and family and work activities to see where school fits in with the rest of their lives.  Once again, the idea is to get my students to look at their lives and understand where the different important activities fit among each other and that they get the results they want and know why they get those results.
Finally, this is another attempt to build a strong personal relationship with each student and help him/her learn how to get where he/she wants to go and to build strong life skills as he/she learns the academic concepts in my class.
Don't forget to breathe!  Think about whatever you want, but disconnect and breathe, because you ALWAYS have time!

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