Blog Your Blessings: Calm Kids

When my daughter was very young and we watched Barney for the first time, I was driven to distraction by the characters' constant movement. Barney, the children, and the adults were always bouncing from one leg to the other in the magical playground full of color and movement, movement, movement. It drove me mad. I can count on one hand the number of times we watched Barney.

That's not to say we didn't watch TV, though. After lunch, we would be faithful visitors to Mr. Roger's neighborhood, where that calm and kindly gentleman invited us into his home and included us in the ordinary pace of his day. He took his time with everyone and found pleasure in ordinary people and the nature of their li
ves and work. It was easy to be there. In fact, I still remember the places he took us and the interesting people to whom he introduced us.

I thought of this contrast when I heard the advice from a colleague at the college where I used to teach. He helped kids with learning disabilities navigate the public university system. He said, "Kids are used to constant movement; you've got to be entertaining and fast-paced when you teach or you're out." This can't be, I thought.


I have recalled his words when I am teaching. Whether I am passing out papers and pencils, teaching, or taking attendance, I am on because my students are looking to me for constant activity. When I ask kids to work independently, there are those who manage to race through the task and shout to the world, "I'm done!" in a matter of seconds. They want something else to do for the minute or two others need to complete the same task. They want a game, a puzzle, a coloring page--something ro fill the empty 90 seconds.


In response, I hear myself saying,"Relax," more than anything else these days. Rather than provide something for them to do--and they expect that I will--I tell them to breathe for a minute or two. This is a new idea for many children. Stop bouncing around. Still yourself. It seems to me that's a lesson, too.


For kids who won't settle and won't follow directions or who desire trouble--and there are many in my classes full of smart but poorly performing academic underachievers--I find myself calling their parents day and night to ask for their help in teaching their kids to value their education and to respect themselves, their peers, and their teacher by working in class and listening quietly. It's a hard task. It is a task that wearies me as I make those calls from my living room at the end of a work day.


Tired of being weary, I decided to make a different kind of call this week. I called the parents of kids whose bad behavior had turned around significantly and told them their kids were doing a lot better. I called the parents of a few kids who are always good and told them their kids are always good. Next time I had those kids in class, they worked like dogs from one end of the period to the other. It was a beautiful thing. More often when I said, "relax," the kids did. So many of the other kids--the chronic malcontents--wanted me to call and say something good about them. So they too are learning to calm down. They are finding a little bit of quiet is far more worthwhile than a whole lot of fight. It's a way to feeling good and being good. It's a lot nicer in my neighborood, and it's nice to be there. That's a blessing.

Blog Your Blessings

Comments

  1. First, I was never a Barney fan either, but could still sit and watch Mr. Rogers. He was a genius. Second, this post shows incredible talent, creativity and smarts on your part. You found a way and thought outside the box to do it. That doesn't surprise me, coming from you, but just as the kids deserve positive kudos, so do you.

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  2. This was very perceptive. Yes, in concentrating on the good instead of bad you channelled a different kind of energy to all.
    Excellent.

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  3. That was beautiful Sandy thank you for spreading your calmness we all need more and it has been what has brought me peace in the last 5-6 years finding time to be...... to meditate to "Be still, and know That I am God"Psalm 46:10)

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  4. at first my daughter don't want to watch it, but now she is liking it..

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  5. Anonymous10:52 AM

    our daughter love the singing and dancing..

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  6. I hadn't thought about this much before, but wow you're right. My school days are thirty years ago, but when the class was told to put our heads down without speaking for ten minutes, it was a punishment.

    It's everywhere too, not just kids' shows. Fiction editors for novels aimed at any age tell you to start in the middle of the action and never let up, because that's what readers want. Well THIS reader is getting almost tired of reading Austen and Bronte and their contemporaries over and over because I like sitting on a sofa with an interesting character better than swinging through trees with a cardboard one.

    Ugh.

    Perhaps we should open and close school days with tai chi or meditation (we can't call it prayer any more, can we?). It would be wonderful if kids could discover as many interesting things *inside* themselves as outside, to entertain them.

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  7. "Relax" is advice that pretty much all of us, in one way or another should take...

    ...and as for "concentration/learning"... kids (even "our" age,) have been raised in a society of television... and three minute bites of stuff (watch Sesame Street... rarely more than five minutes spent on any one thing...) but I noticed something in my own efforts...

    Take a kid to a historic site... and tell them of the people that went through and when... and even their importance to one thing or another... and you'll barely have their attention.

    Take a kid to a historic site... tell them the mythos... explain the "story" that is told... and include, almost for fun, where the story has truth and where legend may have taken over... even tell any ghost stories from the site... but use them to show the "actual" history... and they'll hang on your every word.

    Entertained? Yes. Enlightened? Sure. Have fun? Absolutely! Move around? Not unless they're eyesight is like most reptiles where they don't notice you unless there's movement.

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  8. what a neat idea you are implementing in your classroom. think if would work in families also...look for the good and in ourselves-look for the good. thanks.

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  9. It is important to be able to filter, in this world of fast paced stimuli. Kids need to learn that, to be able to filter, choose, and calmly stay with your object of attention is one of the most important abilities.

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  10. I so agree with your whole post! I loved Mr. Rogers and was so glad my kids had opportunities to watch his show. I can't stand Barney. I feel sorry for my grandchildren as they had only Barney. I so agree with your methods of teaching also!!!!!!!!!

    I haven't decided if I can find a photo to go with BYB Sunday yet so don't know until later tonight if I will post.

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  11. What a great idea...calling parents with PRAISE REPORTS...some of the best teachers do that...you've earned a badge of honor in my book today.
    xoxo

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  12. I hadn't really thought about it until you pointed it out but yeah kids are all more 'busy' these days. I think learning to relax is a great lesson. :)

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  13. Another post packed with wisdom and creativity.

    I feel a little like "Atlas Shrugged" while reading it. It has a sense of calm. And we all need more serenity.

    You are a gifted young woman, Sandy. I wish my children has teachers like you. There were a couple... but, it's rare to find someone with your dedication and maturity in any field. Teaching is so difficult. I'm amazed that anyone can do it for more than a few years without being found hanging catatonic on a wall in the teacher's lounge.

    Your point about too much activity in children is right on target. My husband is a child psychologist and we've been discussing that for several years. Too much stimulation is not a healthy thing.

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  14. Anonymous9:36 AM

    It is always better to focus on the positive than negative. Excellent post as always Sandy!

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  15. What a wonderful teacher you are, Sandy! Taking time to call parents to tell them their kids are doing better! Keep up the good work! :)

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  16. Wise to focus on the positive and what you DO want rather than the other way around.

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  17. And you are a blessing. You always see the glass half full. The positive.

    Reverse psychology - brilliant. Well done.
    The blessings are yours.

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  18. Anonymous6:29 PM

    I so relate to the points you've made here and find myself remembering when I learned to focus on what was 'right' rather than 'wrong' as a teacher ... to devote my time and energy to reinforcing those things rather than be driven to distraction by those students who could not (or would not) be still. I'm also reminded of the quote I shared at Happily Retired Gal' today as I reminisced about my Dad ... so perhaps I'll change the link before posting this comment ... just because. Your students and their parents are blessed to work with you.
    Hugs and blessings,

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  19. as a mom and a teacher I can relate to every single thing you wrote here - oh how I missed Mr. Rogers when my kids were too old to watch...

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  20. I'll bet you made the day of every parent you called. We're all so used to getting those calls telling us that something is wrong. I can just imagine how delighted they were to learn that something was right!!!

    Peace and God bless you - D

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  21. Anonymous8:38 AM

    Reminds me of the old saying "you can catch more bees with honey than vinegar" I'm glad the new tactic worked!

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