12 Tips to Find the Calm in A Hectic School Day
A typical school day can be hectic. At times overwhelming. Finding a moment of calm can be difficult. So, here are some tips to squirrel away some peace (and piece of mind) when the school day starts to swirl around you.
Add Some Green to Your Space
Going outside can be calming and relaxing, fresh air, sunshine, and the sounds ofnature, but it’s not so easy for most teachers to get outside on a regular basis. Count yourself lucky if your school is in a safe neighborhood and has an outdoor classroom or learning area. And, utilize it as much as possible.
If you don’t have the luxury of getting outside during the school day consider bringing the outdoors in. Add some green by adopting some houseplants. It will improve the décor of your classroom and provide a little sense of the outdoors inside. You can even add some images of nature to the classroom. If you project or share your computer screen with students, consider changing your screensaver to a landscape to provide a little awe of nature with everyone. However you include it, bringing in some of the outdoors can offer you a sense of calm when things get chaotic (which we all know they can).
Use Music to Your Advantage
So, as a teacher for over a decade and a half, I have a very strong, non-research based belief that the type of music that is playing in the classroom impact the type of learning and behaviors in the classroom. If you are playing today’s hits and it’s pop and rap that the students know – the classroom is going to be energetic, students singing and dancing along without even realizing it, it can be a fun and an enlivened class – and it can, at times, derail learning if you aren’t careful. If you play calming music, or even lyric-less music, students tend to settle in and focus more.
Consider classical (Mozart or Bach, for starters), or even just slower tempo music (think Sam Smith or Nora Jones). Popular music without lyrics can be a big hit because students recognize the tunes but it’s still more mellow (think Two Cellos or the Piano Guys). Or, just make yourself happy for a moment, and play something that lets you feel centered, even if your students’ don’t know it. Music can impact both your and your students’ day – so use it to reclaim some calm.
Step Away from the Screens (if you can)
I’m not even going to get into the ominous “blue light” emitted from technology that can potentially impact your wellness. Instead, let’s just focus on your actual screen time. For some of us, it’s hard to believe that teaching existed without computers. But it did. And everyone was just fine. We don’t NEED to know right now if the basketball is being rescheduled or if the professional development meeting is being held in the library. Most classrooms have computers, phones, and even intercoms. If there is something urgent, they’ll let you know. So instead of letting a screen divide your attention throughout the day – take time to just be present. Focus on one thing – even if that one thing is 30 students. Your messages will be there waiting when you make time for them – so for right now embrace some calm and just be.
I know, your breathing, but are you using breath to help find the calm? Try this: In through the nose, out through the mouth. Longer inhales than exhales. Do it a few times while during passing time or between helping students and you’ll feel a wash of calm – even if just for a moment.
Eat (really, really)
It’s true the work is never done. So, for a second, consider what your day would be like if you stepped away from the work for 20 minutes at lunch or wandered out of your classroom and down the hall to socialize for a minute. What would happen if you slowed down to taste your food or chatted with a co-worker about something other than assessment strategies and intervention plans?
The work will always be there, but breaking up the day and gifting yourself a moment to decompress, have a laugh, or just even enjoy your lunch can make a positive impact on the rest of your day.
Add a Scent
Now, some schools have rules against air fresheners because of chemical sensitivities, but there are lots of ways of adding scent to the classroom – and if you happen to teach teenagers you easily can understand why you might want to. The sense of smell can impact how we feel. A calming scent like lavender can infuse a sense of calm into the room while masking odors that are less kind to our noses. You could bring fresh flowers, a candle (if permitted) or an essential oil diffuser like this one:
Open A Window (if you can)
So some classrooms don’t have windows (I’ve been there) and some have windows that won’t open (been there too), but do what you can open the classroom up. Give everyone’s’ eyes a break from the fluorescent lights. Maybe that’s fully opening a window to let in the fresh air and sunlight, maybe that’s just opening the blinds. Can’t-do either, try a natural light spectum emitter like this one:
to bring in some vitamin D (especially in those bleak winter months).
Talk to A Colleague
Sometimes it’s nice to talk to someone during the school day who is of age to vote, who knows the frustrations and struggles that you face and can lend a sympathetic ear if you are having a tough day – or even if you’re not. Letting your guard down and finding someone who will listen can help you press restart on the rest of the day and keep going with a stronger sense of calm.
Develop A Mantra
It doesn’t have to be all new-agey. Just find a phrase that you are drawn to and repeat it in your head (or if no one’s around say it out loud). Something as simple as thinking “progress not perfection”, “peace is within my reach”, or the classic “keep calm and carry on”: You can even post a reminder of YOUR mantra in the classroom, it could help your students remember to take a moment too.
Keep An Area of the Classroom Clean & Yours
You’re an adult. No one can tell you to clean your room. But, you should do it anyway, because for many people an organized space provides mental clarity too. When your surroundings are in order it is less taxing on you psychologically and allows you to have the mental fortitude to focus on what is most important. So, organize that desk and stack those papers, it can help you find the calm.
Have A Midday Drink (not that kind)
Oh, I like coffee and I like tea (okay maybe that reference dates me a bit). However, having a midday drink can help you slow down and gives you something to look forward to during that afternoon slump. For some a bit of a caffeine jolt with a cup of coffee can do the trick, for others keeping a stash of some relaxing herbal teas in their desk can be just what they need to find the calm.
Find Calm WITH Your Students
A full day of being “on” can take its toll on everyone. Think of your students – they move from one subject to the next and are expected to be switching modes constantly while adhering to expectations and doing their best. Students can benefit from a moment of calm in their day too – so take them along with you. Infuse some mindfulness and/or meditative practices in your classroom. Or, even just give everyone one some quiet time and join your students in some silent reading. The key is to have everyone slow down for a moment, find the calm – so that you all can take the rest of the day by storm.