A Season of Growth

After months of rain and cold temperatures, spring has arrived in the Northern Hemisphere. This is the season for new beginnings and transformations, when we leave behind the winter blues and we reawaken to the beauty of flowers blooming, warmer temperatures and longer days.

But… who’s smelling the flowers?

Spring is a difficult time for educators. Student behavior, staff shortages, achievement tests, increased workload and budget concerns keep educators reacting to daily challenges, with little time or energy to notice or celebrate how much students have grown academically, socially and emotionally.

Spring can also be challenging for teachers, because feelings of overwhelm, burnout, uncertainty and self-doubt cloud their sense of purpose and test their resilience, making it hard to see how much they have accomplished and grown this year.

At times, we are so focused on getting to the finish line or working towards a final outcome that we miss noticing what is happening right in front of our eyes. 

What if instead of continuing to push forward you allowed yourself to slow down?

Slowing down can actually make you a more effective educator. This may sound counterproductive, as the busy-ness of this time of year keeps educators moving forward, trying to keep students engaged and focused in learning, while preparing assessments and attending to paperwork.

However, many of us function on autopilot when we are stressed or anxious. This means that we are not able to make the best decisions, because we don’t give ourselves the time to consider all the data points necessary to make informed and constructive decisions.

In the HEART in Mind model, this is the second competency–Elect Your Responses. This skill entails using a variety of tools to move away from autopilot into a place of balance. From managing your emotions and identifying unhelpful patterns to engaging your optimism, Electing Your Responses is an essential skill that can support you to navigate the spring season.

If you need a refresher, go back to chapter five in Teaching with the HEART in Mind or enroll in the Growing Your HEART Skills course, which is dedicated to developing adult SEL skills. 

Slowing down would allow you to…

  • Take stock of the health of your relationship with students. As students become more distracted, educators’ frustration and impatience increases, which overtime impacts the emotional weather in the classroom. Take some time to go back to “basics” when it comes to nurturing positive relationships with your students. Are you regularly skipping your check-in with students because you have a lot of content to cover? Did you miss asking students how they are feeling and doing in your classroom? What have you done lately to connect with your students on topics outside of academic content? This is a great time to reconnect with students and see what is happening in their lives.

         Additional resources: Bridging the Trust Gap and Black History and Cultural Competence

  • Identify strengths and gaps in learning: By slowing down, you can notice what your students have learned, not only in their reading, writing or math, but also how much their HEART skills have grown this year. From their learning, work to identify any gaps in student knowledge and skills, so you can adjust your focus, pacing and teaching strategies. This can give you an opportunity to reflect on your own strengths as an educator and areas that you need to consider moving forward.

         Additional resources: Celebrating Your Students’ Growth and Adult SEL Matters

  • Promote student-centered learning. When educators are stressed and overwhelmed by the upcoming end-of-year assessments, they tend to hold control of the classroom and move away from a student-centered learning environment. However, we know that when students are given choices to direct their learning, they become more involved and invested. Consider if that has happened in your classroom. Are you taking away students’ choices in order to cover more content? How can you reclaim elements of a student-centered classroom, given your current constraints? What choices can you offer students to increase their ownership?

         Additional resources: The Future of Learning and 3 Ingredients for a Strong SEL Year

Although you may feel the need to continue pushing forward until you get to the finish line, slowing down may actually increase your effectiveness as an educator. By slowing down, you will be able to reconnect with your students in deeper ways, identify their strengths and gaps in learning, and work together to bring the focus back to a student-centered process, where students can take ownership of their own learning. Prioritizing student connection and engagement over a rushed curriculum can help ensure that students have a deeper understanding of the material and that educators create a more fulfilling classroom experience for themselves and their students.

Photo by Christina Winter on Unsplash

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