Surviving The Fight or Flight Syndrome|
by Kim Tracy
February is the time of year when many educators are counting down the days until the end of the year. In elementary schools, most have passed the 100 day mark with celebrations. In middle and high school, end of term exams have all taken place and students have taken on a new course load. Being in the thick of winter in most of the United States, educators are starting to kick into the survival mode; the fight or flight syndrome automatically begins taking over. Days until the end of the year, or until those high stakes test (see January article on Celebration of Learning), are being counted by educators across the globe.
This time of year the frustration levels are at an all time high. With over half of the year gone, educators many times question if they are doing any good in their classrooms and if their students are going to be ready to move on to the next grade. Tensions mount and classrooms become more stressful. Unfortunately, this downhill spiraling effect only decreases the level of production in the classroom instead of increasing it. (For more on stress and how it affects the classroom, see the Editorial in the July issue of The Gazette, Threat and Impaired Learning)
However, not only are educators stressed and feeling pressures, students are as well. They also move into that fight or flight syndrome. Unable to handle the tensions that are caused by weather, upcoming testing, last half of the year, etc, students become more apathetic, and act out inappropriately. How educators handle the understanding of those mounting stressors is the key to a productive classroom. Knowing how to facilitate an active classroom as opposed to lecturing in a classroom with blank-looked stares is what educators should focus on in their environments.
Many of us have seen the signs or flyers that tell us How People Learn:
10 percent of what they read
20 percent of what they hear
30 percent of what they see
50 percent of what they both see and hear
70 percent of what they say as they talk
90 percent of what they say as they do a thing
(Elkwell and Shanker, 1988)
In addition, William Glasser added:
95 percent of what they teach to someone else
Understanding and accepting that will promote a classroom with higher order thinking skills being the prevalent mode of learning. After giving the students the information that is needed, educators should use their classroom as an optimal learning environment by letting them embark on becoming the teacher. Strategies such as setting up learning centers, then allowing the students to share what they have learn will ensure not only that the students are learning the material, but that they have understood the material.
As we venture into the last half of the year, we often move into the mode of doling out the information, and hoping they are remembering everything that is said. Unfortunately, we know that is not the case. Their brains are in shut down mode, and will continue to block out information that is presented in that manner. Even basic rote memorization activities can be presented with partners working together.
Take a step back! Take time for yourself for an afternoon, evening or weekend. Come back into the classroom with a fresh mind that will move you out of the rut that you feel you are in and that the students feel they are drowning in as well. How can you rearrange your plans to have more of what Glasser suggests and less lecturing? What topics can you make easy centers for or pair your students to reteach a concept in a different manner? If we know and understand that our students learn better in that manner, why not teach that way? Despite the high stakes testing or the pressures that educators are under, turn your curriculum into something manageable by you and your students. Force yourself out of that fight or flight syndrome and create an environment in your classroom that is productive for you and your students.
With less than half of the year left, how can you make it a positive experience for your class and for yourself? Read some posts on the Humor Board and the Inspirations Board. Remember the difference YOU make each and every day. Remember that having a positive outlook in your classroom makes all the difference in your lessons, and in your students’ attitude and in their learning. Make those lessons memorable, and make yourself memorable in the eyes of your students.
About Kim Tracy...
Kim Tracy is a fifth grade teacher living in North Carolina. After extensive research and training, Kim has become a Brain Compatible Learning specialist and has conducted staff development workshops in the Southeast area. Kim has been involved in other staff development by facilitating Active Learning in the Classroom workshops, Writing workshops, and Test Scoring workshops, as well as teaching computer skills to educators in her county. As a successful grant writer, Kim is currently in the process of developing successful grant writing packets for educators.
Kim received her BA in Elementary Education from St. Andrew's Presbyterian College in North Carolina and her MA in Education from The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. Kim thrives on teaching other educators about Brain Compatible Learning because she has seen the successes of the strategies in her classroom. Educators seeking advice with implementing BCL strategies can email Ms. Tracy at firstname.lastname@example.org.