We met yesterday to discuss ways to help our students with anxiety. Many caring adults offered strategies they are trying to teach their kiddos. Some have built in breaks throughout the daily schedule so their students know practicing these coping mechanisms are part of the routine. We asked for the social-emotional folks to provide common language and strategies we could all employ from the get-go at the start of the next school year. One teacher said, “There are so many academics to teach but let’s face it, we cannot get to the academics until we get the social-emotional needs covered.” So true.
The landscape has changed dramatically since I began teaching twenty years ago. I often wonder about the factors that make it so. I worry about adults making curriculum decisions for our country who do not have classroom experience and knowledge of what is age appropriate. I worry about the amount of testing children must endure each school year. I worry about the amount of data teachers must upload when there is so much more they also must do in such little time. I worry about the pace we expect everyone to keep up with.
I worry about eight year olds having to “try out” in front of a panel of adults to simply play baseball in their town league. I worry about kids no longer playing a sport per season for the fun, team-building experience but instead “specializing” in one sport and playing it all year long. I worry about the schedules between houses that little people must keep track of – “My library book might be at my dad’s house. I don’t know.” I worry about the amount of screen time they are getting because their brains do seem to require more stimulation and have less attention span than years past. I worry about the social media platforms they are exposed to before they are emotionally ready.
I worry that our tired overworked parents give in too much and the kids have not learned the word no. I worry that our students have not learned to persevere and give up at a task far too soon. I worry that their schedules are far too tight and they don’t get enough unstructured outdoor play. I worry that we live in a society that does not want their children to experience consequences for their actions and we are left with an incentive-based economy for doing what is expected in our schools. All of these factors must be playing into the behaviors that manifest in many ways but can be linked to anxiety.
Most of all, I worry that I see so much that needs changing and I don’t know how to make it better. Because I want better for these children who didn’t ask for this. I want better for my son who will be entering school in a year. Yes, as educators we will add anxiety-reducing strategies to our teaching. Anxiety is part of life, I get that. But does it have to be so much so at such a young age?