SELF-MANAGEMENT – Individual develops and demonstrates the ability to regulate emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in contexts with people different than oneself.–If ever we lived in a time where this proposed Social Emotional Learning standard was needed, it is now! Everywhere we turn, young people are inundated with people’s inability to regulate their thoughts, words, and behavior. Tolerance of people that are different than ourselves is at an all-time low. The irony of my writing a blog post to be shared on social media, where this issue is most prevalent, is not lost on me. But it is the way we reach the most malleable minds, is it not? Reach these young minds, we must. The cost they will pay if they are not able to demonstrate this most crucial skill is higher than we realize. People with great power and influence in our world today, do not show this prudence and level of comprehension. So how do we teach our students to do so?
Benchmark 2A: Demonstrates the skills to manage and express one’s emotions, thoughts, impulses, and stress in constructive ways.
Our students have PLENTY of non-constructive ways of managing and expressing their thoughts and emotions. Without the careful guidance and teaching of the scientifically proven methods to manage emotions and stress, students can engage in a free-for-all of words and deeds. How do we direct this energy into something productive and useful?
- Mindfulness- What is Mindfulness? I could write an entire blog post on mindfulness alone, but I won’t, because there is already a great one by Alissa Brazil, What’s the Big Deal with Mindfulness? If you are interested in learning more about it, please check this out! The Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkley defines mindfulness as “maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment”. There are literally dozens of scholarly research articles supporting the use of mindfulness in schools, business, and personal life! All of which show considerable positive change.
- An amazing free tool is GoNoodle ! It is an interactive website that my students love. It helps teach mindfulness as well as helping to address other kinesthetic needs students have during the day. One channel on the GoNoodle site is called “Think About It”. The videos there walk students through mindful practices. One I like in particular (which happens to teach regulating behavior) is “Be Patient”. It is well worth exploring!
- Taking breaks- my students all have the ability to ask for, and engage in sensory breaks free from task demands. I allow them 5-10 minutes. Initially there is a lot of modeling and monitoring, but after a few months, most students do this independently. They recognize when they are overwhelmed or frustrated with something, and they handle it! They use fidgets, thera-putty, weighted blankets, and cuddle with stuffed animals in pop-up tents. I find allowing 5-10 minutes when they need it is better than a 30-45 minute meltdown and zero work completion.
Benchmark 2B: Demonstrates constructive decision-making and problem solving skills.
I remember a few years ago, I was helping monitor students in the cafeteria at lunchtime. One of my students spilled his milk all down his sleeve and into his shirt (don’t ask how, I was mystified too). He sat there, a 4th grader, crying and demanding help. I was shocked. I wanted to tell him to walk himself over to the bathroom in our gym/cafeteria and get a paper towel and take care of it himself! But clearly this was not a skill he had. It was something we had to work on over time; solving problems independently and satisfactorily. This translates into just about any area of our lives, but it is especially crucial for young students who are in the throes of learning how to interact with their peers. Learning how to get along, make choices, and solving problems are the 101’s of surviving life on Planet Earth! If we couldn’t do that, well, I imagine most people wouldn’t make it out of the grocery store parking lot alive!
- Present things with clear positive and negative choices. “Do this activity; get access to some free time!” “Complete this assignment; earn points in our token economy!” “Treat others with kindness and respect; Get public recognition from teachers and the principal!” When good choices are presented with such highly motivation things, by default, negative choices become less appealing. When things are hard, I challenge students to figure out a way to solve the problem on their own first.
- When a mistake happens, make a plan. In my classroom, we have many challenges, both academic, and behavioral. We cannot avoid them. We often have to re-visit problems that happen and make a plan for what to do in the future. When an adult problem solves with a student in the classroom, we identify the ABC’s of the issue. The A, or antecedent is what was leading up to the problem, what things made making the right decision difficult? The B, or the Behavior, is the actual mistake made. C stands for the consequences of the mistake. We ask a lot of questions in this process.
- Why do you think you felt that way?
- Did something happen at home?
- Are you feeling tired or sick or frustrated?
- What did you choose to do because of your feelings?
- What did they miss out on because of their choice?
- How did it impact others?
- How did it make the other person feel? How do you feel?
Here is one of the many problem solving sheets I like to use in my classroom. It is from http://www.lauracandler.com/ You can find one you like online or create your own.
These are just a few strategies to help teach this standard and encourage self-management in students. What are some ways you are already doing this in your classroom? Questions or thoughts? Please share!