The other day I had a student come up to me in tears. I mean those big, huge crocodile tears. No matter what I did, I couldn't calm her down. Do know what set her off? She was worried about her spelling quiz. I don't even count spelling as a test grade! It's just a daily grade! But for some reason, one of my favorite students was having a complete melt down.
Eventually, I was able to calm her fears. We talked about it and we both realized that I had a "Worry Wart" on our hands. The next day I invited my student, with a few others I could tell were just like her, to my classroom for a friendly lunch. We talked about what was going on in our lives and if anyone had anything that was "stressing them out." Did I mention I teach fourth grade? I gave them some advice on how to handle stress and what they can do next time they start to feel the anxiety coming up. We decided that we could start doing a monthly lunch group where we can just talk about everything from school, to home, and friends.
This encounter with my sweet child had me really thinking about all of the other "Worry Warts" out there. My son is definitely one. He can make straight A's on all of his assignments, but as soon as he hears the word quiz or test? It's all over. His teachers always tell me that my kid freaks out in class because he is so worried about how his grade will be affected if he does bad. And then he bombs the test!!
So, I decided to share with you a few tips I have learned over the years to help out with your "Worry Warts."
Provide a Calendar
I know it sounds silly to provide a student with a calendar of dates for tests, but it really has helped my students. It takes the scariness out of the not-knowing when a test is coming. They feel they are prepared and it doesn't just "sneak up on them." I usually include tests dates, tutorial times, field trips, and any activities going on at the school.
This one is my favorite by far. I love getting my "Worry Warts" together for lunch in my classroom. I just let them lay out all of their worries on the table and I can see the relief pouring out of them. Not only am I there to help provide support for them, but it also makes them feel better to see that other students are feeling the same way. Sometimes I just sit there with my lunch and they run the whole thing. It's a safe environment for them to let all of their worries go.
Provide a Calming Atmosphere
I know that I'm the most stressed and worried when my house looks like a disaster. I hate coming home to having dishes in my sink, socks all over the living room floor, and dirty laundry piled up on the bathroom floor. Your "Worry Warts" feel the same way. If things aren't where they're supposed to be, that's all they can focus on! I try really hard to make my classroom a welcoming place for my students. I include pictures of my own family in picture frames, I have comfortable pillows and rugs, and I love having lamps around the room. If you asked my students what their favorite part of my room is...they would have to say the couch. They love relaxing on the couch while reading a good book.
A few years ago I was introduced to a website called Go Noodle. I was teaching a group of second graders and we couldn't go outside for recess because it was storming. "Put on Go Noodle!" they all chanted. Guys, if you haven't been on this website, you should totally check it out. There was a section that I loved to put on where the students, second graders mind you, did yoga. Yep, you heard me. Yoga. It was so awesome to see their little bodies and faces just release all of their tension when I put on the yoga sessions. It created such a calming atmosphere for the rest of the day. I eventually started to put these yoga sessions on right after we got back from recess or PE, just to get their minds back in focus.
I hope that you were able to get a few new ways that you can help your "Worry Warts." I know there are a tons more things I could write on here, but that would be a really long post!
Comment below if you have any strategies you like to use in class. We would love to hear them!
Laura Gokey is the owner of The Learning Tree and is working towards her PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from Regent University. She currently lives in Livingston, TX with her husband of fourteen years and her two children.