Who’s feeling a little tired and cranky these days? It is definitely the students – they just won’t listen, and they seem to have forgotten all the proper classroom behaviour we have worked so hard on establishing all year! I find myself losing patience with some of them because they are doing things they know they should not do – like, piling up on each other at the carpet, or jumping off a step when they should be standing in line, waiting quietly.
Who am I kidding? I am definitely experiencing a sleep deficit and feeling like the summer holidays can’t arrive fast enough. My colleagues and I pass each other in the corridors, rolling our eyes, sighing deeply and muttering about how many sleeps are left until the end of the school year. We can try and blame it on the students, but their behaviour is really just a manifestation of our collective state of mind.
This notion was brought home to me a few weeks ago when I had the luxury of attending a workshop at the school I will be working at next year. It is a lovely small school, where the staff has a common vision regarding the use of the outdoors as a classroom. The school is located within walking distance of a bird sanctuary which is visited weekly, all through the year, by the staff and students as part of their environmental inquiry. To give us the right state of mind, our staff meeting started with a walk through the woods where we saw turtles, ducks, herons, and woodpeckers. We looked for and found owl scat at the base of some trees a few owls had been nesting in until a few days prior, and we noticed all the new plants coming up on the forest floor. It was wonderful. When we got back to the school, we were able to focus our discussion on what we felt was really important which was getting outside with our students. It was wonderful and productive.
The next day, when I was back at school, I felt like I was floating through my day – any challenges or needs the students had I met with a calm and clear mind, happily answering questions, and leading them through the day. Even when my student who has serious behavioural difficulties began to escalate his behaviour, I was able to redirect him because of my peaceful, positive approach, and in the end, we were all able to have a great day.
I made a point of telling the principal that I figured out how to manage challenges at school, and that we all should have walks in the forest, as often as possible, especially when things get rough at work. Although she chuckled at my comment, she knows I was serious. It’s the old stop-and-smell-the-roses attitude that we can use to redirect our stress response so that we have a positive day interacting with our students and colleagues. We know the power of the outdoors on our students – it’s a good thing to remember that the benefits are also profound for teachers, too.