Take a Deep Breath Before Class Begins (both In-Person AND Virtual Classes)

Before you start your class, it may be very beneficial for you to take some deep breaths.  And, when your students come online or take their seats, it may be extremely beneficial to lead them in a minute or two of deep breathing. 

Many studies (including this one from Harvard) have concluded that there are many benefits to be gained with deep breathing.  Taking a minute or two to start your class with some deep breathing can have the following results: 

  • Calm emotions
  • Reduce stress
  • Allow the body to relax
  • Enhance focus
  • Improve overall health

Students and teachers are under tremendous stress, particularly during this unusual time. The stress response is often described as “fight, flight, or freeze.”  When appropriately invoked, this natural response helps us address the danger of the situation.  However, when the stress response is constantly provoked by worries, drama, anxiety, catastrophes, or trauma, it can lead to an “overactive or exaggerated stress response” — which causes harm to the body and mind. 

When a person is stressed, it is very difficult to focus on tasks and information.  Deep breathing enables the distractions to be minimized so that one can focus on the task at hand.  When one centers and breathes deeply, the parasympathetic nervous system can relax, and your adrenaline and cortisol levels can return to normal. 

This link (by ClassCraft) has a list of 17 ways to incorporate deep breathing into the classroom. The list includes tips for all ages. For example, Number 17 is as follows:

Counted Breathing: In a calm voice, ask your students to take deep breaths with you. Instruct them to breathe in through their nose for five seconds. Count these aloud if you’re with them. Have them hold their breath for three seconds and then breathe out through their mouth for five seconds. Repeat this exercise as needed until their breathing has become steady and their anxiety has visibly subsided. Once they’ve calmed down, you can move on to discussing the topic at hand.

Even more beneficial is time spent with mindfulness and yoga, as the following two articles explain.

Harvard Graduate School of Education’s article details a new study which shows how mindfulness education in the classroom can reduce students’ sense of stress and lengthen attention spans.

Research has found correlation between yoga in schools and stress and anxiety reduction, mental health care, obesity reduction, and improvement of both self-esteem and academic performance.

It would be wonderful for teachers to practice yoga and/or mindfulness on their own personal time. The benefits to reducing stress are enormous.

However, even if you don’t have the time to lead yoga or a mindfulness practice in the classroom, it is really quite simple and easy to take a few minutes for you and your students to take some deep breaths. It can help calm and center both the teacher and the students – which is a great way to start (and end) your classes.

If you have found some helpful tips to incorporate deep breathing, yoga, or mindfulness in your classroom, please share below!

Cheers to our Teachers!

KUDOS to teachers, professors, school administrators, staff,

and IT personnel!

During this unsettling time with the COVID-19 quarantine, our teachers and professors have shown such amazing flexibility, skills, and talent! Teachers are pioneering through this imposed “distance-learning” in an incredible way.  Our educators have flipped over to online/remote learning in 4-7 days!  IT staff have been working around the clock to get this set up.  Administrators and staff are supporting the fast-paced changes in a remarkable way. Congratulations! YOU ARE AMAZING!

One mother sent a picture and description of her son on his first day of an online “distant learning” gathering. (Thanks to Jen and Frank.) The whole class was so excited about seeing their teacher and their classmates.

Screen Shot 2020-03-22 at 2.49.22 PM

In Fontana, CA, this young man was able to meet with a few of his teachers and about 30 of his classmates. The Principal and his Assistant Principle also joined in for a few minutes. The excitement of the students was palpable. They were so excited to connect with their teachers and peers.

At College Credit Connection (CCC), the Coordinators quickly converted their Face-to-Face classes to online/hybrid classes. After teachers get their distance learning programs set up, and if they have a bit more time on their (freshly washed) hands, it might be a good time to take some extra professional development classes. CCC has opened up the cap for credits per semester from 15 to 18 credits. Online learning is a great way to gain additional professional development units. In the last two months, CCC has added 22 new courses to the over 400 courses available.

Congratulations to all the teachers, professors, administrators, staff, IT personnel, as well as to the parents and students! You are making a difference in this difficult time.

Read on for some recommendations on how to deal with the stress of this time.


Screen Shot 2020-03-22 at 2.53.15 PM

Great ways to manage stress during the COVID-19 quarantine.

It is incredibly important for everyone, especially those who are working so hard under such unusual circumstances, to practice physical and emotional self-care. Teachers, professors, administrators, staff, and IT personnel are stepping up to the plate with incredible skill. But all these changes can cause undue stress and anxiety. Stress and fatigue are big factors in stripping one’s immune system, so we all need to practice extra tender self-care. The following are 10 tips to help you get through this stressful and unusual time:

  1. Sleep. Rest helps restore one’s body and mind, thus neutralizing the damaging effects of stress. Take care to get adequate sleep. Turn off your phone, computer, and television an hour before you are going to bed. Quiet your mind (see #7 below) before bed, and you will likely sleep better.
  2. Hydrate. Drink a lot of water. There are reports that if you drink water every 15 minutes, the chances of any virus entering your lungs is drastically reduced. Also, hydration helps flush out toxins. Our brains and organs need water and will function at a higher level when hydrated.
  3. Hygiene. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds at a time. Avoid touching your face. Wipe down surfaces. Fill a spray bottle with a bit of rubbing alcohol and water, and use a light mist to spray your clothing, money, mail, and/or anything that has been touched by others.
  4. Exercise. Movement is vital for maintaining healthy circulation. The lymph system is crucial to support our immune responses, and it requires movement. Also, exercise can help ward off depression.
  5. Social distancing. Avoid going out if possible. Try to maintain a distance of at least six feet. But do NOT avoid connecting with people! Skype, FaceTime, Zoom … CONNECT! It is so important for us not to isolate during this time. Call someone you haven’t spoken with in a while – reach out to seniors and those who may be alone. You’ll feel better and they will too! Try to call or video conference if possible, as it is so much more connecting than texting or emailing. But, whatever the method, do something to connect with others.
  6. Outside time. Step outside for at least 15 minutes a day, particularly if you can do it when the sun is shining. Sunlight has anti-microbial effects and stimulates balance in the pineal gland, which supports immunity. Sunlight also provides a rich source of Vitamin D3, which has shown to be effective for the immune system, bone health, and emotional health. Ever notice how you feel better after taking a walk in the sun?!
  7. Quiet time. Many studies indicate the benefit of meditation and/or prayer for a person’s physical and emotional health. You don’t have to “do it right” – just do it! Take a few minutes throughout the day just to clear your mind. Connect with what is meaningful for you. Practice some yoga, chi gong, tai chi, take a bath, light a candle, take a quiet walk, or just sit for a bit doing nothing! Take the time to nourish a connection to what matters to you. Quiet your mind from all the worries and stresses, and you will have a better chance of feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.
  8. Nutrition. Try your best to eat healthy. Your body and brain need good nutrients to operate at a high level. Supplement with high quality vitamins and minerals. A few recommendations for health and immunity are Vitamin D3, Zinc, Magnesium, and Vitamin C.
  9. Reduce stress. Listen to some music, read a book, take a walk. Keep your cool. It is important to take precautions and act wisely, but panic is never helpful. Breathe deeply and allow calmness to enter. Count to 10 before you speak in anger. If you feel panic or anxiety coming on, take deep breaths, then tune into the following (saying them out loud if possible): focus on 4 things around you that you can see; focus on 3 things you can touch; focus on 2 things that you can smell; and focus on 1 thing that you can taste. This helps to ground a person and often times helps to dispel panic. Stop and smell an orange, a flower, some food, a pet, or anything that will bring your focus outside of yourself.
  10. Be kind. Be kind to yourself and be kind to others. Reflect on things for which you are grateful. Upon waking and before bed: list 3 things for which you are grateful. Try it – it can make a difference on your outlook. Reflect on love and beauty in self, others, and the world. Be gentle with yourself.
(Compiled from a variety of sources.)

This is also a great time to take an online class and potentially move forward in your salary advancement steps. Check out the classes that College Credit Connection has to offer.

What special things are you doing for self -care right now?  Comment below!

 

 

A Welcome Classroom: Supporting English Language Learners

Screen Shot 2020-01-30 at 5.18.39 PM

We strive to teach to each child’s heart, strength, passion, and interest. Our aim is to meet them where they are and help them progress to the next level. So, how do we best help those who enter our classrooms at a level of English lower than their peers?

The last issue of Educational Leadership addresses the many of the challenges of teaching English Language Learners and offers many strategies. I especially appreciate that many of the authors see the benefits of how honing your teaching practice to help meet the needs of English Language Learners often will help the rest of the students in your classroom. The diversity of our students enriches our classrooms!

For some great tips, check out this article by Jennifer Gonzalez. Even the most trained and seasoned teacher might find some of her suggestions helpful. Jennifer explains a bit of the development of second language acquisition and what you should expect as your students develop their academic and conversational language skills.

As our population of English Language Learners grows, it is more crucial than ever that teachers and staff support all of our students. Learning (and thinking!) takes time. All our students will benefit when we speak slowly and give students time to think after we pose questions.

Students are best served when their teachers are aware of what they already know and can build on that prior knowledge. Using visuals and kinesthetic activities will help students to solidify their understanding. Having students work together and collaborate is another great strategy.

College Credit Connection offers many great courses to help educators meet the needs of English Language Learners. Here are a few of our highly recommended graduate-level professional development classes:

EDUX 6555: ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS AND THE COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS

EDUX 6425: AN INTRODUCTION TO TEACHING ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS

EDUX 7620: TEACHING ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS

How do you help create a welcome classroom to support English Language Learners? Leave a comment below!

Common Core: Where Are We Now?

Screen Shot 2019-09-20 at 10.11.28 AM

It’s hard to believe that the effort to begin developing the Common Core State Standards started 10 years ago. Now, after five or more years of implementation, what have we seen?

In June of 2019, an article in a Florida newspaper stated that while almost everyone polled in Florida said that they did not want yet another change in standards, government officials decided to move away from the Common Core and create a new set of standards. Many feel that this will not favor the public schools with a constantly changing target. However, there is a growing concern over the quality and effectiveness of the Common Core standards and the assessments.

One of the concerns of the Common Core assessments is the content. While there are some significant things missing, such as dramatic literature, there is perhaps an oversaturation of short, non-fictional snippets. Other concerns include which experts were consulted and how the results are interpreted. Finally, the level of math and reading on the text is not very high.

Some studies have shown that instead of the promised student achievement gains, there have been significant negative effects on student education. In her article, Joy Pullman points out that this decline in academic performance could even affect our country’s economy. The only people who have seemed to benefit from this were those who created and pushed the Common Core Standards.

Why were the effects possibly negative? An article in Chalkbeat suggests that several challenges could have lead to the negative effects, including a lack of quality teacher training. Others think that the problem might lie in the Common Core standards themselves.

To address the training issue, College Credit Connection, in partnership with Vanguard University, currently offers more than 30 graduate-level courses on the topic of Common Core. The courses benefit both new teachers and veteran teachers. With custom assignments at an affordable price, many teachers find these courses to benefit their instruction while also helping them move across the salary schedule. Consider taking a course to brush up on techniques for teaching the Common Core or browse the more than 300 other courses offered.

What has your experience been with the Common Core?

 

 

 

 

 

Why We Need Montessori

Screen Shot 2019-06-09 at 6.24.41 PM

How do children best learn? It’s a question we often ask and continue to research. Montessori education focuses on many of the answers.

Most teachers agree about the effectiveness of kinesthetic learning. Children learn by doing. Whether exploring with their senses or practicing life skills, children in Montessori schools actively learn.

Montessori classrooms encourage cooperative learning with peers. Students benefit from discussions, reciprocal teaching, and working together. Student engagement often increases with the opportunity to work with peers.

Students take charge of their own learning when they are given choice. The freedom to choose where they want to sit, which activity to do, and which topic to explore leads to motivated learners. Teachers might be surprised by how well the students are able to self-assess and master concepts.

But does the Montessori model work for everyone? Does it have the same results regardless of socio-economic status? Researchers believe Montessori education can potentially close the achievement gap! The challenge, however, lies in the availability and accessibility of Montessori schools in low-income areas.

Interested in learning more? Take a Cognitive Engagement course with College Credit Connection and customize it explore all things Montessori. Receive graduate units for reading a book such as Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius and viewing experts like Judi Bauerlein.

What has been your experience with Montessori? Leave a comment below!