When I was teaching elementary, we were encouraged to create a “cool-down corner” for students who needed to de-escalate from intense feelings, exhaustion, anger, or any other responses to stress and trauma that could result in negative consequences. This cool-down corner was one of the best things that ever happened to me personally, because not only did it reframe how I saw behaviors commonly perceived as unwanted (it’s just stress response, y’all), but it helped me learn to support the people around me by providing tools and resources and then stepping away with trust. Early on in my cool-down corner trial days, though, I forgot a student was over there—and the student drew all over the desk in pencil. Not exactly the best structure. I didn’t want to interrupt the entire class’s learning to manage one student, so I ordered a highly durable plastic hourglass for five minutes. Students set the timer when they got to the cool-down corner, worked an activity while there, and then raised their hand when the timer was completed. I had two students who calmed down by simply staring at the sand passing through the hourglass and just breathing. This little green hourglass was a beloved classroom tool, and worked exceptionally well for children. If you have kids in your life, five-minutes is often a long enough break for both of you if things start to feel big. Setting up a child with a five-minute hourglass to self-regulate some breathing can also give you the opportunity to breathe and approach the situation with those mad parenting (or aunting) skills you know to use when your brain isn’t raw from child screams. The trick is to teach the child to use the timer in a moment of calm and give them a chance to practice.
I’ve also found that when my anxiety gets really bad and I’m starting to spin out, five minutes of guided meditation is the absolute best tool. I use the Headspace app on my phone which has built in meditation timers. Five minutes isn’t too long to be in the bathroom if you need to get away from a group of people, or to step out to your car for a little SELF de-escalation. In fact, it might be the best amount of time to help you feel a little more like yourself.
How can you use five minutes to re-center yourself emotionally? Let me know on Instagram @nowthatimnotyourteacher.
Now That I'm Not Your Teacher by Taylor Vogel is a podcast that offers insight about the real world stuff that teachers often want to say, but either don't have time to or really shouldn't.
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