Create A Calm and Peaceable Classroom to Alter to Life Again on Campus
Creating a sense of calm and peace has never been more important to my classroom culture. My students are readjusting to sitting in a classroom for seven+ hours a day. Some of them haven’t been on campus for a year-and-a-half. I, too, am adjusting to teaching in-person again and relying on nine years’ worth of “teacher muscle memory” to get me through. Cultivating a classroom that begins and ends with peaceful calm helps both me and my students readjust and refocus.
Relieving the chaos of lunchtime
I see my first group of kids once before lunch and their Specialty class, and then again after lunch. Oftentimes, the difference in their composure is like night and day. The calm and focused vibe of the morning has given way to chaos, frenzy, and off-the-charts energy. To keep students socially distant outside, my school has allotted a larger area for eating lunch and hanging out.
This is all fine and well, however, with great freedom comes greater responsibility, and that’s not exactly easy for middle schoolers. To help them refocus as they come back into my room, I will often have a nature scene from YouTube projected onto my TV (this changes with the season). More specifically, my favorite scenes are on a continuous loop with ambient sounds, like the serene beach scene seen above. Check out these other classroom screensavers.
Breaking up long class periods
In comparison to my students who I see before and after lunch, my second group of students has to be with me for a solid two hours with no breaks for Specialties or lunch in between. That’s a LONG time of focusing, listening, and being inside a classroom. After the first hour is over, I let my students have a six-minute (sometimes, seven-, eight-…) break. They can go outside my room to chat and have a snack, or they can stay inside and read or work on their Chromebooks.
Having that time to not have to listen to me or work on math/science is a brain break that’s essential for my students’ focus. Do they come back inside perfectly calm and ready to learn again? Let’s be real! No. It’s 2 p.m. and they still have one more class after mine. Does the break allow for refocusing and calmer than would be present if they hadn’t had a break? I like to think so. To help with the transition back inside, I often put on a Spotify playlist such as Instrumental Study. Discover other relaxing music for the classroom and our list of Apple Music playlists by topic.
Implementing zen, calm, quiet, time
I noticed very quickly that my students were having an unusually challenging time sitting still and paying attention (go figure… they haven’t had to stay in school for seven hours for over a year-and-a-half). I found I needed to reset so that my own frustrations with being interrupted didn’t reach dizzying heights. I’ll be honest in saying I’m not much for extrinsic motivators, but something had to be done for the sake of the students’ sanity as well as my own. I thought about what students wanted (to chat, walk around outside, and do something of their own choice) and decided to have them earn it.
Zen, Calm, Quiet Time goes like this: students are challenged to come into the physical space of the classroom, get their supplies, and find a silent activity to do. My first group does this when they come back from lunch, and my second group does it coming back in from their break between my long time period with them. I time them to see how long it takes for every student to be quietly working at their desk. I first set a baseline, then they tried to beat their time the next day.
Teachers, this might be the most challenging transition of your career (I know it has been for me and I am only on Day 9). Spend the time creating a space that benefits not only your students and their needs, but your own sanity and peace of mind as well.