The Four Times A Day I Don’t Love

I love my job! I’ve always wanted to be a teacher, and as cliched as it sounds, I’m thrilled that I get to live out my dream every single day. There are four times a day though when I’m not so thrilled:

  • as we walk in each morning.
  • as we walk in from outside at each nutrition break (there are two).
  • as we walk out at the end of each day.

It is at these four moments that I can’t help but think of Stuart Shanker‘s book, Calm, Alert, and Learning and the need for self-regulation. Today, I really stood back and watched these four times in action, and I tried to experience them like one of my students might.

  • I felt the crowd as people were going up both sides of the stairs.
  • I saw all of the children, all of the backpacks, all of the arms, and all of the legs — all moving together.
  • I saw all of the different bright colours: from the clothing to the bags.
  • I heard the continual buzz of noise: it started low and got louder. I know that there were real words, but all I heard was noise.
  • I saw the bright lights of the hallway, accented by the bright lights of the many classrooms. This year, I’ve been keeping at least one light off all of the time, and I’m using the natural light from the windows to light the room. I never realized the difference in doing this, but I saw it today.
  • I felt my heart beat faster. I felt increased anxiety. I felt myself trying to move into the classroom (or move outside, depending on the time) as quickly as possible. 
  • I felt myself trying to escape from the noise, the crowds, and the light.

And I’m an adult. I can talk myself through this stress. Maybe most students can as well. Maybe some students don’t mind the extra noise, the extra people, and the bright lights. Maybe most adults and most students don’t. But what about those that do? What about those few students that may even struggle in a quiet, calm classroom; how do they cope? For today, when I really stopped and I really watched, my thoughts returned to these students and how I could make these times better for them. What would you do?


6 thoughts on “The Four Times A Day I Don’t Love

  1. Aviva,
    You made such a valuable observation. When we can feel the anxiety of even approaching people sometimes, it must be so difficult for these young children. But at the same time, innocence is bliss. There were so many things when we were young and were always ready to explore. Hence we as teachers, should exploit these abilities in our students and relieve them of their fears and anxiety by encouraging them to explore what they are afraid of and that any situation is not as bad as it seems.

    • Thanks for the comment, Sandhya! I totally get your point here, but I wonder if in this case, it’s about more than encouraging this exploration. For some students, these situations really do cause extreme anxiety. Often this leads to problems (e..g, pushing, running, yelling, etc.). How do we support these few students that are overwhelmed in these situations? I’d welcome any suggestions!


  2. Aviva,
    I think extreme anxiety also comes from home environment. I am a little traditional , but I would suggest group yoga sessions for kids to calm them down. Janet Williams “What I see, I can be” book and CD is a great resource for the classroom.

    • Thanks Sandhya! I’m not sure about what causes extreme anxiety, but I do think, that for various reasons, these times are definitely more challenging for some students. Anything I can do to support the students would be great! I’ll check out this resource. I’ve heard of some online yoga options too. Maybe I’ll check them out as well.


  3. Hi Aviva!

    I can relate to your observations, as I taught a highly anxious little boy a few years ago and thought to pause and observe the chaos. He is just one of many that have difficulty filtering and/or focusing. I think that many also feel lost in the shuffle. Many students on the Autism spectrum also feel very overwhelmed by the enormous amount of stimulus in everyday situations.

    Our mornings are much calmer, as are our transitions, because we have made changes in how the students in our class enter and exit the building. We stay outside for our morning exercises, whether or not we plan to start the day with outdoor learning. Are you able to restructure your day to accommodate a different transition time? Is there anything that you can teach outside? We also pause outside after recess. We are very fortunate, as we have a separate door to exit from our classroom.
    In my previous school, we had very structured transitions. The expectations came from Ron Morrish (author of “With All Due Respect”). The expectations included moving SILENTLY in the hallway, removing hats as you enter the school, replying to others when they greet you, and walking on the right-hand side. It worked incredibly well in our K-8 school of just over 500 students but, I think that it would require a whole-school buy-in and must come from admin. to be effective.
    Shauna Pollock blogged a few weeks ago about some of her previous students feeling very overwhelmed in the sea of students ploughing through the hallways at their new school. It may be helpful to check out her post.

    • Thanks for the comment, Sue, and for the suggestions! I actually read and commented on Shauna’s previous post. I’m not usually a fan of line-ups because students with behavioural needs often find it challenging to stand in lines for long. Having a quiet environment though is so beneficial to lots of students, especially in the midst of what can be chaotic halls.

      Unfortunately, for the majority of the time, I can’t do much about the exit and enter routines. Our school splits the nutrition breaks, so my students are actually outside first and inside to eat. I don’t always pick them up to eat. As such, they do need to come in, but I just wonder how I can make these times less stressful for them. Any ideas? For now, it’s trying to get them in and out as quickly as possibly to try and reduce the stress.


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