Think of it this way: perhaps you have a study hall or homeroom in your schedule–a time when students are free to plan, organize or catch up on work. Most likely, during this time, students are free to do things like:
- go to their locker to organize or grab things that they need,
- use the restroom,
- visit with different teachers to get assignments or clarification
- take care of administrative tasks in the office like turning in lunch money or satisfying requirements for a planned absence.
Students are busy doing the things that need to be done. Moving, gathering and exchanging information.
Now imagine the school goes during a lock down drill. Everyone is in a classroom. Doors are locked. Lights are out. Shades are drawn. Doors and windows are avoided. Nobody talks.
All information sharing stops as we clearly focus on what is required to protect ourselves.
That’s what stress does to the brain. It puts the exchange of information on lock down. We focus on the perceived threat and spend what energy we have in protecting ourselves.
Fear, anxiety, anger and sadness–all forms of distress–act on the brain to block information to the learning centers. In effect distress locks down learning.
Effective teachers recognize and manage student stress. It starts with awareness and then bleeds into the learning environment. Consider what you can do to create an emotionally (as well as physically) safe climate for learning.