Observe a typical physical education classroom and you may have a few adjectives to describe the scene: energetic, stimulating, chaotic, calm. Yes, you read that correctly … you can find calm in PE.
Physical education, like any class, is an environment where everyone involved can experience a wide range of emotions — whether it’s positive emotions such as excitement and pride or negative emotions such as anxiety and fear. That’s why staying calm can be helpful for both teachers and students.
Here are three benefits of creating a calm classroom environment:
1. More positive relationships with students
The first duty of any educator is to establish a relationship with their students. Finding common ground with your students fosters trust and communication that will facilitate student engagement.
However, childhood trauma, adverse childhood experiences, or a diagnosed disability can impact the classroom environment and make learning more challenging. If the teacher is dealing with any mental health issues this may also have an impact.
Implementing practices and procedures that help create a calm classroom environment can assist in establishing those all-important teacher-student relationships.
2. Increasing student success
The beginning of the semester or academic year always involves classroom routines and rules. I utilize a modified version of Dr. Robert Pangrazzi’s lesson plan format. This consistent flow to the lessons helps my students with anxiety know what is expected.
Here are some phrases I use help students direct their attention to the content being presented to them:
- “Eyes on me!”
- “Please pay attention!”
- “It’s time to listen!”
However, many students may require specific skills in order to direct that focus. I have been finishing my elementary PE class with a “Mindful Minute” for several years. I lower the lights, play soft music or a guided reflection (meditation). Calming practices like these have been scientifically proven to help put the brain and body in a state to learn more effectively.
What are your procedures for dealing with students in emotional distress? A heightened emotional state triggers the brain and body’s flight/fight/freeze response. While in that state it is difficult to cognitively engage in the content.
I use a modified version of @thepespecialist Ben Landers’ conflict corner. A simple disagreement over which color of poly spot to stand on can turn into a potential violent incident. The physical education classroom is the ideal place to teach a calm process for working through conflicts.
I also have several “calm corners” in my classroom. This is a space designated for students to work through their emotions that can limit their success in class. A student can go there to do some deep breathing, a few stretches, or even squeeze a stress ball to calm themselves before returning to the lesson.
3. Developing a more positive response to emotional triggers
What do your students do that pushes your buttons? Is it eye rolling, defiance, tardiness? When you are in a calmer state of mind you can respond to those triggers instead of just reacting.
Reacting to a stressful classroom situation can be like running on cruise control — you may say or do things without thinking through their consequences.
Responding to triggers that may cause irritation involves a calmer state of mind — and can be useful in maintaining a positive relationship.
I often do a feelings check throughout the lesson with a simple 5-1 scale that students use to identify their feelings on a particular topic/skill. Developing a procedure to promote self-awareness can help your students respond to triggers they may be experiencing during class.
Creating a Calm Classroom Climate at #SHAPESLC
If you want to learn more, be sure to attend my session at the 2020 SHAPE America National Convention in Salt Lake City, which I’ll be co-presenting with Kyle Bragg and Erik Heard.
We’ll practice various mindfulness and calming techniques — and you’ll leave the session with a toolkit of resources to help you and your students find a calmer place to learn.
- SHAPE America National Convention Registration Info
- National Convention Final Program
- Rita Pierson’s TED Talk: Every Kid Needs a Champion
Daniel Hill is a National Board Certified Teacher, 2019 KAHPERD (now KY-SHAPE) President, OPEN National Trainer and the 2014 Kentucky Elementary PE Teacher of the Year. He received his bachelor’s degree at Eastern Kentucky University and his master’s degree from the University of Kentucky. Daniel describes his physical education classes as an active experience in health. Follow him on Twitter @superdanpe.