Slowing down in a fast-paced world

Slowing down in a fast-paced world
Posted on 11/28/2018

From Ms. Julie Lower, MMS Assistant Principal Today’s pre-teens and teenagers are living in an extremely fast-paced society. When they’re not at school, they have constant access to their peers through social media, and many are engaged in ultra fast-paced video games. It’s more uncommon these days than ever for a family to sit down for a meal together and just talk, or for parents to find out how their children are feeling about the stressors in their lives. It’s also a rare sighting to see a middle or high schooler without a smartphone in their hands outside of school. While at school, we are jamming every bit of academic curriculum into their brains as possible to meet the rigor of high-stakes state testing. As you can see, adolescents are constantly exposed to many stressors, and many don’t have the emotional capability of handling all of these pressures in a healthy manner. Kids have shown us through their behavior and emotional dysregulation that they genuinely just need some true downtime to stop, relax, and reflect. So how do we help our students with the stress of their current reality?

In a study from 2017, the New York Post reported the average person checks their phone more than 80 times per day, struggling to go more than 12 minutes without checking for updates. If the average adult cannot handle going more than a few minutes without checking their phone, could you imagine the statistics for the average teenager? At Mexico Middle School, we give our kids a break from this addiction by requiring every student to leave their phone turned off in their locker from 7:54 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.. Most students wouldn’t verbalize this, but we believe most of them appreciate the break from worrying about their “online social status” for a few hours a day.  Students can be free from worry during the school day when that one, small embarrassing moment could be recorded by a peer and turned into the next video gone viral at their expense.

Another way many teachers are slowing it down for their students is by providing much needed brain breaks and mindfulness activities throughout the day. For the most part, today’s adolescents don’t really watch actual TV programs...not 30-minute sitcoms and definitely not hour-long dramas. Instead, they are being entertained by short YouTube videos, which usually last no more than a few minutes. Because of the engagement in these short videos, or in video games, our students’ brains have become used to extremely frequent changes in topics and scenery. Teachers are finding this has lead to shorter attention spans for their students in the classroom, creating a challenge for them to get students to really learn the intended academic curriculum. Therefore, a short break during a class period can help keep their brains more focused and ready for learning.

Brain breaks and mindfulness activities at MMS might include a short team-building game (which is also an excellent way to teach positive socialization skills), a fun dance video, guided stretching or breathing exercises, or guided meditation. These strategies have proven to be effective ways to keep them more engaged in learning and provides our students some much needed relaxation and reflection in their fast-paced lives as well as helping them be more emotionally regulated and happier, well-adjusted teenagers.