Education Professor: decrease stress, increase success

Editor’s note, Oct. 19, 6:45 p.m.: This story has been updated throughout.

Settle your glitter

A simple sentence that holds a powerful meaning for stressed out students, according to SMU professor and previous elementary teacher of all ages, Dr. Ann Batenburg.

She gives her students of all ages glitter balls. She tells them that the glitter represents their energy. When students are stressed, they come back to the classroom and say they need to settle their glitter. By shaking the glitter in the globe ball, the children learn to breathe deeply until the glitter settles at the bottom.

“It gives children a language to put themselves in time out,” Batenburg said.

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Glitter ball. Photo credit: Fallon Bock

Settle Your Glitter: Strategies to Build a Positive Classroom Environment, a professional development session held Wednesday Oct. 14 in the Simmons School of Education, helped teachers from Texas of all grades and school systems learn how to create a supportive classroom for students.

The session focused on decreasing behavioral struggles and stress, and to increase success. By incorporating these ideas into their lesson plans, teachers can introduce safe environments for their students and promote stress-free learning.

“SEL, or social, emotion learning classrooms, teaches children positive behavioral strategies that allow them to self-regulate,” said Amy Ferrell, a clinical assistant professor in the Simmons School of Education at SMU.

According to Batenburg, this concept is becoming more and more vital in today’s fast-paced stressful society. SEL classrooms allow the children to feel a positive connection to learning. They feel valued and connected to the learning process, turning school into a positive activity, rather than something they dread.

During the information session, multiple graphs were shown depicting just how important supportive classrooms are. Batenburg displayed a graph showing how students in SEL based classrooms excel in academics, scoring higher in all subjects on standardized tests than students who were not taught in this setting.

Academic benefits are great, but overall health benefits are even better, according to Batenburg. By learning how to handle stressful situations, the student will not be affected by the constant stress of every day life.

With all the benefits associated with these types of classrooms, why would teachers not implement them?

Batenburg suggested some teachers do not think they have the time or money. She combats that argument by saying that meditations can be done at the beginning of class with objects as inexpensive as a candle, music or glitter in a globe ball.

Dr. Francesca Jones, a published author and adjunct professor at SMU, is surprised that teachers are shocked by this method of learning.

“It’s no surprise we would get a lot more done using the SEL method. If a kid can’t ride a bike, we teach them. If a kid can’t read, we teach them. If a kid doesn’t know how to behave, we punish them,” Jones said.

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