For those of you with older kids, I am reposting an article from the blog, “Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice“. This article is by Jerry Brodkey, a teacher in Menlo Park, CA. In it he talks about the benefits of reducing student stress in academic classes.

Helping High School Students Deal with Stress in Tough Academic Subjects (by Jerry Brodkey)

The summer months play an important role for teachers to reflect on their teaching and make plans for improvement as the next year looms on the horizon. Even though I have been teaching for thirty years, I still like to take a deep breath and prepare myself for the upcoming year. What worked and didn’t work last year? How can new ideas and methods be incorporated into my teaching? How can I make my classroom a better place for student learning and for each student as an individual?

At the end of last school year the newspapers were filled with the tragedies of student loss and reports of the great stress we are placing on our children. As a teacher, I have seen this grow over the years. For a certain group of students – those high-achieving, college-bound, Advanced Placement students –the junior and senior years are a time of tremendous pressure and strain. I see this daily in the Advanced Placement Calculus classes I teach. Many students are taking two, three, or even four AP classes. This course load is basically equivalent to being a freshman in college. They are working harder than I ever did at the two colleges I attended – Rice and Stanford. There are high expectations and high demands with additional pressure to be deeply involved in extra-curricular sports or other activities. The college application process is a nightmarish part-time job filled with anxiety and pressure.

When I look out at my students in my two Calculus classes, I often see tired young people who are at times overwhelmed. There are the school pressures but also the social pressures of making it through adolescence. Some students come from families undergoing ferocious economic problems. I worry about my students and worry about my own children as they approach middle school and high school. How will they navigate these treacherous waters?

As an individual teacher in one single classroom, I believe there are some things I can do to help. Over the last several years, I have consciously made an effort to set up my classroom to try and minimize student anxiety and stress while at the same time promoting excellent achievement and a deep understanding of the curriculum. I tell students the atmosphere I am trying to create is intense but relaxed, serious but comfortable.
Click here to read the rest of Jerry Brodkey’s article…

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About alimcollins

Ali Collins is an educator, community organizer and mom. She lives with her husband and twin girls in San Francisco, CA.

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