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Eliminating Anxiety - and Fostering Something Better

posted May 20, 2018, 12:21 AM by HSD Principal
Gina Picha wants to help teachers recognize and alleviate math anxiety. Anxiety, she says, can manifest to look like misbehaving, off-task behavior, or avoidance of work. Here are the signs she says to look for:
  • lack of response: freezing when a math problem is encountered
  • tears or anger: more so in younger grades, but look for overly emotional responses
  • negative self-talk: you've heard them (you may have said them!) - "I'm bad at math." "I'll never be able to do this."
  • low achievement: anxiety can keep students from performing, resulting in poor grades, reinforcing their already-held beliefs about math
So, what can you do to help alleviate math anxiety in your class? Picha's suggestions:
  • Provide students with the time to understand why. Math can be seen "as a series of nonsensical steps," and it takes being intentional to help students understand why they are doing what they do.
  • Use healthy and accurate messages. Talk through the "I can't learn math" myth and provide examples of how people use math outside the classroom. And, as we talked about in fostering grit, reinforce proper methods, strategies, and persistence instead of just right answers.
  • Allow think time when asking questions. Try to avoid asking questions that put students on the spot.
  • Use mixed-ability groupings. The tendency can be to put low-performing students together so they can be given additional instruction. But that can reinforce the idea that they are "slow" and mean the instruction they get is expecting less of them.
We always want Faith promote a positive learning environment. Tom Hierck and Kent Peterson cite research that says people are most likely to flourish in a culture if people experience at least three positive emotions for every negative one. They sough out to discover what behaviors would most encourage such an environment. Their Positive School Culture Inventory (PSCI) identified 19 student and staff behaviors "that are most likely to contribute to a positive school culture." 
  • .Showing pride in school
  • .Collaboration
  • .Kindness
  • .Taking pride in one’s work
  • Leadership
  • .Helping others
  • .Using time wisely
  • .Being prepared
  • .Love of learning
  • .Making good choices
  • .Active listening
  • .Cooperation
  • Using appropriate communication 
  • .Caring 
  • Self-reliance
  • .Perseverance/resilience
  • .Making an insightful comment
  • .Organization
  • Going above and beyond
Notice their findings connects those behaviors not only with students, but also with staff. Never underestimate the part you play in creating our school culture!