>Anxiety in the Classroom

>Anxiety in the Classroom

A few years ago I had a meeting with the parents of a wonderful child who was unfortunately experiencing anxiety in the classroom. While anxiety is certainly common during various stages of development this sort of generalized anxiety interfered with his learning, and (as would be expected) was having a negative effect on his self-esteem.

This excessive anxiety distracted him – it closed his mind. It interfered with his ability to practice active listening and to process information. It interfered with his attention to task. His ability to learn new concepts and strategies was compromised. It interfered with this ability to retrieve information and to demonstrate skills that had been previously learned. His anxiety and intolerance of uncertainty interfered with his cognitive flexibility. It interfered with his ability to self-monitor; to anticipate, accept and adapt to changes in his environment. He found tasks that required trial and error stressful and he would shut down.

My goal during our meeting was two-fold. First, I wanted to ensure that we were all seeing the same thing – that we were all on the same page, using the same vocabulary, taking a similar approach. I also wanted to outline my short and long term goals for their son.

I have posted a general outline of all that I shared with the parents at this meeting. I am happy to report that we saw real gains over the course of the school year.  Our collaborative, mindful approach meant that he was well on his way to a more positive and progressive experiences in the classroom (& hopefully beyond).

I hope that you find what follows useful.


(A) My Overall Focus:
– Build on strengths and address needs; increase his awareness & acceptance of both in a safe environment
– Model & teach strategies – strategies for controlling anxiety, for active listening, for math, comprehension, writing, etc.
– Provide consistency and predictability in the classroom – a safe learning environment
– Provide checks and balances
– Build in trust

(B) Strategies for controlling anxiety:
– Be honest & open. Let him know that we all experience some uncertainty & anxiety at some point in life; Provide him with the tools to refocus & regroup
– Encourage him to recognize when he is becoming anxious/shutting down
– Model/teach relaxation techniques – e.g. stop & breathe; teach deep breathing
– Model/teach refocusing techniques

(C) Value the process as much as (if not more) than the product:
– Model/teach him to set realistic goals
– Encourage him to strive for & expect improvement – not perfection
– Model/teach processes: How to prepare for tasks; Time management skills; Encourage/provide opportunities for reevaluations & changes in strategy
-Encourage him to see/believe in the value of learning from mistakes

(D) As the teacher:
– Post the schedule and alert the student to any changes
– Strategic seating; teacher proximity
– Give clear focussing signal

– Establish a private signal that lets me know when he is feeling overwhelmed
– Break assignments own into manageable units; provide time for checks and balances
– Provide instructions that are clear & concise – Read, repeat & paraphrase instructions. Monitor understanding – Encourage him to paraphrase instructions, his understanding of concepts
– Use visual images to support learning & graphic organizers
– Provide models that show outcomes
– Use a hands-on approach / demonstrations/ manipulatives / modeling
– Provide organizational coaching (e.g. “First-Then-Next”)
– Allow for processing time
– Create a safe, structured environment that is supportive and encouraging
– Provide increased breaks & a safe place for him to go should he feel completely overwhelmed

(E)  Long-term Goals:
– To build confidence, independence, flexibility & risk taking;
– To confidently & independently create, use and reevaluate strategies;
– To encourage him to understand and build on his individual strengths as well as needs

3 responses to “>Anxiety in the Classroom

  1. You’ve got great insights about anxiety Self Confidence, keep up the good work!

  2. You’ve got great insights about self confidence activities self esteem exercises, keep up the good work!

  3. You’ve got great insights about self confidence exercises, keep up the good work!

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