Push = Stress

As we end February, the word “PUSH” comes to my mind often in SO many different connotations.  Frustration is permeating through the school with testing, data, students who are not responding to intervention, sickness, etc.  With the stress swirling around, I think we as a school are feeling “the push.”

The push of…

  • A math curriculum that does not allow for a day off
  • A principal who needs a volunteer for…
  • A coach who needs you to…
  • Parents who want to ask …
  • Our families who need…

Remember that each person we come in contact with is under stress and trying to complete the tasks on their list which often cause our list to grow.  I was told last week, “You are so intense. Don’t you understand what I have to do?”   My job was causing a “push” to this teacher and it caused anxiety.  If we as adults experience this—what do you think we are doing to our students?

How in the world do we manage and do all that we do?

Stress is a growing part of our everyday lives for teachers and students.  According to Stanford School of Medicine, the number of children, ages of 7-17, treated for depression has more than doubled between the years of 1995 and 2001.  Based on a report, from the National Institute of Mental Health in 2014, “11.4% of population or 2.8 million adolescents, ages 12-17, have reported a major depressive episode.” Shifts in the home lives and finances of our students’ families, increase in testing, issues with peers and other factors have increased our need, as teachers, to be aware of this growing concern and how it affects our children. Even a small amount of stress produces a shot of adrenaline that can increase alertness and increase engagement such as a competition or struggling with a tough task.  As educators, we must keep a good balance of productive stress while teaching our students to successfully manage stress to keep learning conditions optimal.

Your brain contains 100 billion neurons or brain cells.  These cells have the primary job of receiving information and signally other neurons using electricity or chemicals to stimulate messages within the body. The hypothalamus is the regulation center of the brain which keeps your body at a constant; including temperature, heart rate, etc.  Learning happens when neurons are activated and a message is sent along the axon and when repeatedly stimulated a process called synapse is created. Synapse is created when two neurons are connected from the end of the dendrite. Remember dendrites? When this action happens in the brain, it is relating to the brain the information, action or event is important to remember or retain.


See Image of a Neuron Below:

When the brain is exposed to stress the body begins to release cortisol which is the primary stress hormone. This chemical affects your heart, lungs, skin, immune system and circulation.  In addition, it stimulates the hypothalamus and when it reaches the neuron, it shuts off the impulses of the dendrites which halts learning.  This is a temporary response and the dendrites will grow back UNLESS there is a long term period of stress.  When stress is repetitive the brain will respond by short circuiting that pathway which will stop impulses and result in the lack of input and messaging.

Many of our students are in a constant state of stress from instability at home, lack of confidence in a subject, poor self-esteem, and relationships with their peers, etc. This constant state of stress causes inability to stay on task, inattention, and lack of self-control.

The AHA Moment—students in a constant state of stress not only struggle with attention but their brain is actually inhibited from learning due too much or little cortisol.


Symptoms of Chronic Stress:

Symptom Examples 
Physical fatigue, headaches, muscle and joint pain, grinding teeth, stomach problems
Cognitive inattention, lack of concentration, blaming others, poor problem solving
Behavioral loss of appetite, withdrawal, acting out, tantrums
Emotional anxiety, guilt, irritability, uncertainty


Physiological Increase in blood pressure, breathing, heart rate and muscle tension


Looking at the chart above, do you recognize any of your students?

Remember two easy ways to deal with stress—

  1. Deep Breathing!
  • Take a slow breath in through the nose (for about 4 seconds)
  • Hold your breath for 1 or 2 seconds
  • Exhale slowly through the mouth (over about 4 seconds)
  • Wait 2-3 seconds before taking another breath (5-7 seconds for teenagers)
  • Repeat for at least 5 to 10 breaths


  1. Movement!

Movement increases production of dopamine which is a chemical produced which combats stress and helps you feel happier and think more clearly. The movement only has to be for 2-3 minutes and can be simple tasks.

  • Go Noodle
  • Silent Ball
  • jog in place or do 10 jumping jacks
  • get up find a partner to share information

Remember stress is inevitable. How we deal with it and teach our students to respond—is up to us!


The following older Blogs were used to create this Blog.


What Do You See? Perspective!!

Have you ever wondered how two people can see, hear or experience the same event or conversation and walk away with a completely different perspective?

This week I have reflected on this thought:

If an event happens—two people are involved and  have two different versions of what happened—where does the truth lie within?  How do we find it?  How do we see it?  Most of all—how do we accept and understand that it is blended between the two perspectives?

Our views are shaped by our experiences, preferences, values and  relationships.  We do not realize how these factors affect our view but they do because they often veil the outcome in some way.

It is important that we as adults step back and think through events to truly see where the truth or facts lie.  It is tough because we know how we feel and what we BELIEVE should have happened and therefore the events are often exaggerated when they do not meet our value system or down played if they do.

My example, yelling.  I am not a person who speaks loudly (most of the time) and it causes me anxiety when I am immersed in a situation with noise and what I consider loud voices.  When I am in a situation, it is very important for me to remember that a loud voice does not necessarily mean anger or frustration and that should not provide a negative connotation to the event.

Since, this is difficult because we have strong belief systems, we must really think about activities that can help our students  develop the understanding that each person sees situations differently.  We must remember that as adults when we interact with others we are teaching it to our students.


Here are 3 simple ideas to begin discussions of perspective.


  1. Perspective from a Window

Have students look out a window for 2 minutes.  Give them time to write one sentence.  Share sentences.


  • What was focused on?
  • What was important to write about?
  • Were statements general or specific about one thing? Why?
  1. Folding Paper Activity

Have students follow these directions:

  • Fold the paper in half
  • Fold the paper in half again.
  • Tear off the bottom right hand corner.
  • Turn the paper upside down.
  • Tear off the bottom right corner.


  • How did you feel when you showed your paper?
  • Did you feel you did yours correctly? Someone else was wrong?
  • Why were there so many different versions?
  • Was there one answer or correct way?

*Tell students to imagine that the paper is their perspective or the way they see things.  What can we learn about perspective from this activity? How can we learn from others about seeing things differently?

  1. Perspecs: http://www.perspecsnews.com/

This is a great website with news articles that are presented in two perspectives and one factual article.  Not all the articles are appropriate so you must preview what you are assigning but it is definitely worth checking out.

The world we live in is full of ideas, values, experiences and opinions—my hope is that we expose our students to many ideas and MOST of all the ability to step back and think about why someone else might see or think something different.  It is important for us to emphasize that listening and considering someone’s idea does not mean you agree with it but you understand that someone else feels or sees something different.


Resources used to create this Blog:



Lesson Ideas from NC Learn

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