Sometimes you just have to take a deep breath and relax.
At Eagle River Elementary School, students and staff do that every school day as part of the morning routine. “Breathe in and hold,” Erin Nisonger tells the students as she leads the exercise via the school’s public address system. Nisonger is one of the school’s office staff. She was chosen for the speaking role because of her calm voice. “Relax and breathe out.” The morning ritual comes from a national program called “Calm Classroom” created by the Luster Learning Institute. Its motto is, “Learn to be calm – Be calm to learn.” ER Elementary staff embraced the program two years ago as a way to help students let go of any distractions or troubles from their morning commute to school allowing them to fully focus on academic tasks.
In Tonya Eads fourth grade classroom, the 28 students were ready to chill out and center their minds on the day of learning prepared for them.
As Nisonger began to speak, they followed her instructions to get comfortable in their seats, gently placed their hands in their laps, set their feet squarely on the floor and close their eyes as they begin to breathe in and out.
“Sit perfectly still,” Nisonger instructed. “Feel the air around you. Feel as it moves in and out of your nose. Breathe in deep and exhale slowly. Notice how you feel.” All eyes were closed – even the teacher’s – as Nisonger led the breathing exercises aimed at reducing tension and worry. Toward the end of the exercises, Nisonger told the students to slowly open their eyes and be ready for the day’s lessons.
“You can make today a great day,” she said before a short pause. “Or not. The choice is yours.”
Nisonger made a couple of announcements and then began the Pledge of Allegiance. The students were on their feet with right hands across their chest ready to recite.
Eads said Calm Classroom makes a difference for her students. In the few minutes between arriving and putting their coats and back packs away, Eads can easily size up which student(s) may have had a rough start to their day. Calm Classroom takes that away, she said. It’s a tool to clear the mind and focus on the tasks ahead, she said.
The morning The ECHO News visited Eads’ classroom was an especially useful one for Calm Classroom, Eads said. It was science day and the students knew from announcements the day before that new materials would be waiting on their desks. “They get excited for this,” Eads said. “And that is good. But we also need to focus.” Kenzie Jones, a 10-year-old in Eads’ classroom said she likes the ability to be silent before her day of learning begins. “We get to sit and be quiet and that helps calm us down if there is something that is bothering us,” she said. Zach Depoc, also age 10, said the breathing exercises help “get the wiggles out.” That’s something the school’s staff agrees with.
“We all need to take a moment to just focus on what we need to accomplish today,” Gail Patrini said. As one of the school’s office assistants, Patrini is constantly on the move greeting visitors, answering the phone, finding lost items and providing whatever support staff and teachers need. “This is great for the kids, but it also is a fantastic tool for the adults to settle in for the day.”
Learn more online about Calm Classroom at www.calmclassroom.com