Give Me a Break PT II: Getting the Downtime You Need

Out of the Box January / Uncategorized / January 17, 2019

Social-Emotional Support (SES)

Teachers need social-emotional support, too. FLGI surveys suggest that one of the biggest barriers to teachers migrating from traditional passive instruction to active learning strategies may tie to the need for social-emotional support. Many teachers are simply overwhelmed and teaching on an empty emotional tank. Their deepest social and emotional needs are unmet.

This section focuses on providing the social-emotional support we all need before we even can consider Flipped Learning. This project was developed to be the missing link in the unsuccessful efforts to move more teachers from passive to active learning.

In this section of the magazine, you can either read the transcripts or listen to the episodes of a podcast called Teachers’ Aid, with Jon Harper and Mandy Froehlich. Every topic takes on one of the biggest social-emotional challenges teachers face in search of real answers. We affectionately call this project the FLGI pyramid scheme: Maslow’s pyramid first, Bloom’s pyramid second. Enjoy the transcript below or listen to the entire show at the bottom of the transcript.


Teachers’ Aid

Mandy Froehlich:  Thank you for joining us on Teachers’ Aid as we continue our next segment on breaks with Dan Pink.

Jon Harper:  So where do we go from here, Dan?

Dan Pink:  Let’s go back to meditation. Meditation is really hard. Alright.  So what I would suggest to you is start learning how to meditate better. Which is really difficult. There is a great book by a fella named Dan Harris, really interesting guy at ABC news, and I love this book. It’s called, “Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics.”

Jon Harper:  Oh, I love that. He’s the author of 10 % Happier.

Dan Pink: Exactly. He’s the same guy who did that book. So “10% Happier” is a really interesting book. It told a little bit more of his biography of how he essentially had a nervous breakdown on air, and he had these problems with drugs, and he was charging too hard, but Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics is a little bit more of a how-to manual. If you can meditate for a minute, declare victory. That’s great. If you can meditate for a minute every day for a week, that’s awesome. And then, maybe the next week, meditate for two minutes every day, and the next week, meditate for three minutes every day.

So, it doesn’t mean that you’re not the kind of person to take breaks, it means that taking breaks is in part a skill that you need to develop. You can get better at doing that, and the results will improve your performance.

Human beings need breaks, and I understand this because I have had this issue myself with meditation and even break taking, and I basically had to teach myself how to take better real breaks. And it comes down to mundane things. It comes down to things like; I’m gonna take a break, and I’m gonna go for a walk for five minutes. Okay? Not anything crazy here, and I’m not gonna bring my phone with me.

I might during that ten-minute walk think about all the stuff that I have to do, but there might be 30 seconds at that walk where I’m just being present noticing what’s going on around me. That’s a start.

We can’t expect to be expert break takers when we’re coming from a system, an approach to work– where we never take breaks, and we to some extent, we demonize breaks. But one of the key things here I really want to emphasize is that we’re not talking anything nutty here. We’re talking like, 10 or 15-minute break every afternoon. That’s I think doable.

Jon Harper: If we can’t do that, we’ve got a problem. We’ve got a bigger problem.

Dan Pink: No matter how much work. And if one can’t do that, then maybe you have an organization problem, scheduling problem, a deeper problem.

Mandy Froehlich: I do think that what you said about practicing taking breaks is really interesting. Because I think there are a lot of those types of things like meditation and mindfulness and taking breaks that we start to do because people tell us to, and we think we should just inherently be able to do it.

Meditation is sitting and thinking we should be able to do that, and I think that people start to do it, and they get distracted like Jon was saying, and they think well, this must not be for me because I should just be able to do this, and then they stop trying and I would imagine that kind of taking breaks is sort of the same thing. People might think, well, why can’t I just relax? Why can’t I just do this? And then, they go ahead and start doing something else because it just feels like it doesn’t work.

Dan Pink:  Precisely. I couldn’t say it any better. Listen. It’s like, if you’ve never meditated before, you can’t say, hey, I’m gonna start meditating and immediately go into a 45-minute unbroken meditative trance. That ain’t gonna happen.

Jon Harper:  I think what it is, part of maybe it’s our culture may be in this country, but we think of breaks as doing nothing, and really a break is not doing ‘nothing.’ I mean a break, like you say, it’s a skill that we need to learn. It’s not just putting down my phone. It’s actually relaxing our mind, relaxing our bodies and setting aside time where, I don’t know, but I think we can’t think of it as just doing ‘nothing.’ It’s a skill.

Dan Pink: No, it’s part of you, and it’s part of your performance. The same thing with our students. Particularly at the elementary level. I mean, here is the thing, guys, I gave you the idea of sorta what the science tells us about the general principles of what are, constitute the best, most restorative, breaks. Right? What did I say?

Something is better than nothing; social is better than solo; outside is better than inside; moving is better than stationary; fully-detached is better that semi-detached. I’m basically describing recess, and if you look at that I think educators understand it; I don’t think legislators are doing; I’m not sure all parents do, but I think educators understand, hey, recess is part of the learning day. That is, you can learn things explicitly at recess, but also detaching a little bit from studying math, studying language, studying science, studying social studies, whatever, is actually gonna make you better at studying math, studying language, studying social science, studying science.

Mandy Froehlich: I think too that we’ve not only taken recess time away from kids, but we have also taken the opportunities for adults to connect in fun ways away as well. Because we’re so focused on making sure that we are constantly drilling in. What are we doing for math? What are we doing for literacy? What data are we collecting? And we’re so focused on that, but that even giving colleagues time to make connections and have fun and detach a little bit from work with each other as being taken away.

Dan Pink:  It’s a good point if we think about just professional development for teachers. Is that frivolous? Taking time from instruction to help people be better instructors. Is that better in the long run or worse in the long run? I think it’s better in the long run. You don’t have class that day, but you’ve equipped that teacher to be a better teacher for the next six months.

Jon Harper:  I’ve got one final question, and no one is gonna hear your answer to this. So you can tell us straight, Dan. You can trust us…No one’s gonna hear this. You write books, you speak, you’ve got a family, do you really take as many breaks as you should?

Dan Pink:  No, but I’ve gotten a lot better. And, one way to get a lot better is to be intentional about it. And this is really the key. And this is new to me. This is within the last basically, the outgrowth of the research in this book, is that when I set out my plan for the day and it’s funny. I literary was waiting for your call here because my office is a garage behind my house, so I came out to my office to talk to you all, and I as I was waiting for the call, I was writing down what I needed to do tomorrow. The following day.

So I had various phone calls and a meeting here, but what I also do is I wrote down 2:30, walk break, and if I didn’t write that down, I might not do it, but the fact that I have it written down, 2:30 walk break, I try to treat that the way I would this phone call or a meeting or any other obligations.

So I have a 2 o’ clock call that will end a little bit before 2:30, and I have a 3 o’ clock call. So at 2:30, my plan for tomorrow, written down, alright? Written down, scheduled in the same way this call is scheduled, is to take a walk break. And there is a certain couple of routes that I will walk around my neighborhood. My wife also works at home, sometimes I will take it with her.

And so we did one of these literarily this afternoon. More than one intentional break. Maybe if I take a meditation break and a walk break and some other kind of break. But something is better than nothing.

And so this 15-minute walk I have on the books at 2:30 tomorrow is my attempt to get a little bit better at this.

Jon Harper:  That a wrap. Dan, I could talk all day about this.

Dan Pink:  Yeah, it’s cool. It’s a great topic and I love the way you guys got into it.

Jon Harper: So I’m wondering, if you’re by yourself–in other words–you’re walking around, you just find a random stranger just to go on a walk with? Cause you know, like you said walking by yourself is worse.

Dan Pink: If my wife isn’t around, I will not like accost a random stranger. What I will do is I will just take a walk and part of it is that I have certain routes that I will take a walk. And part of having the route is that I don’t think about where I’m going.

I’ll think about some work stuff, but other times, I’ll just not think and just chill. And there are other kinds of smaller techniques that you can use, like one of the things that I do sometimes just to hone my observation skills and to restore a little mental freshness, will be things like–I live in an urban area so I will take like public buses and walk and do that kind of stuff. Let’s say I want to take a bus somewhere, and I know it’s gonna be like a 10-minute bus ride. Sometime on the 10-minute bus ride, what I will do just to restore a little mental sharpness–we’ll say, okay, on this 10-minute bus ride, I’m gonna look at the window, and I’m gonna try to notice everything that is blue, and it’s amazing how much blue you see when you’re looking for blue.

And so, this bus route, up Wisconsin Avenue, which I do like a zillion times, suddenly if I’m looking for blue, I see it in an entirely new way. And that’s another easy technique for kinda freshening your mind a little bit during these breaks.

Jon Harper:   I could never in a million years see a teacher write in their lesson plan: 2:30 to 2:40 break, and yet, that might be the most important part of their day.

I look at lesson plans. Like when I observe a lesson, and if I were to see that, I’d probably think, what? But, I shouldn’t. And they should schedule in just a 10-minute break or a minute break.

Dan Pink:  This is how education practices change. This is how education reform changes. It doesn’t come from the department of education. It doesn’t come from a school superintendent. It certainly doesn’t come from a state legislator. It comes classroom by classroom, building by building.

Jon Harper:  I appreciate you coming on, Dan.


Editorial Leam
Editorial Team
This article was written by a collaboration of editors and columnists on the FLR editorial team or guest contributors.

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