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Packing Away Your Troubles…

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As regular readers know, I keep an eye out for research studies that might have some relevance to my teaching, and try to apply them in the classroom.

This post might be one of the stranger ideas I’ve had but, as usual, I think it’s worth a try because I don’t think it can hurt.

Packing Your Troubles Away Actually Works, Study Finds is the title of a Science Daily article that appeared today. It talks about studies that have shown if you put something in an envelope or box that relates to a previous disappointment, then it helps people get pass those negative feelings.

This is what one of the researchers said:

“If you tell people, ‘You’ve got to move on,’ that doesn’t work. What works is when people enclose materials that are relevant to the negative memories they have. It works because people aren’t trying to explicitly control their emotions.”

How might be wondering how I’m planning to apply this to my classroom…

I have a couple of students who have been struggling mightily all year. For both, self-control challenges have been very damaging to their learning. We’ve begun the lengthy process to investigate if there are issues that require stronger intervention, but that doesn’t help them this year. Nothing that I’ve tried — and, believe me, I’ve tried a whole lot of things — has worked for longer than a short time, and I know that these challenges have faced them for longer than just this year.

I’m going to ask each of them to take a few minutes and write and/or draw about the problems they’ve been having in class — not doing homework, not focusing, disruptive behavior, etc. — and then have them put what they’ve written in an envelope as a symbolic move to “get rid of it” and get a new start. Of course, I would explain the study first, and give them the choice of whether they wanted to try it or not. I suspect they will, but I believe that both recognize that they need to change.

I’ve often asked students when they were having a good day how they felt, and then have them compare it to how they’ve felt when they were having a bad day. But I’ve never actually asked them to take some time and think and write about their bad moments.

We’ll see what happens.

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

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