Monthly Archives: February 2020
– Jenn Horton
Digital screens are here to stay—and they’re impacting us, especially our kids. You might have heard that kids who regularly get headaches, have neck pain, and rub their red, itchy eyes are probably looking at screens too much. But is that really a “thing”?
The short answer is yes, and there’s a name for it, too: digital eye strain.
We can help our middle and high school students pay closer attention to signs that they might be experiencing digital eye strain. Here’s what you need to know to be proactive about student eye health and its impact on your students.
What is digital eye strain?
Digital eye strain as when a person suffers from eye discomfort from extended use of, you guessed it, screens. That screen time—specifically, more than two hours a day—is causing many classroom learning difficulties for students. And that, in turn, is creating many new challenges for teachers.
Digital eye strain is the kicked-up version of the visual fatigue optometrists have long discussed with you at your annual visit. But now, it’s more than TVs and desktops or sitting under fluorescent lights for too long. Kids have had hours (and years) of access to smartphones, hand-held video game devices, tablets, etc. Nearly one in four kids spends three hours or more on a digital device. So perhaps it’s not a coincidence that nearsightedness has also increased 66 percent since the 1970s.
What are the signs of student digital eye strain?
Headaches, neck or shoulder pain, irritated eyes, reduced attention span, a negative shift in behavior, and an increased lack of focus.
What can you do to help?
You already know how to monitor your students’ focus and attention. So that means you’re in a great position to spot student vision issues. Here’s what you can do when you see it:
- See something, say something. Tell parents what you see. No need to diagnose your students. Just say something like, “Your son has been rubbing his eyes a lot lately.”
- Encourage eye exams. Only 30 percent of families say they’ve talked to an eye-care provider about their kids’ digital habits and eye health. Sometimes parents are embarrassed to admit their kids spend a lot of time looking at screens. Whether it’s in parent conferences or general communications sent home, get the word out that eye exams are as important as well-child visits.
- Set up eye-healthy digital workspaces. Do what you can to make their digital learning environment ergonomic. Screens should never be too close and ideally, be placed a few inches below a student’s eyes. A student’s chair should be positioned so that the student’s arms are parallel to the desk surface. The chair should also be adjusted so that the student can keep their feet flat on the floor.
- Take screen breaks in class. Depending on what you teach, screens may be an integral part of your curriculum. Eye doctors suggest that teachers use the 20-20-20 rule whenever possible during the school day: Make sure there’s a screen break every 20 minutes. Focus on something at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds to lessen digital eye strain.
- Go outside for that screen break. Studies show that kids who spend more time outside have a lower risk of nearsightedness.
- Talk about good digital habits with your students. Do they recognize changes in their classroom habits after they’ve spent a weekend screen binging? Do they notice they are more attentive or alert after a day off or time spent without screens? Teaching them to be their own health advocate includes encouraging them to be aware of their digital habits.
Adapted and abridged
– Kimberley Moran
Indeed, there’s a relentless pressure on social media and teacher Facebook groups that every single lesson we design should not only meet a learning standard but also be SUPER ENTERTAINING. We’re always on the hunt for those unicorn activities that teach curriculum but in a way that feels like a game!
I think somewhere along the line, we’ve confused fun with engagement. Because the truth is, hard work can be the most engaging work of our lives. And by saying things like we’re writing informational reports that are going to be super fun, we’re giving students the message that if it doesn’t feel fun they must be doing it wrong. The truth is that hard work benefits kids just as much as play does.
Here are five ways to talk about hard work more truthfully.
1. Hard work gives you dignity.
Give your students dignity by having high (but reasonable) expectations that require hard work and perseverance. Kids naturally want to make a meaningful contribution, so you need to give them the opportunity. Doing hard work “because I say so” is not meaningful. Brainstorm with kids reasons why hard work is necessary as a process. Start where they are and guide them into thinking about why reworking math problems or essays is doing the hard work as well.
2. A hard-work habit is a good strategy to develop.
When we take our kids seriously, they take themselves seriously and rise to the occasion. Developing the habit of hard work requires opportunities to practice. If we’re always making things fun and easy, there is no practice. Be sure to assign hard work that helps kids practice and feel challenged by the lessons you teach. Tell them it’s going to be hard but also tell them that you believe they can rise to the challenge. Teaching kids to set appropriate goals for themselves is a great way to get them to think about what to put work hard toward achieving.
3. Identify the problem and then work on solutions.
Explicitly teaching kids how to identify a problem and develop solutions is an excellent way to get them going. All too often people are reactive instead of slowing down to identify what needs solving. When problems become concrete, the possibility that hard work will pay off can help kids persevere. That said …
4. Hard work doesn’t always pay off.
I’ve noticed a startling trend of kids believing that if they put work into something, they will always be rewarded, and that’s just not always true. Some kids are going to get amazing grades without much work. Other kids are going to do poorly even though they put in the hard work. The key here is to be realistic and acknowledge that there will always be a degree of failure in our lives. It’s not such a shocker to have worked hard only to have failed when someone has already warned of its possibility.
5. Hard work comes before fun.
When we tell kids this mantra to use in their heads, we give them a tool for when we can’t be there. This statement also reminds them that there is a difference between hard work and fun. I remind my own children of this all the time. I’m not having fun all day long at work, but I love how hard work challenges my brain, and I love making money. I don’t lie and pretend to love the hard work, but I do explain how connected it is to things I love.
Developing a good work ethic is a never-ending process, so you should be able to find no shortage of instances of hard work to share with kids. Modeling the hard work that goes into maintaining a house or a job shows them firsthand that hard work is necessary and important. Check out these books for talking to kids about hard work and perseverance.
Abridged and adapted
– Elizabeth Mulvahill
Kindergarten should be a time of wonder and exploration. A time for making friends and learning to work together. A time for learning to love letters, numbers, words, scientific discovery, and learning itself. But today kindergarten has become the starting line for a marathon of academic drill and kill and inappropriate assessment. It has become a structured environment where “kindergartners are being told what to do and how to do it, every single step along the way, all day long.”
As vacations grow shorter and school days longer, we’re putting more pressure on our little ones. Here are five reasons to rethink the demands we’re putting on our kindergarteners.
Academic rigor is just not developmentally appropriate for five-year-olds.
It’s common knowledge that today’s kindergarten is yesterday’s first grade. In fact, for the past 35 years, policymakers have focused on improving children’s performance by demanding they be taught more academic content and take more tests to monitor their achievement.
You might remember kindergarten as playtime, snack time, and rest time. But today’s kindergartners must read all of their alphabet sounds, sound out three-letter words, read at least 20 to 30 sight words, count to 100, skip count by fives to 50 and by twos to 20. And most classroom teachers are pressured to push their students beyond the minimal expectations. In fact, 80 percent expect students to read by the end of kindergarten.
Child development experts warn that a full day of academics is too much to ask of young students. Just because a child can be trained in an academic pursuit doesn’t mean it’s what’s best for them. Besides, any advantage gained by early academic rigor may not last long. In fact, research shows the benefits diminish by the third grade.
Too much too soon affects kids’ attitudes about school.
Children’s attitudes about school are formed early in life, for better or worse. The primary goal of kindergarten should be to set kids up to love learning and love school. Instead, the pressure to perform academically is discouraging our young learners. Education writer Patti Hardigan cautions educators against judging students’ academic potential at an age when their ability to perform varies widely from day to day. The risk of labeling a child who is not ready for a full workload can adversely affect their enjoyment of, and success in, school. “Children form impressions early on,” she says, “and when they feel like failures at 5, that’s hard to turn around.”
Medical professionals confirm the adverse effects.
Teachers have increasingly witnessed a rise in behavioral issues in the classroom, including problems with social interactions, attention, problem-solving, and emotional control. Many of these problems stem from the increased pressure to perform. In many cases, medical professionals are dealing with the fallout. Diagnoses of depression and anxiety in children have nearly doubled since the early 2000s. Also, the diagnoses of ADHD in children have increased dramatically.
Pressure to teach essential literacy and math skills have increasingly limited time for free play and exploration.
Early childhood experts agree that play is essential for healthy development and deep foundational learning at the kindergarten level. In fact, according to psychologist Erik Erikson, when children miss out on the work of play, later learning can be adversely affected.
Many kindergarten programs claim to strike a balance between play and academics. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean free play. That means playtime but guided playtime with an academic purpose.
Children’s freedom to play and explore on their own, independent of direct adult guidance and direction, has declined greatly in recent decades. Researchers warn that today’s rigorous curriculum is diminishing young learners’ sense of wonder. Across the country, kindergartners are being told what to do and how to do it, every single step along the way, all day long. They play less and study more than they did 20 years ago. This is what kindergarten has become, and it’s not a good thing.
Teachers have had enough.
Many teachers detest the increased academic demands and pressures on their young students and are questioning their willingness to teach under conditions. In fact, many are moving up grade levels or leaving the field to avoid the heartbreaking conditions demanded by the standards.
Adapted and abridged