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Feb 062013

Eric Jensen’s recent BrighterBrain®Bulletin shares research about impact of stress.  Here are a few insights related to stress, school and students: 

Stress is good for you. Stress should go up and down and some stress every day is healthy; it builds resilience. What is evil for your body is DISTRESS, which is a chronic stress overload from continuous, over the top, stress.

School stress levels may be getting worse. Let’s start with kids. Over 20% of adolescents nationwide (ages 11-17) have some type of a stress disorder (depression, reactive attachment disorder, learned helplessness, bipolar, etc.) Top 3 kids stressors are 1) school academic pressures 2) family pressure and 3) bullying (kidshealth.org). Among kids from poverty, 60-95% have chronic stress.

Chronic stress hurts student achievement. It is well known that chronic stress contributes to over half of all school absences (Johnston-Brooks, et al. 1998). The ways to reduce this in the classroom include: a) more physical activity, yoga or stretching, b) greater sense of control, including decision-making and responsibility, and c) improved coping skills. (Share everyday incidents with your students and let them suggest how they would solve the problem.)

Chronic stress reduces neurogenesis, the production of new brain cells. (DiBellis, et al. 2001). This contributes to impaired attention, learning and memory (Lupien, et al., 2001). Three ways to boost neurogenesis are exercise, new learning and positive social contact.

Chronic stress has gender differences. This plays out in academic performance and internal distress (Pomerantz, Eva M.; Altermatt, Ellen Rydell; Saxon, Jill L.). We know that girls outperform boys in school, but paradoxically, girls are also more vulnerable to internal distress (depression, anxiety, etc.) than are boys.

Chronic stress is more likely in kids from poverty. These kids are most likely to be anxious, scattered, angry or even despondent. All of those are symptoms of a stress disorder. You cannot teach kids with stress disorders the same way as you would kids with a healthy brain. Obviously, Teaching with Poverty in Mind (Jensen) is a good resource.

For more insights on the impact stress has on learning please visit: www.JensenLearning.com