Monday, 19 December 2016

Broccoli Socks and Other Stressors

In a recent video lecture, Dr. Shanker from the MEHRIT centre shared that we tend to be annoyed when someone has a stressor that isn't a stressor for us.  This can happen if someone is bothered by a noise or a smell that we scarcely even notice. As educators we cannot allow our own baseline to cloud our judgement, nor can we allow other children's baselines to cloud our judgment. In other words, just because no one else in the class is bothered by the noise doesn't mean that it's wrong for one student to find it a stressor.  One year I taught grade four and had 29 very busy students in a portable.  Even though we tried to be respectful of one another, there was one student who was frequently bothered by the noise level. I gathered some old Calefone headphones and had them in a basket at the back of the room.  Anytime someone was bothered by the noise level during independent learning time, then they could help themselves to a pair of headphones.  They weren't connected to anything but it did help to muffle the sound.
This idea of stressors being so individual reminded of my eldest daughter.  When she was a preschooler she had clothing issues.  She couldn't wear pants because they were choking her, but she could wear tights and dresses.  She couldn't wear cotton sweat socks unless they were inside out - she called them broccoli socks because of the bumpy interior.  And she couldn't stand socks that had seams on the toes.  Even though it was frustrating I realized that she wasn't being difficult, she actually experienced these as physically uncomfortable so we reduced the stressors by letting her wear dresses and tights and she eventually outgrew it by the time she was five or six years old.

Especially during this busy holiday season, I want to be mindful that just because something isn't a stressor for me doesn't mean that it isn't a stressor for someone else.  Instead of feeling annoyed that they are being bothered by something that seems trivial to me, I want to think about how to reduce stressors for myself and for others.  

To some people it's just a tag, to others it's a torture device.

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