Take a deep breath in. And out. Repeat several times feeling the air fill your lungs and then emptying.

Deep breathing is just one technique that helps adults and children feel relaxed and less stressed. People use this technique and others in their homes, at their workplaces, and before bed. But, where are relaxation techniques rarely taught or used? It’s in the classroom!

If this pandemic has deeply impacted anyone in the world, it’s our children. Masking has made children fearful of those wearing them and especially those who don’t. Seeing peoples’ facial expressions is a thing of the past. Social distancing has isolated children and the positive interactions they previously had with others on a daily basis. Anxiety at home and school is increasing daily. So, what are we doing to help our children?

Unfortunately, the one place children can’t turn to for relaxation relief and techniques is their schools. Due to “learning loss” from the shutdown of schools a year ago and problems with remote learning, teachers will be (if not already) directed to fill the gaps and teach new content as much and as soon as possible. Core classes will be deemed essential, and students will be expected to learn in the same ways before the pandemic. And, on top of it all, teachers will still prepare their students for the annual standardized testing marathon to determine “how far behind” students have fallen.

We are now witnessing the disappearance of whole-child education (if we didn’t see it already). If recess or exploratory play wasn’t already eliminated before the pandemic, it will be. Pre-pandemic, there was little to no time to implement social-emotional learning initiatives. No relaxation techniques introduced or time given to discuss how our children are feeling. Will more time magically appear? Doubtful!

Instead, we’re messaging students and calling parents about missing assignments and poor attendance. Are we asking families what’s going on at home? Has anyone lost a job? An apartment or house? Can they pay the bills?

So, where do we go from here? I can assure you it shouldn’t be more testing, more academic rigor, and more structure. Now is the time to refocus and reinvest in our public schools and students.

So, let’s start by taking a deep breath in and then out. That’s all the time we have. Now, let’s get to work!

Brook Sharpnack