As I yawn away at my computer tonight, I’m also inspired to blog. Today was Valentine’s Day, and in Kindergarten, it’s quite the experience. Our kids were fantastic, and took control over this special day, but as my teaching partner, Paula, and I met to reflect together at the end of the day, we both struggled with staying awake. Why? I can’t help but wonder if exploring the day through a Self-Reg lens might help us figure out why we’re so tired!
Tonight, I’m thinking about this blog post that I wrote for The MEHRIT Centre just over a year ago now. It explores stressors in The Five Domains, and as I reflect on Valentine’s Day, I can’t help but think more about these stressors.
First there is the biological stressor of the additional mess today. Paula and I really wanted students to own the distribution of valentines. We decided not to have a party, but instead respect the interests of the students, and invite children to participate in any way that they wanted. We shared this note with parents, and happily embraced this differentiated approach to Valentine’s Day. Since we didn’t want the valentines (along with any additional noise, excitement, and mess) to be a centre of the learning today, we decided to use our dramatic play space for a valentines distribution area. We invited some children to organize the bags (that others made yesterday), and to help with handing out the Valentine’s Day cards. Then Paula and I stayed out of this space! This wasn’t easy to do. The floor was sprinkled with valentines. Bags kept getting moved around. It took a REALLY long time for children to distribute all of their cards, and the pile of cards on the floor kept on growing. More children gathered in this small space. We asked one child to help another one hand out his cards. She went in for a little while, and then came back out. She said to me, “I just find this too stressful, Miss Dunsiger. Everyone’s moving the bags.” She demonstrated some great self-regulation when she realized she needed to get out of this space, take a deep breath, and engage in some writing, as a way to calm down. I guess that we weren’t the only ones impacted by the mess … but just like us, she chose to step back.
Next there is the social stressor that comes from a day high in social interactions. While our class didn’t have a party, I was on duty during the Second Nutrition Break in the primary wing of the school. All of the classes had parties. There were games, food, and cards to distribute. The usual classroom routine was different today, and the children that need this routine the most, struggled. I dealt with more friendship problems outside than I usually do. When all of the children lined up to go in, I told them, “On a day all about love and friendship, I didn’t see as much kindness as on other days.” As I was tempted to lecture on the value of being kind, a little voice in my head wondered, are some kids feeling the additional pressure of these social interactions today? Could the focus on love, friendship, and kindness, actually be inspiring the opposite? Sometimes it takes a toll to live up to what others expect from us.
Then there is the emotional stressor caused by some additional tears today. From lost stickers to misplaced valentines to late arrivals to an inability to “find the bag I need,” today was a day where some children just needed that extra hug. They looked for it. They asked for it. It wasn’t about a day full of tears, but just those tiny, unexpected sobs, that I certainly noticed.
After that there is the pro-social stressor: empathizing with how these children were feeling today, and feeling the additional strain as a result. For the child that was overwhelmed with the movement of the bags, I get it! When I saw the bags getting all bunched up together again, I had to resist the urge to go and separate them, and instead, ask children how they might be able to see them better. For the child that struggled with getting his big valentine into a little bag, I understand. As someone who still requires three to five attempts to get into a parking spot even when I see the lines, 🙂 spatial awareness skills continue to be an area for growth. I also looked at those little bags and wondered how they would hold everything, and while they did, it took students with much better packing skills than me to make that happen.
Finally, there is the cognitive stressor. For beginning readers and writers, Valentine’s Day can be a challenge. While we did encourage students to consider just signing their names to their cards, many added classmates’ names, and this made it an additional challenge. We watched some students ask multiple times, “What does this one say?” While we tried to encourage children to get help from each other, questions definitely came our way. Then, even when children can read the names, they need to find the right bag. This often means reading the name in a different font! The child that wrote our bags yesterday, added an exclamation mark at the end of each name — “because Valentine’s Day is just so exciting!” — but that caused some additional confusion today. Persevering to find each bag and distribute each valentine was a challenge for some, and as we tried to support them, I think that even inadvertently, it became a challenge for us.
It’s amazing how even standing back can be tiring. As I count down the minutes until I can head to bed tonight — and it may be even before 9:00 — I think about the stressors at play on a day that actually seemed quite calm. Think about your Valentine’s Day. Are you going home tired tonight? Why might that be? Could looking at the day through a Self-Reg lens provide some additional insight? Now for a deep breath, a good book, and some much-needed quiet time to end off another Valentine’s Day.
Another good blog post. I am feeling tired tonight and I love how you looked at it through this lens.
Thanks Cheryl! Do you think that Valentine’s Day might have something to do with it? Hope you feel more awake today.
Thanks for this, Aviva. I’m not sure why it seems like everything in February seemed to fall during this week – 100s Day, Valentine’s Day, Ash Wednesday (for me), Chinese New Year, Parent-Teacher Interviews. I really like how you divided and analyzed it based on the 5 domains. So much truth!
Thanks Diana! It’s true that so much seems to fall during the same week. It was when I started thinking about the 5 domains that I understood why I was so very tired.