Bring Out The “Change Card”: Learning To Live With Those Unexpected Changes In Plans

I finally got a chance to listen to the June 27th recording of the VoicEd Radio: This Week In Ontario Edublogs show

It was an off-hand comment by Stephen Hurley in the introduction to this show that really made me reflect on the end of our school year. Doug and Stephen recorded this show on the second last day of school, which also happened to be a very rainy day in Ontario. Regular readers of our classroom blog know that rain does not stop our daily outdoor learning time, but thunder and lightning do. Unfortunately, there was a weather alert for a “severe thunderstorm,” and so it was with a heavy heart that we had to cancel our year-end field trip to the splash pad at LaSalle Park. We didn’t want to do so, and we went back and forth on options, but if we waited until the Wednesday morning to make the call, we’d have to pay for both busses as well as the rental of the splash pad. And so, looking at the projected forecast the night before with our principal, weighing options, and discussing student safety, we opted for a Plan B. 

Our year-end trip is an interesting one, as almost all of the parents come along. They coordinate a family picnic at the park, younger siblings join us, and this becomes the alternative to an SK Graduation. Instead we celebrate with families over food and fun at the splash pad. Now what? We knew that many parents already purchased food items for the picnic and booked the day off work. We don’t have control over the weather, but all of the children and parents were looking forward to this day, and now we needed to make a last-minute change in plans. While we knew that our alternative would not necessarily be as exciting as the original plan, we hoped that it would help reduce the upset over completely cancelling everything: we invited families into our classroom for the last two hours of the day to share a meal and play together. 

I still stand by the tweet that I sent out early in the morning on June 27th.

Sometimes life doesn’t give us what we expect. In a week of absolutely beautiful weather, we picked the one day of thunder, lightning, and rain. We know that some kids were disappointed, and we’re sure that parents probably dealt with a few tears the night before when they had to share this news with their child. But this disappointment provides a great learning opportunity for all of us. The truth is that this news is a small upset compared to probably much bigger upsets that children and adults will need to deal with in their lives. And so, just as we did at school, use this experience as a learning opportunity.

  • Let children cry if they need to.
  • Empathise with kids, and express that this news is disappointing.
  • Then focus on the solution.

Yes, our playtime was probably not as fun as a day at the splash pad, but …

  • parents still got to spend time with their kids.
  • children and adults got to play together.
  • everyone had social time with family and friends.
  • we still celebrated our SK students before they moved on into Grade 1.

I still wish that the weather cooperated, and for the sake of Stephen’s son, I hope that they got to go on their trip to the splash pad. But maybe this little upset at the end of the school year, provided one of the best learning opportunities of all. And if we didn’t stay back on the 27th, Mud Man would have ceased to exist and the year would have ended on a much different note. 🙂

And then the next day …

How do you help children deal with disappointment? We love routine, and even attempted to keep a consistent classroom routine right until the last day of school. That said, I still remember a conversation that I had once with a Speech Pathologist, who was helping me support some students with autism. She suggested that I make a “change card,” for when I needed some last-minute changes to the schedule. She said that this could help these children learn to adjust to change. Maybe we all need a “change card” in our lives. How might you use one over the summer? A special “thank you” to our wonderful parents, who made this change in plans on the 27th a lot less stressful than it could have been. Thanks for supporting us in dealing with disappointment!


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