Why Was This Week Not Exhausting?

Usually during the first week of Kindergarten, I’d be writing a tweet similar to the one that I sent out on the first day of Camp Power.

This was the first year ever that I did not come home feeling absolutely exhausted! While I’m happy that I still had lots of energy left, I started to think about why this year might be different.

We have lots of Senior Kindergarten (Year 2) students that we taught last year in Junior Kindergarten (Year 1). Our class this year is SK heavy. We have 18 SK children to 11 JK children (and yes, I still think of them as JK and SK versus Year 1 and Year 2). Most of these SK students were with us last year in JK. They know us. They know the classroom routines and feel comfortable in both the room and in the school. These children all came back to school as if they never left, but even more eager to be a leader, support new students, and make new friends. Every one of them has been a tremendous help to us this week, and helped my teaching partner, Paula, and I feel as though we didn’t have to do it all. 

We started to make small changes early on based on our observations. Paula and I really tried to get to know our kids this week. While many adjusted well, some needed a little extra support. We started to think a lot about the classroom environment and what might work better for these learners. 

  • Is there an independent space for them?
  • Which activities do they like the most?
  • Do they have items from home that might help during transitional times?
  • How can we use these items to better support them during the flow of the day?
  • Have they connected with some peers that might be able to help them during more challenging times?

We know each other well. This is our third year working together, and we’ve really gotten to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and how we can support each other. This connection also helps when we support kids. We’ve developed a rhythm to our day and our workflow, and a happiness knowing that we are in this together. Coming to work every day with a big smile and a sense of joy over being there, makes a HUGE difference. Attitude matters, and I think that this happy feeling has made this first week that much better!

We connected with parents early on. I think that I used to feel as though I was in this first week alone. I had to tackle every problem by myself, and figure out possible solutions on my own. Parents know their kids so well though, and often they have items at home, reliable strategies, or words of wisdom that can support us at school. Talking to parents at the gate and emailing with them, really helped us out this week. Between some of the things that we tried and some of the ideas they suggested, kids quickly started to settle into the classroom, and we began to feel that sense of calm that we shared the other day

We learned to slow down! While we definitely had a busy, productive, action packed first week of school, we’ve also figured out that there are times that you need to slow down. Getting ready for home is one of those times … especially when school begins. Kids don’t remember which items belong to them. Many children are still learning how to pack up their backpacks. They are tired at the end of the day, and the pace at which they move is much slower then. It’s easy to feel the pressure of the bell, and the need to get every child out to his/her parents. This is when we start to feel stressed, and pretty soon our own dysregulation impacts on kids. This year, we decided to make the end of the day just as great as the rest of it, and pack up a bit early. It’s really just about ending five minutes before we usually would, but these few minutes make a huge difference for us and for kids. 

We haven’t forgotten about the little things. So much wonderful learning happens in Kindergarten, and the academic growth of these young learners is really quite remarkable, but we can’t forget about the rest of the growth too. While we’re already playing some phonological awareness games during transitional times and supporting math, reading, writing, and oral language skills during play, we’re also taking the time needed to develop independence and self-help skills. 

  • Learning how to zipper up their lunch bags – check!
  • Learning how to open and close lunch containers – check!
  • Feeling comfortable peeing, pooping, and wiping at school – check!
  • Learning how to get dressed again after going to the bathroom – check!
  • Learning how to change their clothes in case of an accident – check! 
  • Learning how to move the stool to reach the toilet on their own – check! Yes, there is a lot of bathroom learning in Kindergarten. 🙂
  • Remembering where they put their lunch bag, water bottle, and hat – check!
  • Cleaning up the many water messes that flood our floor and fill our eating table each day – check!

By helping kids develop these skills, we stop being the only teachers in the room. Children can then support themselves and each other, which changes the whole classroom dynamic … especially when there are 29 little bodies there. 

How was your first week of school? How do you get to feeling less tired? I’m definitely liking this new, energized feeling!

Aviva

4 thoughts on “Why Was This Week Not Exhausting?

  1. I was feeling physically exhausted on Friday, but not mentally exhausted. That’s an improvement self-reg has brought to my life! You mentioned giving everyone 5 extra minutes here and there. That’s been my key to success too (at home and school!)

    Even in grade 2 there are a lot of stressors related to the washroom and fountain – especially in week 1 when we are all adjusting to the new routine. 😀

    • Thanks for the comment, Lisa! Glad to hear there was a difference in your kind of exhaustion come Friday. Hopefully this week will be less physically draining (and still not mentally too draining). I think those extra 5 minutes can make a huge difference during adjustment times. Pretty soon they will no longer be needed. Maybe the key is giving ourselves permission to take this extra time if/when it’s needed. I wonder if educators in other grades do this too, and if it would make a difference.

      Funny how washroom issues continue to resurface. Thinking about the other grades I’ve taught, I can see them creeping into many of those ones as well. Do we always give kids the time and support they need to solve them? I’m not sure that I always did, but am considering now what a stressor these could be.

      Thanks for adding to this discussion!
      Aviva

  2. I had always gone with the “plan way more than you’ll get to” strategy, and I never realized how much that stress was putting on me and my kids. This year I chose to pick four categories (school needs, management, tech boot camp, and 7 Habits) and planned one thing for each day. I honestly felt like a whole new person. I was still very tired, but it was the best start I’ve ever had!

    • Thanks for the comment, Becky! I love hearing about how you divided things to make the learning more manageable for you and for kids. How did you decide on these four categories? I’d love to hear more about what you focused on under each one. Glad to hear it was a more successful start-up! A great reminder that less is sometimes more.

      Aviva

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