I’d like to think that every day is a great day … and the vast majority of days truly do seem to be. But some days seem a little less enjoyable than others. Thursday was starting off as one of those days. There were many factors at play here.
1) The forest was busier than usual. A couple of other classes joined us today, which made the forest louder. Usually this is a calming place to connect with nature, but as my teaching partner, Paula, said when we left, “The animals may have been happy for some quiet now.”
2) I had a prep period 2. This means that the phys-ed teacher joins us outside. With the additional kids and the additional noise, the play never settled before my prep occurred. This made it even harder to settle afterwards. Instead of kids heading inside calm, many were heading inside dysregulated.
3) Paula and I were both feeling a bit dysregulated. We love this forest time, and the calmness that it brings to our day. The change in feeling made both of us feel a little less settled, and when adults are dysregulated, kids also tend to be.
The well-being of children is inseparable from the well-being of all the critical adults in their lives @StuartShanker #LearnSelfRegTO @HCDSB pic.twitter.com/t0nzhXnCoy
— Jaclyn Priest-Brown (@eye_you) December 6, 2017
4) There was additional noise. With the forest time not calming any of us as it usually tends to do, the room was louder. It felt a bit more chaotic. Don’t get me wrong: there were still some wonderful things happening, but kids were finding it harder to settle, and Paula and I felt the same way.
This was definitely one of the wonderful things from Thursday.
5) It was Pizza Day. Almost all of our students get pizza, and as such, they almost all wanted to eat right away. Usually our eating table allows for some gradual eating throughout the day, and a few quiet connections during play. Instead, the table was full right away, with a few more spaces for pizza eating, and then remained empty. Again, we were missing some much needed quiet.
6) With duty for me during the second nutrition break, Paula had to leave for her lunch early, which meant that the play hadn’t fully settled before she left. Trying to settle 29 kids into play on your own is not an easy task, and while there were moments of calm, I did find myself standing back a lot and wondering, how can I help make this better?
I then got back from my second nutrition break duty, and Paula was feeling the same stress that I was before I left. We had no plans of tidying up for another 50 minutes. What were we going to do? We both needed to turn today around.
This is when I went over to the sensory bin. Yes, I find sensory play calming, and I thought that getting my hands in the watery juicy mixture with the flowers and connecting with some kids would be a good thing. With flower petals, lemons, oranges, and limes everywhere, we had a HUGE mess to clean up. Why not start the process early?
We’ve extended this same sensory play over the last week, and the flower petals and citrus juice pieces keep clogging our sink. Every day, we’ve had to get kids to write a note to the caretaker asking for a plunger. Yesterday, he even gave us one of our own to keep. 🙂 I was so determined not to clog the drain again that I wondered about straining the juice. I asked a child to go next door and see if they had a strainer we could borrow. She came back with a small strainer to use.
I don’t know what I was thinking, but somehow in my mind, I thought that I could put the small strainer across the little bowl, and pour the sensory bin liquid into the strainer to drain the solids out. Big sensory bin. Small bowl. Smaller strainer. Maybe this was not my best plan, but the heavy lifting and tipping of the sensory bin is always a favourite activity of mine. So the student set-up the strainer and the bowl for me, stood back, and watched. She didn’t stand back quite far enough. My angle wasn’t perfect, the liquid splashed everywhere, the strainer toppled into the bowl, and I caused a tremendous flood. But boy did it make me laugh … like huge guffaws of joy! Paula did the same. The kids joined in, so very happy to see “Miss Dunsiger making a mess!” This flood changed everything!
A few kids got involved in writing notes to the caretaker telling him about my massive mess. He quite likes our class, despite the daily calls for assistance, and was just as amused by my mess as the kids. Then a couple of more kids got involved in wiping up the watery juice, as we waited for him to come with a wet mop. The feel of the room started to change!
In the meantime, Paula was across the room trying to help clean up dramatic play. We must clean this area ten times a day. Every time kids clean it, somebody else goes in. You turn around, and poof, there’s another child there pulling out items and leaving a trail behind. Paula and I joked that we would need to cover the whole space in a sheet to actually make it closed. We didn’t go quite that far, but Paula did get kids involved in making the most massive “No!! Closed!” sign of life. They sounded out the words, they measured the space to hang it, and they got it up. Again, more fun. More laughter. Pure joy! In these last 50 minutes of the day, the room changed, and we were actually sad to tidy up for home. As one of our kindergarteners said, “Today was the funnest day ever!!” Perspective.
This was the greatest reminder to me that you can always change a trajectory. Make a mess. Find some joy to connect you and the kids. Get that reason to laugh … and laugh that wonderfully deep belly laugh that totally changes how you’re thinking and feeling. A previous principal of mine, Paul Clemens, used to start every day on the announcements with these words: “Make it a great day or not. The choice is yours!” We found a way to make Thursday into a great day, and while it may not have been the very best day at school, it certainly did end in one of the very best of ways. How do you turn a day around? What role might humour play in your day? If you ever had a day like we did on Thursday, try pouring a big mess into a little bowl and seeing what happens. You might be surprised.
Thank you Aviva for an honest description of your day (a fabulous learning story!) and how it was turned around. My flood for this week left me more flustered than joyful (maybe because a. I didn’t cause the flood, b. I didn’t catch the flood until it had spread, and c. it wasn’t my space so I didn’t feel as cavalier about the mess). “Turning the frown upside-down” later on helped with writing about it and then conversely listing the good things that happened this past week (so the good shone through), but as for turning it around in the moment … well, I may just have to try pouring a big mess into a little bowl like you suggest!
Thanks for your comment, Diana! When you say that you “wrote about your flood,” I really hope that it’s going to be this week’s post. Writing can certainly help turn things around. There was certainly something joyful about pouring a big mess into a little bowl. It always helps when it’s in your space though. I do hope that the rest of your week was great! It sounds as though our parallel experiences continue.
This is a great story! So much better to go home laughing than frustrated. I love the “closed” sign. I can see how it was a day where things just kept going wrong…I know those days. It’s great that everyone in the class could see that these problems don’t have to ruin the day. I’m thinking this is because you’ve built a classroom where kids are learning resiliency in the face of adversity.
Thanks Lisa! The closed sign is one of my favourites. 🙂 We definitely have a fantastic group of kids, and it’s great that we can all work together to turn the day around … and enjoy some laughs along the way.