Combatting Christmas Craziness: Are You With Me?

The holidays are coming soon, and “Christmas craziness” (which is not necessarily a bad thing, but just the reality of the season) is certainly settling in at school. While I’ve been pretty good all year long with getting out of the classroom for at least part of one of the nutrition breaks, lately I’ve found myself leaving the room for just 5-10 minutes at most. There’s just so much going on — many absolutely wonderful things included in this — and leaving seems harder than usual. Yesterday, was one of those days when leaving just wasn’t happening. I left the classroom for a total of 10 minutes: such little time that when my teaching partner, Paula, told me after school that a child had a bathroom accident, I wondered, “How did I manage to miss that?!” 🙂 (It turned out to be just as I left the second time around. Lucky timing perhaps. 🙂 ) With Crock-A-Doodle Ornament Decorating Day combined with my no prep day (and on a Friday, no less), I was definitely prepared for a little extra activity. What I wasn’t prepared for was my interaction in the hallway. 

I was on my way back to the classroom at the end of the first nutrition break, and I ran into  a child that I know in the hallway. Another educator was just behind me, and she seemed to be following the child. That’s when I stopped and looked at the student, and realized by his body language and eyes (it looked like he had been crying) that he was upset. Thinking about some of Stuart Shanker‘s work, my impression was that this child was incredibly dysregulated. I figured that the person behind me was keeping an eye on this student, but knowing the child, I thought that just one mistimed comment or abrupt action would likely send him running. What could I do? 

I started to think about the Seven Norms of Collaboration, and how Paula often uses paraphrasing to get kids talking. Could this work here? It was worth a try. I looked over at the little boy, and I said, “Billy * (* name changed here for privacy reasons), you look really sad. What’s wrong?” He looked at me and said, “I am. I wanted to go to the library. I always go to the library, but it’s closed today. Now I have to go to the gym. I don’t want to go to the gym.” Yay! He was talking to me. “Oh Billy. I can understand why that might make you sad. I like going to the library too. Maybe it will be open later, and you can go then.” He liked the thought that this might be the case, and seemed to soften a little. “Maybe it will,” he said. I then asked, “Do you want to take a breath with me? Breathing makes me feel better.” He said that he did, and so we stood in the hallway and took a couple of deep breaths together. He even reached for my hand, and we held hands for a minute while we breathed. We were pretty close to a water fountain at the time, and I knew that Billy needed to still walk further before he ended up where he needed to go. There was still time to run, and I didn’t want him to run. He seemed calmer, but was he calm enough? I said, “Do you want a drink of water before you keep going? Water makes me feel better too.” He did, and so we both stopped for a drink at the fountain. At this point, the educator that was behind me was now standing with us. “Do you want to come with me, Billy?,” she asked. He slowly started to smile and reached for her hand.

Crisis averted. Trajectory possibly changed. No matter how much I may think about Self-Reg, and everything that I learned through Foundations 1, I still make a lot of mistakes. Sometimes despite my best of intentions, I end up escalating behaviour instead of de-escalating it and/or missing the signs of that dysregulated child or adult. But sometimes it’s different when you’re an outsider. Sometimes it helps to see things through fresh eyes: removed from the situation, but in-tuned with the individual. This was what happened yesterday. As I walked back to class, I did so with the knowledge that, “Today I made a difference.” Was it this very heart-warming thought that helped me make it through some ornament making stressors? I think that it might have been. In the end, I wonder if this child helped me just as much — if not more — than I helped him. Heading into the school week before the holiday break, let’s all remember the extra stressors at play, and how one kind word, listening ear, gentle touch, or softer tone may make a difference for a child that’s immersed in “Christmas craziness” and the routine changes that this brings. Hallways are busy places. It’s easy to stay focused on the movement from Point A to Point B, and miss everything in between. What might happen though if each day this week, we stopped and connected with one child? An unexpected child. A child that might need us most of all. How might our perceptions of this child change? How might the actions of this child change? We all have five days to make a difference. This is my goal for the week. Who’s with me?


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