I always used to think that feelings were easy. Kids should be able to learn how to identify and recognize their feelings. What does it look like to be happy, sad, scared, or mad? How do you feel inside? When I took the Foundations 1 course a couple of years ago now, Stuart Shanker and Susan Hopkins shared a video about the complexity of feelings. While I understood their points, I still thought, “We can teach students to notice and name their feelings.” The skill of “noticing and naming” is a key component of the Kindergarten Program Document. If it can work for Language and Math, it should be able to work for Self-Reg. Maybe even to a degree it can, but a recent experience made me realize that I underestimated the complexity of feelings.
Last night, my teaching partner, Paula, and I shared the news with the staff and parent community that we will be leaving Rousseau and going to work at a different school for next year. This school will be the eighth one that I’ve taught at. As I’ve mentioned in blog posts before, I’ve taught every grade from Kindergarten to Grade 6 in some capacity. Change, at least in education, is something that I embrace. I think that it helps us grow as educators, and I know without a doubt, that I’m a better teacher now because of the many changes that I’ve made. That said, change doesn’t get easier.
I don’t work isolated in a corner office. My days are spent with kids, parents, and other educators and administrators, who I truly admire. You get to know things about all of these people. In my recent blog post on partnerships, I wrote about the many things that I’ve learned about my teaching partner, Paula. But I’ve also learned so many things about our families and children.
- Who likes the quick drop-off, and who’s looking for the conversation?
- Which kids need the morning check-in the most?
- Who was playing basketball, soccer, baseball, or hockey last night? How did they do?
- Who likes the hug, and who wants some quiet time alone?
- Who needs the suggestion of how to extend their work, and who will do so without any suggestions?
- Who likes to lie down, who needs to stand up high, and who is drawn to a table to work?
- Who is all about sensory play, and what sensory play works for them?
- Who needs a friend? What friend will work?
- Who needs an item from home? Where is it, and how can we use it?
Each question here makes me think about different children, different parents, and different needs. And each one brings me some happiness as well as that lump in my throat realizing that soon, we will be saying, “goodbye.”
Kindergarten is complicated. We all have JK/SK splits, and with a two-year program, whenever someone leaves, you will always be leaving someone else behind. Having left so many schools before, I know that children really are resilient. I know that each and every one of the students that we love so very much will be absolutely fine next year with a new educator team, but I’m still going to miss them.
Here we go off to a new school, with some people that we know and many that are new. We’re excited about the new opportunities, but sad to say, “goodbye.” We’re happy to meet our new classes and parents, but unsure if we’ll be together or apart, and how that might feel. Next year, we will likely be challenged to extend our team beyond classroom walls and with many more educators involved. This is both thrilling and terrifying. What’s the name for that emotion? And so, for all those kids over the years, where I got frustrated that they couldn’t understand, couldn’t identify, or couldn’t show specific emotions, I apologize. I now understand. Feelings aren’t packed up in neat little boxes, and in the coming months, I think that we’re going to experience all kinds of complex feelings. How do you support these challenging emotions? As the year comes to an end, there are sure to be many of them — from students, educators, administrators, and parents alike — and maybe these feelings are WAY more than just happy or sad.