Monday, December 5, 2016

I Control the Weather

“I’ve come to a frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or dehumanized.” - Haim G. Ginott

After four years as a literacy coach, there are some things I'm relearning in my return to the classroom.  This is one of those things.  As teachers, it's easy to get caught up in all of the "stuff" that we need to do that may or may not be part of our work in our classrooms with our kids:  attending meetings, reading (both books for kids and books for ourselves), doing report cards, filling out paperwork, reading and answering emails... the list feels endless.

And in December, the stuff feels compounded because we know we have things that MUST be finished before we leave for our two week winter break.

And on top of that, kids come back from Thanksgiving week acting as if they've never heard our classroom expectations, meaning we have to take about ten steps back and reintroduce classroom rules and routines.

One day last week, a girl in my class asked if I needed to borrow her stress ball.

This was a HUGE sign to me that I needed to step out into the hallway, take a deep breath, and re-connect with my vision of my dream classroom.  I needed to clear away the fog, blow away the storm clouds, and let the sunshine break through.  Last week was a clear indicator to me that the kids follow my lead.  Of course they were out of sorts, trying to figure their way through a busy week - their teacher was doing the same.  I was indeed stressed out, thinking of all of the tasks that had yet to be ticked off my list and worrying about what would happen if I didn't get them all done.  Over the weekend, I made some promises to myself and to my students (though they don't know it):

  • I will take time each day, even if it's just twenty minutes, to do something just for me.  Self-care is often the very last line item on my to-do list, and I can tell when I don't take care of my mental and physical well-being;
  • I will PRIORITIZE my to-do lists and work hard to make my daily list realistic.  Just because there are 57 things I need to do over the course of a week, there's no reason to list all 57 every day.  I'm the kind of person who gets overwhelmed when I have too many things to do and I become paralyzed.  There's a fine line between organized and overwhelmed;
  • I will breathe.  I know that sounds a bit dismissive, but I do forget to slow down and take deep breaths.  It's almost as if my shoulders have strings attached to them, and over the course of the day someone pulls those strings to that my shoulders end up around my ears.  When I breathe, I relax and feel more like myself;
  • I will SLOW DOWN and focus on the young learners in front of me.  They, after all, are the reason I'm there.  They'll only be in third grade once, and they're counting on me to do my best to help them learn.  When I'm focused on those eighteen young people, I can't help but smile and laugh.  And laughter is catching.

So I'll make it through the next two and a half weeks.  We'll make it through.  And we'll enjoy the weather along the way.