“Gray skies are gonna clear up, put on a happy face!” ~ Bye Bye Birdie
Brrr! Here in the lovely land of Chi-town, a blizzard has hit. It is the third-worst snow in Chicago history. The mounds of snow are piled chest high, and the temperature is 30 below with the wind chill. The only redemption is the shining sun and clear, blue skies!
As I navigated through snow piles as tall as my car, I reflected upon my current situation. There is a blizzard in my classroom — a blustery storm of activity and adjustment. The white piles of paper rival the snow drifts outside. The remnant scraps on the floor from cutting out hundreds of Boardmaker pictures and file folder games look like the snowflakes blowing across the icy parking lot. And the mood of my classroom? Not nearly as sunny as the bright, but frigid, day outside.
My classroom has evolved once more (but then again, if things stayed the same, where would the fun be?). It seems as if every two months there is a major shift in my roster. We had only just gotten settled in when I received two new students within three days in October. The holidays passed with hustle and bustle, and now two more new students have started within a week of each other. So my classroom is in a state of flux again.
No two students have any similarities; if this were a game of special ed bingo, every square for every type of personality would be filled. In my humble opinion, this makes my room the most fun class in the school — but it also makes it a challenge.
I plan my classroom so that ideally any student could come in and achieve success, and that approach is being tested daily. I have had to design new curriculums for one of my new friends, hence all the Boardmaker and file folder games (though I will say, putting new ideas in place for one student is benefiting all my students). The students who have been here the longest are adapting to my attention being split two more ways (a great lesson in fractions). My assistants and I are in danger of carpal tunnel syndrome: We cut, Velcro, and create every spare minute before and after school.
This is the winter of the school year — not because of the temperature outside, but because cabin fever has set in. Most of my students’ moods are as gray as the clouds outside. Indoor recesses have taken their toll; if my students could climb the walls, they would! The stresses of their home lives are catching up with them in this long stretch between the holidays and spring break. Most of my students have had a rough go of it recently; stress has a way of trickling down to the littlest members of my room and affecting them in ways that show up daily. Rather than crying because they have to come to school, many cry when they have to go home. I’m making promises that Cupid and leprechauns are watching, just like Santa (I’m grasping at straws). Their morale needs a boost that only warm breezes and afternoons outside can cure. As one little friend puts it, “I have a storm in my head.”
As for me, I’m trying to quiet their storms and lead by the example of “Let’s fake it ‘til we make it!” Like any season, we know the weather will change if we can just ride it out. Sunshine will push away our stormy moods. The seeds I am planting now will pop up as new coping skills, strategies, and academic prowess, just like the flowers will soon pop up outside.
And in two more months, who knows where we might be?