What also happens here?

Just over a month ago, I wrote this post: The Part That is True It is about a boy named “Harry” and how he learns, what he needs and how he is viewed. It is about how we honour each child. About adult judgement. About asking ourselves as educators: Is my classroom safe and inclusive for all learners?

I wrote this post because I needed to write it. I needed to put what I was feeling into words and I needed to strengthen my resolve to continue advocating for all of the children like Harry who will walk through my classroom door and be a part of my life. That this post spoke to so many others was more than encouraging. The comments and feedback gave me hope and allowed me to engage with so many about how we work with the children in our classrooms.

But something else happened. Some teachers contacted me privately and talked about their struggles to support some of the students in their room. It wasn’t about the child so much as the system. The lack of supports. Other staff who didn’t share their philosophy. They talked about overwhelming needs, safety concerns and children who are experiencing a lot of stress.

Two things struck me. One, always the frustration was not about the child. Two, we don’t often talk about this. At least not out in the open.

Why?

Part of it is that so many of us who are sharing about what happens in our classrooms and schools, focus on the positive. And so we should. We highlight and showcase the wonderful. This speaks to our optimism. Our ability to find joy in the everyday landscape of a learning community. It is where we start each day and what we carry with us to be able to keep doing and loving this work.

Another part is that by talking about our struggles with upset and behaviour, we are cautious. We want to protect privacy. We don’t want to judge. We don’t want to tell the story that sometimes things are really hard. Because even though it is about what children do, we know it is about so much more.

And I think we also feel in some ways like it is an admission of not being able to cope. That if things are challenging, we are not managing. It takes large amounts of inner strength to take a breath in the middle of a child’s “outburst” and say, “This is about so much more than me.” And then to take charge, ensure safety, and help to keep everyone’s self worth intact.

It is easy to think this isn’t happening in other classrooms. I consistently share moments of happiness and joy and celebration. But the truth is that there is also drama and trauma.

Honestly, sometimes I read blog posts from other educators and think, wow. Wow, but how do they do that? I can’t get there because of things that are going on. Like the challenges transitioning back in from recess. The child who can’t manage change and is under the desk. The child who won’t come on that beautiful nature walk and so we all need to go back inside because we don’t have the staff to supervise everyone. From the conversations I have been having with other educators, other people are feeling exactly the same thing. They are also making the assumption that the struggles are not happening in these other classrooms that are so full of learning and passion.

My classroom is where beautiful learning happens. Joy. Happiness. Growth.

But, what also happens here?

Sometimes large amounts of upset. Aggression. Crying. Screaming. Hiding. Under the table. Behind a shelf. In the cloakroom. Running out of the room. Refusing to come in from outside. Games get thrown to the ground. A carefully constructed tower is kicked over. There has been biting. Pushing. Pinching. A few times we have had to get everyone out of the room and call for help to deescalate a child.

Those things also happen. In my room.

This post is not about all of these questions: Why? Who is responsible? How do we fix it? Those are big questions that I am not tackling now.

 What also happens here? Talking about what we don't often talk about - the fact that there can be outbursts and behaviour challenges in our classrooms. There's a Book for That

This post is just to remind us all that we are not alone. As we teach and learn and work with children – through the joy and the challenges, we are all in this together.

 

Dear New Student

Hey teachers . . . . What would your students highlight if asked to share about their classroom? I was delighted to see what my students mentioned when I asked.

 Dear New Student - There's a Book for That!

The task? Write a note to a fictitious new student. What would someone new to our room need/want to know?

Dear New Student:

“My friends are so nice to me in this class. I love my teachers and all of our helpers and visitors. I love all of the books! They are special and calm. I play with my friends but not all of the time! We go to the carpet for read alouds. I love math. It is so fun and it makes me happy.”  Kelvin

 Dear New Student - There's a Book for That!

“We are so nice that your heart will break. And we listen. We do art too. You will get smarter in this classroom. You will meet different students in Seymour School. You must have a big brain. We do singing at school.” Kala

 Dear New Student - There's a Book for That!

“This classroom has lots of books like chapters, board books, picture books. So if you don’t know this, this is not the class for you! Get reading!” Ava

 Dear New Student - There's a Book for That!

“We do mindful breathing three times a day. At the class meeting, we say something we are grateful for. Sometimes, I say I am grateful for my friends.” Vicky

 Dear New Student - There's a Book for That!

“Be polite at people. Be nice. Do reading groups. Do your job like cleaning up if it is the end of the day. I love math. I love books too! Did you know that we do mindful breathing 3 times a day? You could read a book many times.” Kevin

 Dear New Student - There's a Book for That!

“We always come to the carpet for a story after lunch. We do art every week. We do a gratitude circle. You say something special when you got the gratitude stone. Sometime I say I am grateful for my family. BLG readers come every Wednesday. There are lots of books in our classroom. I like to read Jack Stalwart series, Stink books, Owly and Captain Awesome.” Heman

 Dear New Student - There's a Book for That!

“I’m Gracie. I just wanted to let you know that we do quiet time. And Ms. Gelson has a library in her classroom! She loves loves loves reading. We have an art gallery in our classroom too. On Thursdays we have class meetings. But what you really have to know is that . . . WE LOVE READING!” Gracie

 Dear New Student - There's a Book for That!

So while these letters started off to an imaginary new student, in the end they turned out to be little pieces of writing I treasure.

Yes, the book love is transferring! Students love a room full of books and time to read. Our daily mindful breathing features big. Math is fun! Learning and community are front and centre!

This is a classroom we are proud of and ready to share – so . . . Dear new student, if you arrived, we would welcome you!