Though there has certainly still been a chill in the air, spring has definitely sprung. The majority of the year is behind us. In fact, I believe we only have twenty more days together in 1M. I admit, usually someone tells me but this year I counted. But only because someone asked. ☺
Each spring a strange occurrence takes over classrooms. You will hear teachers all over the nation say, “Haven’t we gone over this ‘a million’ times before?” The spring is a strange time. I always feel as if we are suddenly on warp speed. The days seem to pass by faster and faster. Things are coming to an end and although six and seven year olds’ sense of time still has a lot of growth to be had (any family with a vacation in the future knows this: Are we leaving yet? Are we leaving yet?), their keen senses have picked up on these transitions in their future. Some girls have already been anticipating change for weeks. At the end of this letter I have included some snippets of a blog entry by author and educator Chip Wood. Teachers everywhere shout out, ”Yes! That is what is happening,” after reading his words on many topics, especially this subject.
Mr. Woods articulates what is fairly typical and developmentally appropriate at this time of year. I have been working hard to keep the class in the moment and not get ahead of ourselves - thinking too much about second grade or even summer plans. Discussions around placement also activate anxiety about the change ahead. I often hear many questions, “Will my friends be there?” “Who will my teacher be?” “Will the rules be the same?” “Will I have as much fun?” and on and on. September is very, very far away and it is such a long time for your daughter to be worrying about what will happen. Sometimes even the thought of fun summer plans can cause the anxiety to creep up. Although it seems like tons of summer fun, many of the same questions apply. Although some days it seems that the class cannot remember some of our simple daily routines, the truth is that they know. They know what to expect, they know the rules, they know their teachers, they know where they are going each day, and they know their friends. It is hard for them to realize that you are not going to know. I often compare starting a new grade to an adult starting a new job. Well, your daughter knows there is a “career change” ahead and it may make her nervous. Let’s not let your daughters dwell on it too much. This is a time for reassurance and focus on the day ahead.
It is also a time to focus on doing our best and getting back to the basics that make the class productive and joyful. However much I have this spring disequilibrium in my consciousness, it somehow even takes me by surprise each year. It kind of feels like a train derailing for a moment and then you realize, “Aha, time to get this back on track. Time to let these girls know that expectations are the same and for at least these next twenty days they will be experiencing the comfort of their familiar classroom.”
And, that is where we are. Twenty days together that I plan to be productive, enlightening, joyful and busy. There are so many exciting events to look forward to: Grandparents and Special Friends Day, an African Market, End of Year First Grade Party, and being an audience for the 4th grade move up day. You can always direct your daughter to think of these exciting activities if she is focusing too much on the summer or next school year.
If your daughter is asking questions or having anxiety about the changes ahead or you are wondering if she is, please feel free to speak with me. I am happy to help answer any questions and ease her worry.
A bit from Chip:
Spring transitions call for more structure, not less
As highlighted in my last blog entry, it’s that time of year when there’s more to do then there is time to do it. No one feels the anxiety of this more than the children in our classrooms, and the children who feel it most intensely are those facing the greatest challenges. Whether we are a parent of one of these most needy kids or one of their teachers, we’ll begin to see what I call “summer anxiety” bloom earlier in spring in them than in the other children. As when we see a crocus emerging from the snow or the first daffodil, we’re often surprised to see the behavior of our early harbingers of things to come. Perhaps from a rough start at the beginning of the school year, this child has made significant progress academically and socially, thanks to the combined efforts of teachers, staff, and parents working and communicating together around puzzling academic struggles and the ups and downs of friendship patterns. The child has shown courage in reaching out to a new student who has come into the class and finally seems to have a close classmate.
But not long after spring break, many of these gains, on the surface, seem to disappear. Old patterns of work refusal and anger on the playground surface. When the new friend plays with other classmates, the child refuses to come in from recess.
This is a signal, a red flag if you will. With the keen adaptive sensitivity that so many of our neediest children possess, the child who has benefited so remarkably from the clear structures, supports, and predictability of classroom routines and practices has sensed that the structures are disappearing. Things are beginning to feel different. There’s too much going on. Essentially, the message is that in the last weeks of the school year we need more structure, not less. This is the time to tighten up so that we do not lose all that we’ve gained. We need to make sure we can take time during these final weeks to cherish each of the children we’re about to pass on. So, paradoxically, we must go back to beginnings, help children remember all the basic rules of our classroom, of kindness, of academic rigor, of how to be good school citizens in the halls, on the playground, in the cafeteria