Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Day Twenty Seven: Thankful for a Fun Day at School to Celebrate a Five Day Break


Starting today, I have five days off work.  I don't go back until next Monday, and when I go back it will be December already.  Which means, this break from work has to be Thanksgiving Break.  And it is.  I say it that way simply because time has gone by so fast that I'm having a hard time believing that it's already time for Thanksgiving and that there is only three more weeks until Christmas.  Crazy!!

The day before a break, I usually break out of my shell just a little and try to have a good time.  I figured that it would be hard, yesterday, because the past week I've been quite the cranky pants.  I've been trying with everything inside of me to fight away the Fall Fever that made it's way in to my classroom and turned several of my students against doing any form of work the second week of November.  

I've never understood the whole fall, spring, and summer fevers that often plague the classrooms.  I don't understand why kids think that just because a break is coming up, that they can switch their minds off a week earlier and that not a whole lot will really be required of them.  It's frustrating...really frustrating.  Because it makes me come off like some evil villain from a Disney movie.  They go home and tell their parents that I'm mean and don't care about them because, heaven forbid, I still give them homework a whole week before Thanksgiving break...AND expect them to do it!!  How evil of me, right?

And it's been pretty bad this year. I've had several of the usual "forgetting" of homework situations, and the looks of shock when I ask the class where a certain assignment is with retorts of "we had to finish that?"  But, I've also had an outbreak of downright defiance.  Refusal to do work or do it the way I ask it to be done.  I got to the point where I was thinking of banning any form of fill in the blank or multiple choice questions because some of my kids decided that randomly plugging in words or coloring answer choices without reading the questions would be acceptable.  And then, of course, they got upset when they failed the assignment and I still took a grade on it.

But, yesterday, I decided that we would all go in to the break by clearing the air, having a little heart to heart, and me discussing why I've been such a cranky pants the past couple of weeks.

I started with the explanation of my thoughts of Fall Fever.  I explained how teachers look forward to breaks just as much as students do, yet if we decided to just stop working two weeks early, and not require the students to do any work...we'd get in big trouble.  I also explained that there are only 170 days in a school year for teachers to teach our students everything they need to know in order to go on to the next grade.  If we took out a couple of weeks before every break to just goof off, then none of our kids would be ready...and they'd have to stay in that grade another year just so they could learn all the stuff they needed to know.  I explained that as long as we had to get up, drive to work, and be in the classroom all day, then we might as well knock out as much learning as we can... cause it sure would be nice to have a class of kids that aren't just ready for 5th grade, but more than ready.

I also decided to explain to my class what's been going on with me outside of the classroom.  They knew I was dealing with some kind of personal emergency, but they had no idea what.  I decided it was only right to fill them in and help them understand why I've gotten teary eyed at the drop of a hat, why I've had to miss a couple days of work even though I show up to work with no voice or with a cold, and why I've been a little more sensitive and short tempered than I usually would be.  Even during situations of laziness or defiance.  And when I explained the whole story, I was very shocked to see several teary eyes looking back at me.  I was shocked at some of the reactions.  Some looked shocked, some looked sad, others looked guilty or ashamed...and I can only put that down to the fact that those guilty and ashamed looks came from the students that have given me the toughest time the past couple of weeks, and they were feeling pretty bad about it.

It felt good to be honest with my kids.  I didn't do it for sympathy or because I was looking for remorse.  I did it because I believe my kids have a right to know what's causing their teacher to act a little differently... especially when it helps bring them some relief that it wasn't just them causing some of my teary outbreaks and moments of frustration.  

Once I got that all out of the way, I told them that we were going to spend the day doing a fun Thanksgiving activity.  I had already told them that they could bring pajamas, and that after lunch we could all change in to them and spend the afternoon relaxing around the room and reading.  I call it a "Read-In".  Last year, my kids loved it when we had a read-in.  I wasn't so sure that my class this year would be as excited, but they were.

All morning, we worked on coming up with a writing piece discussing three things the kids are most thankful for.  They had no idea, but they were actually on their way to writing a five paragraph essay on the topic.  I may not have a class full of kids that love reading this year, but I do have a class full of kids that love to write.  So, I knew that coming up with five paragraphs would be easy sailing for them.  And, it also helped me realize how much my kids are willing to work when there's some kind of fun theme attached to it.  Food for thought as I start to prepare plans for the next few weeks, me thinks.

After lunch and specials, the kids came back to the classroom, we all changed in to our pajamas (yes, me included), and several asked if they could continue writing instead of reading.  I said that was fine.  I had several kids that wanted to lay around on a blanket or beanbag and just read... but the kids that decided to continue writing did exactly that.  Once they were finished writing, editing, and rewriting their papers, they made the most adorable little pumpkin centerpieces to store their essays.  Those are what are pictured in the picture up top.  

The kids cut 9 strips of orange construction paper, wrote "I'm Thankful For _________" sentences on each strip filling in the blank with whatever they wanted to.  We then connected the top and bottom strips with a staples, added a couple of leaves with their names and the date, put a curled green ribbon on top for cuteness, put their paper rolled up like a scroll through the pumpkin, and adorable pumpkin thankful centerpiece for Thanksgiving.

The kids that made them were very proud of their creations.  

It felt good knowing that the kids were all leaving knowing that I do love them, I am very thankful for them, and that I wanted them to have an awesome break and come back to me ready to get back in to the swing of things.  Regardless of Christmas only being three weeks away once they come back.

And today, I am very thankful that I got to leave that way.  I am thankful that I now get five days off to spend with my family, having an awesome Thanksgiving dinner with them, getting our new Christmas tree put up, and starting our Christmas traditions off the way we normally do. 

I plan on doing some work over these few days, and some shopping, and some relaxing, and some cleaning.  I will NOT be attending any Black Friday sales...not deliberately anyway.  I will go out on Saturday and see if I can snag up some bargains that are left over.  I have a child to shop for that our class selected from the Angel Tree.  My plan is to buy everything off of his list, and my awesome kids raised almost $25 to help with that.  I know that doesn't sound like much, but it really is...for them.  And the amount isn't important AT ALL, it's knowing that they were all willing to help as much as they could.  

OK...that's it for me today... I have a Thanksgiving meal to start preparing.

Have an amazing Thanksgiving Eve, everyone...and take a few moments to be thankful for something. Anything.  Because I have learned over these past 27 days that I have SOOOOO much to be thankful for, and I don't think about it near as often as I should.


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