While yesterday, the first big day back after vacation, your little friends may have been fabulous (read: too tired from the shock of having to wake up early that they didn't have the energy to bother with any of the usual shenanigans), today may be a totally different story.
Reality #1: You are so tired, you could cry. You have no idea where all that extra sleep you stored up over vacation has gone. Where is that rested feeling and how the hell did it disappear so quickly? And how did things get so crazy so fast?
Reality #2: Your friends are now well rested. In just one night. Those little bodies adjust quickly! But suddenly, it's like the first few weeks of school all over again. Some of your friends are acting like they've never spent a minute in your classroom, like they don't know the routine, are suddenly asking to go to the bathroom every five minutes, shouting "I'm done!", poking at each other, arguing like siblings and generally driving you insane. Where is your well oiled machine?
Reality #3: It is January. JAN-U-ARY. We are just about at the half way point...hundredth day is next month(-ish for most of you). There is so much to cover! So much progress to make! It is time to buckle down and get your groove on!! You maybe start to sweat a little...
Little to no outdoor recess = most negative, whiny, most disgruntled class ever.
So what to do? What to do?
Turn into an evil witch and lay the smack down? Ugh. Exhausting. And overly mean.
Curl up in a ball in the back of the room? Tempting, but not practical. And really, is there possibly a space in the room where you could curl up and NOT be wondering if a mouse had peed there?
Figure if you can't beat 'em, join 'em and begin to whine, argue, and misbehave yourself? Uh, that could get embarrassing real fast. Plus, pretty sure we're supposed to be the examples...
Here's something I tried after vacation which worked like a charm, plus a few other positive reinforcement ideas that may just a) get your friends to remember where the heck they are and who they are dealing with, b) encourage cooperation, kindness and positivity and/or c) not make you feel like crap:
(I know, I'm about to give advice again...this whole productive blogging thing is starting to grow on me!)
Idea #1: (And my personal fave)
Cut out a bunch of large shapes. They can be any shape you want (I loved a thematic shape....hearts for upcoming V-day, mittens for winters, whatevs) just make sure they are big enough to write a sentence that can be clearly read once you hang it from the ceiling. Punch holes in the top of the shapes and tie on yarn of varying lengths. Position several pads of Post It notes (you know, the fabulous new ones you got in your stocking???) around the room and possibly in your pocket. Tell your friends that you are going to be a Detective who is looking for acts of random kindness and leadership around the classroom. When you catch someone, you are going to write what they did on a shape and hang it from the ceiling for everyone to see. Make sure you role play a bit, explaining that children who do something nice and then tell you about it or clearly act like leaders just to get their name on a shape DON'T COUNT. You are a detective and want to CATCH them when they think no one is looking. For the next few days, spend a few minutes just observing your friends work. Jot down random kindnesses or acts of leadership. At lunch/a free period/after school write the child's name and what they did on a shape. (For example, "Curly loaned Bubbles a pencil during math." "Glasses helped Big Boy with his writing.") Hang shapes immediately. Kids will go nuts when they come back into the classroom and fall all over themselves to get their names up there. Bonus: simultaneous room beautification. Cha-ching.
NOTE: I've done this after vacation, and then brought back the idea in the spring with a different theme. Last year, I cut out shamrocks and told them I'm going to be a Connections Detective looking for friends who were making connections across our learning.
Find a pretty picture/photograph/drawing. Using a black marker, draw puzzle piece shapes on the picture/photograph/drawing and cut into puzzle pieces. On another piece of paper, write a prize for the class. In the past, I've done things like a class movie and popcorn, class pizza party, extra recess with indoor games or free art time for the class. Reassemble the pieces over the prize so it's a secret. Tell your friends that if they have a kind and productive day, that you will take away a puzzle piece at the end of the day. If and when they do get a piece removed, try to have some examples of why it was removed or ask your friends to name some great things that happened that day. We're talking five minutes with backpacks on before dismissal, not a thirty minute ceremony here. When all the pieces are gone, the class gets the prize that lies behind! Par-tay!
Same basic principal as number two, only it involves a jar. Establish some sort of class prize. Find a big old jar. Find something to fill it with (cotton balls, unifix cubes, those plastic teddy bear county things, whatever). Throughout the day or at the end of the day, decide whether or not your friends have earned a cotton ball/ cube/ etc, giving specific reasons why or why not. Maybe they can earn one cotton ball a day, maybe they can earn several throughout the day...dude, it's your classroom. When the jar is filled, they earn the class prize. I've had a brave Super Colleague use this idea religiously every year so that her class could earn a fish...brave woman. Remind me to tell you about my trials with class pets sometime.
I think three is good, right? Three is manageable. Or maybe three is all you can suffer through if you're thinking, where are all the pee jokes and douche-references? Don't worry, I'm going back to the vault to dig up some old stories from the past....much Classic Mimi to come. After all, we have 26 more days of this sort of togetherness.
And scene on post number 5.