I have unshakable faith in children. They always show me the way. ♥

Monday, June 15, 2009

structure... taken away

Today was our school's annual Field Day. Classes start at one game and move through stations every 12-15 minutes for a little under three hours. It's exhausting. It's hot. And it's very, very fun.

This was the first Field Day in several years, though, that I didn't have fun. Even though the children had practiced some of the games in PE, even though we divided ourselves into teams of five (even with little colored yarn ties around each child's wrist to help them remember), and even with a little strategy for one team to split if there were to be four teams instead of five... Even with a practiced "two whistle" signal from my whistle, even with a map looked at (well) ahead of time... even with several different lead up days with time for any and all questions the children had...

It was a hard day.

The kids mostly had fun, I would say. Also, luckily, we started and ended with a couple of fun water-relay games, which always put a big smile on people's faces. But, personally, I was miserable for most of it. Children were getting frustrated with games and taking it out on their teammates. Children weren't showing the empathy or respect for others that they have become so masterful at this year. I spent a large portion of the time redirecting children -- redirecting, redirecting, redirecting...

In our school, we spend a lot of energy on Previewing experiences -- we talk about what it will look like, what it will sound like... we discuss and practice how we will handle things that come up that aren't desirable, we talk about how to be assertive in situations like that, and we talk about how to celebrate and share joy in ourselves and in others. With 12 minutes at each place and 2 minutes to get there, we didn't have time to do that between stations.

My class is a particularly needy class this year (I did just reread this post from the beginning of the year again) and today they only had me going through this brand new experience of Field Day with them. Looking back on today and this year as a whole (and yes, there is a glass of wine here with me as I write this), it hit me just how much routine and consistency I built into the school day for the children. Not because I'm some sort of consistency or structure guru, but because they needed it. With that structure, they were able to be incredibly successful and independent. We did a lot of work together this year; we learned and laughed and thought and wondered.

But when all that structure was taken away, even with our relationships and the strength of our community, it fell apart. It was as though we were learning it all over again.

It was a hard day.

And I do wonder... what is there *to* be done for days like this? There will always be times when a predictable routine will need to change -- and the children were just happy, relaxed and quiet at the end of the day, remembering some of their favorite times from Field Day. I don't think it's necessary or even desirable to *not* have days like this. We need them! I just wonder what additional structure can be built in to make it even more successful for everyone.

Any thoughts?

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