Returning to school after winter break can be fraught with emotion. The children are thrilled to see each other, but are often grumpy and sad as well. The excitement that began in October with Halloween and built through the holidays and vacation break has peaked. Children and adults are feeling somewhat deflated. While they are happy to see their friends, easing back into classroom routines and rules may take some adjusting.
Once past the resistance of returning and leaving behind months of excitement, I’m always amazed to witness how much the children have grown. Developmental tasks that were still being mastered pre-vacation have been completed.
I pondered how to develop their awareness of their changes and decided I’d begin with the beloved Expressive Arts Train.
While I often reconfigure the train, I had never done so in this particular way with benches forward and back, sandwiching small chairs facing each other.
They were delighted by this small surprise. We began a discussion of “what’s different” while still riding the train. In doing so we were transitioning from classroom to expressive arts room; from extended time at home to back to school.
Just before I gave the signal to de-board with “1, 2, 3—go play!” I asked them to look around the room. What was different? They spread out over the room to discover what was new or changed.
Several children noticed that the witch’s house/jail no longer had a door.
A child suggested that because the witch no longer scared them, she didn’t need to be locked up in a jail or taped into her house. With this observation, we transitioned the conversation to inner changes. The children spoke about changed feelings and what no longer scared them.
They talked about being able to do things they hadn’t before vacation. I volunteered my own thoughts from the changes I had seen in their behavior: being kind friends, working out problems with more ease, imagining a wider range of solutions.
My silent noticing was turned into verbal appreciation of the children’s growth. Having them become aware of the changes that came from their efforts helps develop the habit of self-appreciation.
Ease into the return. It is not only the children, but teachers who have enjoyed more time with family or a change of environment and also need time to adjust.
Have some new materials available, but also bring out the old favorites and see if they use them in different ways. You might encourage or scaffold with:
- How else can we use these art supplies? What if you turned an oil pastel on its side?
- Rearranging the furniture can create a delightful surprise.
- Play the “what’s different game"
It’s a new year, a new start. I intend to enter with a sense of fun and gratitude. Hopefully this will not be another new year’s resolution that fades away, but an attitude I nurture throughout the year.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!