Saturday, February 2, 2019

Winter Blues

We're over halfway through our school year, signaled by my many Facebook friends who have children creating hundred day projects and sharing them to all. And yet, I don't need a calendar to tell me that, I can see that we've hit the long stretch of the year when I look at my middle school students. After three years in middle school, like clockwork, we've entered the time I call the winter blues. It can go by many names, but essentially it is that long stretch of January through mid-March where my seventh graders act like children that have been bottled up inside of a one-room cabin all winter long and they are dying to break free.

Yeah, like that. 

Add to it this past week the forecast of crazy low temperatures and you had a recipe for disaster. All day Tuesday I fielded questions from kids and their parents alike, 

Would we have school Wednesday? 
What did I think about Thursday? 
Could we possibly be out Friday too or, too much to hope for, would we get out early Tuesday? 

After teaching in elementary school for sixteen years, Tuesday in middle school reminded me of any holiday in elementary school where my students had too much sugar. They were shaken pop bottles looking for release.

And they found it in all sorts of places I wished they wouldn't, in all ways I wished they wouldn't. There were times of too much "contact,", too many heated exchanges, basically the entire day could be summed up in the phrase "too much." 

The day stretched on, the forecast looked bleak, we realized we would not be out early Tuesday and we soldiered on. 

I taught comprehension lessons in reading, we read the picture book Float and my students educated me about why it reminded them of Stephen King's It, we watched THIS clip on a high school wrestler from CBS, and we read and wrote together. 

There were absolutely moments where I was close to loosing my cool. At one point I looked at my principal when she came in my room to ask me something and she smiled and said, "All they can focus on is that there might be no school tomorrow." 

I took a breath and remembered. I remembered being twelve and thirteen, in seventh grade, when all that mattered to me was my friends. I remembered the excitement of a snow day, the drama of school, the heartbreak of trying to fit in. I remembered the confusion that is puberty, the times I felt like a grown-up in a kid's body, the times I felt like a kid in a grown-up's body. And I remembered how hard it was, how scary, and I took another breath.

Tenth hour the kids I have eighth hour come back to me. We were beginning book groups and one boy needed to switch groups. I could tell he was extremely anxious because he worried he wouldn't catch up to where everyone else was. I was worried that his anxiety would lead him down a path filled with poor choices. So, I grabbed his book and sat down beside him and asked if he wanted me to read for awhile, to help him get caught up. You could physically see his body relax and he nodded yes and I began.

For the last thirty minutes of the day our classroom was filled with words. Kids meeting in book groups/ partnerships and discussing their books. Kids reading to each other if they so desired, getting that night's reading done, and my voice as I read this book to my student. We stopped along the way, discussing the characters, checking in to make sure he understood, then moved on.

At 3:20 the bell rang. My students began to clean up, then we heard a loud WOOP from the hall, then another, then another. With big eyes, we all looked at each other, as I made my way to the door to make sure bedlam hadn't descended on the hallway. When I reached it we learned that school had been called for tomorrow, the windchill would be around -50, and some teachers had told their students. I hadn't seen the email, so they didn't know. They rushed out of the room to meet their friends but one boy came back. "Thanks for reading to me, Mrs. S." Then he was gone into a sea of celebration.

The winter blues are tough on us all. There are days I cannot walk my dogs our full mile route because of ice and/or windchills. I feel bottled up inside. The dreary days without sun threaten to bring me down. I need to remember that my students are dealing with it too, on top of the craziness that comes from being an adolescent. We had a bit of a break this past week, but Monday we are back at it with a normal schedule once again. I will try to remember, and keep in mind that it's only forty-six days until Spring. 

Just a reminder...
In just three week's I'm presenting at the fabulous Dublin Literacy Conference in Dublin, Ohio. The conference is on February 23rd and registration ends February 16th. It looks like a fabulous way to spend a Saturday. Hope to see you there. (LINK HERE)

I have a course available on Choice Literacy from March 1st - March 13th. It is all about student research writing in grades 3-7. In it I talk about short term research projects which are my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE way to end the school year. I hope you join me. Here's the LINK if you'd like to find out more.