Tuesday, February 1

Coping with Winter Weather in the Classroom


We are having an extraordinary winter. Rather than checking emails and twitter each morning, I greet the day with the weather forecast. I've learned the difference between winter watches and winter warnings. I can scroll through a school closing list in record time. I've learned how to adjust my morning routine to include clearing off my car and still make it to school on time.

I was wondering how this winter is affecting my students.

We've had so many schedule changes. I've noticed that people seem to have a clenched jaw lately. They also seem to have their shoulders closer to their ears. Both signs of stress. It is only natural that stressed out parents and teachers create stressed out kids. Everyone is trying to cope.

I've put into place a few strategies to help my students as well as myself. First, I acknowledge the stress of it all with my students. We talk! I give them a chance to vent and share what is happening. We have ground rules for being respectful, but some of the stories they share about their parents are hysterical. Most importantly, the students get to verbalize.

Another strategy is our homework logs. We set up the entire week in advance. Along with
giving them the big picture, which provides a feeling of control, they can see the plan clearly. We write in contingent plans in case of snow/ice. This fosters responsibility and the habit of checking. When students know what is coming next, they are calmer.

During disruptions, students need reassurance. Our "team" feeling resonates in all areas. The students know that I want them to shine. They trust that I will be fair and I reassure them that we will tackle one hurdle at a time. The feeling of "we're in this together" facilitates harmony and a willingness to adjust.

Finally, we focus on the learning; not the finishing. My students know that my goal is meaningful and authentic moments and not the product. If a student arrives late due to transportation issues, I adjust the work missed. I focus on quality and not the quantity.
This pre-set expectation brings forth a student entering the classroom calmly rather than with that deer-in-the-head-lights look of "Oh, no! What did I miss? How will I catch up?" This approach guarantees a successful day, even if it is only a partial day.

As a person who prefers 70 degrees or warmer, I'm trying to be cognizant of my own stress level. Typically, if I feel stressed, the students usually feel stressed. My self-awareness seems to help during this extraordinary winter. My goal is to keep my sense of humor, be flexible and help my students cherish moments of learning.

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