We are now entering week seven in our school district. At the start of the year, there was much to think about and much to worry about.
There were many questions to be answered and all of them seemed continuously uncertain. “We don’t know that yet” or “I’m not sure” were phrases that often seemed to echo throughout the school building. Fear seemed to be the last thing on my mind, not because I lacked the ability to recognize the reality of the launch into the start of a school year during a pandemic, but because there seemed to be little time for fear or worry. We had too much to think through and prepare. Maybe it was best that way. We were set to start in person and there was no turning back.
In what felt like a flash, we prepared. We set up and planned for in person, virtual, and at home learning, a cross between in person and virtual learning. When students finally arrived, they brought with them a strange feeling. It wasn’t the oddity of the masks that covered their possible smiles, we learned to smile with our eyes. It wasn’t the distance we all had to keep from each other. We learned to come close at a distance, as strange as that may sound. There was an odd and completely unexpected feeling of… joy.
I thought about the level of caution and precautions required for our new school year. Carefully, I took purposeful time to walk students through the day and did my best to have them understand why the new procedures are so important. In the process, the worry began to creep back into my mind. I felt a strange mixture of feelings that did not go hand and hand―a strange feeling of guilt. I felt guilt for being back in the classroom, when so many could not be back in their classrooms, when so many had been sick or worse. For a while, the guilt prevented me from seeing good things happening in the classroom. My students adjusted to the different, before I adjusted. There were times I noticed beautiful things. Beautiful ways we made things work, and students seemed to adjust to the new ways of… well, almost everything. Not me. It took weeks for me to finally understand that it was okay to feel joy again.
Where there is joy, we have the ability to build fluency.
Three Ways to Find Joy and Keep Writing:
- Find joy in new places to write. Before we leave our seat, we sanitize our hands.
- Writing in the dark with book lights
- Writing behind a privacy wall towers
- Under a fabric fort
- Find joy in spreading out throughout the room, throughout the playground, or anywhere students find places of comfort.
- Find joy creating new memories. New memories are opportunities for new seed stories. Taking a mask break outdoors and at a distance is good, but teaching kids to breathe deeply is important. We practice breathing deep and blowing out long with bubbles. The joy of these, our first bubble breaks, were filled with smiles and laughter. For some of my students, blowing bubbles was a first time experience.
Everything we do matters, so we must hold on to what we know is good for students. It is okay to find joy in these strange times, more importantly, it is important to make space for joy in a writing workshop and step into joy with purpose.
California native. Dual language 4th grade teacher. NWP/HTWP Teacher Consultant. Kidblog Ambassador. Writer.