Thursday, February 19, 2015

Making Work Fun . . .

This week has been particularly challenging. The temperatures here in Minnesota have hovered around 0 degrees with wind chills of up to 25 below. Each morning as I watch the weather forecast, I feel like calling in sick simply because I don't want to face the reality of the wind blasting coldness. I am fighting an ongoing struggle to stay positive and joyful about my job and the tasks that go along with it, specifically, walking little people to and from different buildings with scarves whipping their faces, hats blowing off, stinging winds assaulting us all.

I feel about ready to break. We use a countdown system so students know how much time they have left to get ready. We use singing, chants, and still, everyday before walking outside, it feels like a small battle, a battle that happens three times a day. But this week I have also learned not to take myself so seriously. In those moments when the children just will not put on their winter things to go outside, I take a deep breath, even leave the room. "They are five years' old" I tell myself. "It's not a big deal."  Next, I focus on helping one student at a time.

I have also discovered that if I can turn the more difficult tasks into a fun game, the task becomes more manageable, enjoyable even. One place where I have started to use this strategy is in the lunchroom. Right before we leave to head back to the other building, I supervise the line of Kindergarten students until they are all in the line ready to go. Previously, the students would lean against the wall and then lose their balance and fall on one another, much like cascading dominoes. It was quite frustrating and yelling at them did not help. Then one day, I had an epiphany: "What if I gave them all a task they could do that would distract them?" So I started playing "Do what I Do" also known as "Follow the Leader" with them. This game is simple. If I touch my knees, they have to touch their knees. If I tap my head, they tap their head. And so on. The game was an immediate success!

The following day, the game was also a success. The third day, I decided to spice it up a bit. Instead of playing "Do what I Do" we sang "If you're happy and you know it." This also worked fairly well, although was not quite as controlled or quiet as the "Do what I Do" game. Either way, it makes me happy that I no longer have to dread this moment in the lunchroom where I previously felt perpetual annoyance at the students. Furthermore, they love it, and they are being safe.

Now, if only I could find a similar solution for the sub-zero weather we are having. Maybe on days where the temperature is below zero, I buy fancy coffee on my way to work. Now there's a thought! At this point, any little perk in these cold Winter days is greatly appreciated, necessary even.

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