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Keep On, Keepin’ On

December 1, 2011

Years ago I had a student teacher who really, really disliked these little yellow smiley faces. We laughed about it often, but since then, I rarely think about them.  In the midst of a fairly chaotic morning, I caught sight of a car in the parking lot with one of these stickers on it and it made me giggle.  Short of a spontaneous laughter yoga workshop, giggling at the sticker and remembering what a daily struggle my early years as a teacher were (as they are for nearly all new teachers).  It also reminded me that I had it in me to keep on keepin’ on.

The first day back from any vacation is always a challenge,  especially given that most of our wee ones only come three days a week. It’s been eons since we’ve all been together, so I intended  to take it slowly today. Nonetheless, the energy was building. Everyone, big and small, had needs today. Urgent needs. Serious needs. Not-so-serious needs. Heart-felt, excited needs.  I felt like Jonathan Fields’ when he tweeted “Morning Friends. Who can I Help Today?”

Just as I began to wonder if I actually had enough in me to help all those in need, one of our wee ones summoned the words and his empathy to aid a friend. “Oh, I can show you. This puzzle goes like this!”  In a few short moves, he helped replace a puzzle that toppled, thereby preventing  a major melt down by the timid-one who knocked it over.  Smocks didn’t go on straight. We couldn’t allow everyone to drop an entire cinnamon stick in the applesauce we were making (after all, we will eat it tomorrow!).  Snack was needed soon to counter the dropping blood sugar levels.  Bathroom trips simply could not happen simultaneously, but rather as  a chain-reaction.

Mid-morning I walked of the gym, leaving them with their dear P.E. teacher for a short spell when  I heard a tragically sad, “Miss Lisaaaaaaaaaah!” Within a nanosecond, I saw the same dear P.E. teacher gently console our friend and give him the important job of helping her set up their circuit course.  Then there was the hanging on the bookshelf that nearly caused the it to topple, had I not jumped out of my shoes at caught it at a 45 degree angle.  Fortunately, the only thing that lost its battle with gravity was a luscious lavender plant.  So we christened the new electric broom and walked around sniffing lavender sprigs.

Things – especially me – were feeling unsettled.

I called upon some deep breathing exercises to channel my own energy and tried to forge ahead. It wasn’t coming and that was more frustrating that any of the minor fires I had been putting out.  I thought about that yellow smiley face and that stage in my career.  Maybe my student teacher didn’t like it because it seemed to simply life, and I knew teaching was a lot of things, but it is not simple, but it is good for loads of smiles.  I pondered how I managed to integrate so many routines, strategies, philosophies and practices rather quickly so early in my career.   Decades later, much of that is second nature, but it wasn’t making itself available to me very easily today.  I watched my skilled and graceful assistant gather the group and read a story and thought, “Gee, that looks easy. Get back in the saddle, Lisa!”  I know children are excellent barometers of how the adults around them feel and the energy we put out.  If I  didn’t rein in what I had going on, it would be contagious…soon!

We weathered the morning in large part, due to the strong foundation of routines and relationships we’ve built over the past three months.   I trust and can rely on my teaching partner; watching her reminded me I wasn’t alone and that we had a great thing going with these little ones.  The routines we established eventually fell into place this morning as we slowed down and helped find activities that appealed to each child at that moment.  Our wee ones had come to trust and rely on us even as they are gaining a stronger sense of themselves.  Before we knew it, it was about time to begin clean up and closing circle.

Was today a struggle emotionally and physically? Yup!  By 12:30 both teachers were beat, 6 kids were getting settled at rest down the hall, and it’s likely  the other 10 were nearly asleep en route home.  This morning was reminder that you just have to keep on keepin’ on.  The challenges were sure to be short-term and like so many things in life, were fleeting and transitory.   Breathing and  laughing were the short-term solutions that provided the stamina to round out the morning.  A bit of Patience, Grasshopper  combined with conversations with colleagues and reflections about the morning provided the strategies for the bigger picture – not to mention a few good laughs and encouragement that tomorrow is a new day!

But the real pay off in keepin’ on were the sleepy-eyed hugs, the giggles, pinky-waves and humongous smiles as we said good-bye. Preschoolers are all about keepin’ on – every morning is new territory, ready to be tackled no matter what the terrain. Their joy and love of life is the best motivator to keep on keepin’ on!

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