A few weeks ago we were hit with an ice storm. The ice storm seemed to catch everyone off guard. Our neighborhood shares roads with a popular vacation spot, so the roads are usually pre-treated whenever there is a threat of weather. This time they were not.
The storm hit early on a Thursday morning and roads got bad quickly. Being so early in the season, most of the trees still had leaves so the added weight from the ice took out a lot of trees...and a lot of power lines. At 6:45 on Thursday evening we lost power and it wasn’t restored until Sunday afternoon. In my adult life, that was the longest I had been without power. We were blessed in so many ways. By midday on Friday the roads were clear enough to travel. Friends and family who had power opened their homes to us and we were able to stay warm and comfortable. To the kids it was an adventure that included long playdates and sleepovers with many of their good friends. As the weekend went on, I noticed something that I hadn’t expected. Even though they were having fun and their needs were being met, my kids were becoming irritable and cranky. By Sunday afternoon their behavior was rapidly declining.
My teacher brain started analyzing the situation. If all behavior is a form of communication, what was my children’s behavior saying? The answer I came up with was quite simple. Our routine had been disturbed. We hadn’t been home for 2 days. We had slept in a different place each night. The length of this adventure was uncertain: until the power came on, we weren’t sure if we were going to be able to sleep at home or if we would be spending another night out of the house. Even though they were having fun, were safe, had food in their bellies, a place to sleep, and were with their family and friends the structure, stability, and predictability of the most basic aspects of daily life had vanished. What was worse? They was no concrete end in site.
How many of the students coming into our classrooms experience unpredictability in their everyday lives? How many of our students are going through something that is turning their lives upside-down and we are clueless? I went to work that Monday discombobulated and tired from the events of the long weekend, but I knew that our normal was being reinstated. How many of our students’ parents are carrying heavy burdens that take priority over checking their child’s take home folder and sending back that form?.
I was reminded in a very tangible way that even if we think we know what is going on in the lives of those we see every day, there is so much we are unaware of. It is important to be kind to one another and to give the benefit of the doubt even if we think we shouldn’t. Instead of thinking “what is WRONG with them today?!” we should try “i wonder what is bothering them today.” See if we can convert that frustration into empathy and take the time to check in we might learn the “why” behind actions and behaviors and what we learn may just shift our perspective on the situation.
My Teacher Hat
I am a teacher in a preschool special education classroom. My classroom serves students ages 2-5 years old.