Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The No-Meds Days

We all do it. We have those days where we can tell as soon as we see a child bouldering down the hallway, dodging every child in their path while hollering about what they did on the way home last night. They have pockets full of knick-knacks, fingers moving at the speed of light, and their seems to be no way to calm their minds down, to get them to sit quietly, and for them to leave the other kids alone. 

On our end, we brace ourselves, tell ourselves, "It's going to be one of those days...a No-Meds day." Sigh, and our day turns know what. What can a teacher do? You are defeated before you even start. Especially, if you are in a class like mine, where 5 or 6 students have the same situation. Everything automatically becomes annoying to you. You think, "Did they call each other last night and say, 'Let's go to school without our 'vitamins' and see the teachers freak out!'" You find yourself starting to raise your voice, have no patience, and ultimately feel like giving up.

Trust me... I feel like this to. We have these days fairly often, especially near the refill day. The students I teach are very vocal about ADHD, and that they are on medication, how many pills they have left, and feel like when they are not on it they have an excuse to just do. I stress myself out on some of the days, especially when I already feel behind and overwhelmed. I have started seeing a pattern though. If I become flustered, they become even more flustered and unable to have any control.

What is a tired, frustrated teacher to do?

Remember, first of all, that you are there for the WHOLE child. You have to love and nurture them even more so on the days they are struggling.  Close your eyes for a minute (or two, but NEVER three!!). Take a deep breath. Put first things first.

Ask yourself what do they respond to?

To make these balloon balls, you will need:  2 Balloons per ball  Scissors  Funnel  Pencil or chopstick  FlourTa da! Made with flour these are lots of squishy fun and make good hacky sacks. You can also fill them rice or lentils, etc. for different textures.:
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Mine, for instance, respond to dim lighting, light instrumental music (we love Two Cellos or Vitamin String Quartet on Pandora). I have just strung clear Christmas Lights that I got at Dollar General and Family Dollar for 75-90% off throughout my room. (I forgot to take a photo, but I'll post it when I remember!) Since we only have one window, and it's really tiny and the light is blocked by our cubbies, this was a task I was willing to take on. I love them so far!

Some kids just need extra structure. They need flexible seating. Some kids I allow to grab a clipboard and stand at my back counter to work all day. I took an old tri-fold board, wrapped it in wrapping paper, and they use it as a work station at their seat, like a cubicle.

Other kids might need some fidget toys. My first year teaching I made these stress balls out of balloons and lentils.
Know your kids.
Normally, we as great teachers know our kids. I have conversations with them. I know that if they stay with dad, they don't have their meds there, and they come to school hungrier than normal. Or that if they stayed at mom's house, the new baby kept them up all night long and they need to take a break in the quiet. I might have to bring a kid back to my room during specials, because they just need the quiet alone time, I mean--don't we all need that sometimes. I love talking to the kids and learning what's going on with them. I learn about their personalities, what they like, what they don't think is cool, and even what they hope and dream about. Sometimes, I get too much information for my own good...

"One day, my dad made love to another woman....and BAM! I had another baby brother at the same time as my baby brother that goes here." O.O I know. I know.

So here's a run down of things I do in my room to help curb the craziness...even when I'm the one making it more crazy:

1. Remember that you are the adult. They are looking to you for a safe, loving environment. Get yourself prepared mentally, and be ready to be on the move ALL DAY LONG.

2. Allow for brain breaks. Guys, seriously. I know that you know GoNoodle is DA BOMB. You can also do simple breaks. A quick game of Heads Up, Seven Up. Maybe they just wiggle freely for a bit. Have them sit on the floor and propel themselves upwards. Whatever it is, allow some time in the day, because everyone will need it.

3. Do quiet breaks. Allow kids to stretch out on the floor for 5-10 minutes and read, free write, create, or maybe close their eyes for a bit.

4. Play calm music in the background. It helps focus in busy minds.

5. If my kids can handle it, during work time, I might have an ocean view on the board.

6. INVEST IN SOME HAWAIIAN BREEZE SPRAY. When paired with 3, 4, and 5, all the teachers that walk by will even want to be in your room. Once, I had a principal stay way too long enjoying the Hawaiian vibe. Sometimes I just go around and say, I'm spraying thinking spray!

7. Time everything. Make the whole day a race. You have 2 minutes to get logged onto the desktop. You have 1 minute to get all of your things out and sit like a scholar. You have 3 minutes to pack up. Set the timer on the board.

8. Deck out a corner and have some things in it that help when kids get over stimulated. Stress balls, fidget toys, bands that go on the legs of chairs (this is my next DIY project for the classroom).

9. Give them extra, extra, loving attention. Let them sit with you. Let them work with you. Give them some kind of extra task to help you out if they complete X.

10. Remind them of strategies and goals you have been working on with them. Don't just say, "YOU KNOW HOW TO SIT UP." Instead, "Hey Johnny, remember that today we are working on being a scholar. What do we have to do to be a scholar?" Yes, you are going to have to tell Johnny that 100x...but it's going to be worth it...

I hope you can find these ten tricks I do in my room helpful. Leave a comment below if you have over ideas that will help out on days like this that I have dubbed the No-Meds Day.

(I named it after J.K. Rowling's "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them."  (I LOVE MY HARRY POTTER!) The witches and wizards of America call people with no magical ability "no-majs," and after my team saying "They aren't on meds today" over and over, I figured it worked!)

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