Counting Down the Days to Better: May Reflecting Help Us Grow
A Celebration Countdown for Classrooms (inc. printable!)
Whether you’re at the end of this tumultuous school year or you’re still making your way around the final laps to the finish line, everyone has undoubtedly had a large range of experiences and emotions throughout pandemic life! The whole world, especially educators, have been counting down until the COVID Crisis ends so we can get off this wild ride and back to some sense of normalcy.
While counting down is a great coping skill for teachers on their way to a well-deserved break, it’s also important to think twice about the message we might be sending to our students (and the community) when we do this in front of them. If it wasn’t already clear, the pandemic has highlighted the fact that communities rely on schools for much more than just teaching academics to kids. For many students schools are a safe place with supportive friends and role models as well as access to food and other helpful resources. When we educators cross off those days on the calendar as we inch towards our downtime, students may actually be headed back to instability, uncertainty or worse. Educators wishing away the days could send the wrong message that we are ready to be “done” with students or that we don’t enjoy our time with them. Of course that is not the case, but as we move on in hopes of never looking back on this “Is-It-Over-Yet?!” year, young minds are fragile and we must always make every effort to show students how much they mean to us and matter in this world.
Making the days count as we count them down has become something of a celebration/tradition for me in my classroom. I look forward to bringing my students the opportunity to reflect on our time and experiences together in the classroom as it comes to a close. As John Dewey said, “We do not learn from experience … we learn from reflecting on experience.” And this past year’s unique challenges and brand new experiences will be especially meaningful to reflect upon. We are living through an era that will be read about someday in the future — we are literally making history!
I’m not sure exactly where my “Celebration Countdown” idea began, it’s likely something I gleaned from being a connected educator on social media, and personalized to meet my own style and needs. This countdown could be used with any class or group as you approach any break from school, but I find it is especially powerful leading up to a final transition as you say good-bye to students and will no longer be their teacher. It is sure to be a truly special time to recall moments from a memorable year together and to solidify bonds with and among students before parting ways.
You can begin the countdown whenever you feel ready. Just determine a number of days in advance that you’d like to cross off the calendar while taking time for reflection. For each day of the countdown choose one word to reflect upon with your students and provide a prompting question or two. Give students the opportunity each day to think about and draw or write a reflection and if they choose, share their thoughts with the class during a class meeting or community circle. Whether you’ve been using Classroom Champions to provide SEL or not, the monthly topics provide great words to celebrate/reflect upon — perseverance, leadership, health, teamwork or emotions. In fact many words that describe emotions such as joy or frustration are great choices as well. I also like to include school subjects like music, reading, art or math to see what things stuck with students. Spoiler alert: it’s usually not an academic lesson, but rather a feeling they associated with it!
Here is a sample Celebration Countdown. I number each card for the number of days needed for the countdown. Each day turn one over to reveal the prompting question. Feel free to use this one or have fun creating your own version. I’d love to hear how it affects the end of year mood in your classroom or if it helps bring more meaning to your year of shared experiences as you reflect. This has definitely been a school year for the books and will surely be etched in our memories for a long time.
This has been a difficult year to say the least. I have felt like I’ve been on a rollercoaster ride of plot twists and crazy turns of events, sometimes exhilarating, other times jarring and sometimes just losing steam or even breaking down. I’ll be more than ready to roll to a stop when the time comes to hop off the wild ride and regain my bearings. I know many parents and teachers, myself included, who have struggled with feelings of failure, disappointment, and even heartache over the past year, but who also allowed ourselves grace and found joy and gratitude in the little things during the uncertain times. Our students certainly felt similar things, so allowing time to reflect and celebrate our hardships and the accomplishment of making it through together can provide the opportunity to ensure that those moments were meaningful and not all for nothing. Whether we choose to use this with students or simply on our own, may reflecting allow us to feel proud of where we are in this moment and to learn from all that we have faced and figured out. May we grow into something even better!
To all the parents, educators, administrators and our supporters, and especially to all the students, I am so grateful for you and all that we have done to support one other over the past year. I look with hope toward the future of education and humanity.
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Ashley Anderson is a third grade teacher who is active in the Classroom Champions community as a Teacher Ambassador. She is very excited that the Classroom Champions SEL Foundations Curriculum has developed an entire unit on Emotions, which helps students (& teachers) acknowledge, validate, understand and manage their emotions so that they can be successful in school and in life!