It has not been easy for me to transition to this inclusion model. I am pretty high-strung (anxiety, a need to control things, stressed due to both of the former) and it can be difficult for me to adjust to new situations where I cannot see a potential outcome. Having all of the adults in my room that we do all day has caused me to have incredibly high bouts of anxiety on a daily basis, simply because I do not know from moment to moment what each person will be doing and it makes me feel anxious. Fortunately, as this first month of school comes to a close, I'm coming to terms better with this new model and finding positives where I was struggling before. It's all about growth; I'm changing as much as the kids are.
Something that I am incredibly grateful for, despite my anxiety surrounding my new teaching environment, is that the students in my classroom this year are compassionate and kind for the most part. They are children, of course, so they are sometimes not nice and sometimes are downright mean. The difference with this group and other groups of students I have had is that they are willing to listen and change when someone else says "hey, this didn't work for me or hurt my feelings." It's beautiful to watch.
We have had some issues this week in the class with friends being excluded from a game at recess. We called an emergency classroom meeting yesterday afternoon to discuss the situation. Our school does a culminating task to close out each lesson in our literacy program. The current lesson focuses on volunteering or community service. So our culminating task is going to be brainstorming a service project or way we can help our community. Due to our friendship issues at recess, I suggested we brainstorm ways we can make a Buddy Place on the playground. So if someone doesn't have a friend to play with, they can go to that spot and others will know to go ask them to join their play. It's like a Buddy Bunch but I don't necessarily envision it being a bench.
I'm excited to discuss this with the students next week and see what ideas they come up with. I'm lucky because I have enough connections on the West Side where our school is located that we can likely get some volunteers to come help us make this a reality once we finalize our idea. We wanted to use our iPads (we are 1:1) for this culminating task so what we are going to do is create a proposal with our final idea and put the ideas together using the app Clips to show why we need a Pal Place or Buddy Spot at our school.
I cannot even begin to express how happy my heart feels to see these kids take a real situation and hold it close and come alongside their teachers to solve a problem that does not just affect our class. I had told them that the first week of school, I saw two first graders who were sad that they didn't have a friend to play with and how I matched them up and now I see them playing together often. They love the idea of the Pal Place/Buddy Bench and I do too.
I'm excited to see where we are able to take this and grateful that I have students who, even at 8-9 years old, can see outside themselves and feel empathy in a way that makes them want to solve problems.