Monday, November 12, 2012

The Power Of Positivity

So here it was, a completely normal Monday morning.  I got out of bed at my usual time, read the paper, did the NY Times crossword puzzle, and enjoyed a cup of coffee.   I was looking forward to a fun day - we were headed to Cranbrook for a field trip.   This was to be a "brand new" field trip with a presentation on the Three Fires (Michigan's main Native American tribes) and some time in the museum for the kids to explore.  We had lots of parents helping us out and it was promising to be a great day.  Forget the fact that two evenings of conferences (six hours) loomed in the days ahead.  All was good.

I arrived at school early prepared and ready for my two before school conferences.  I tidied up the room and got things ready for the day as I awaited the first set of parents.  They arrived on time and I placed a check mark next to their name on my conference schedule.  One down and twenty-one to go!  Conference two arrived promptly and as we discussed all the great things about their child the lights flickered a bit.   Then they went off for a few seconds and clicked back on.   Then they went off.  And they stayed off.   The parents and I barely missed a beat as we finished up the conference and I placed check #2 on my form.

Out in the hallway there was an excited buzz as the students arrived (sans bell), happily chattering and greeting one another.

"What happened?  How come the lights are off?" asked one student.

"I'm really not sure," I answered.  "What do you think?"

This question brought about all kinds of remarks and guesses as to our lack of power in the building.  One child offered up a generator.  He said he was sure his dad wouldn't mind if we borrowed it.  None of them seemed excited about the possibility of going home and getting the day off.  They are still at the age where school is the best thing going!

Despite the darkness in the classroom,  the students excitedly went to their desks and suddenly realized they couldn't complete their normal morning routine.  Since there wasn't any power, there wasn't any planner to display on the Promethean.  And since there wasn't any planner, there wasn't any homework.

"What about our field trip?" asked one little girl, clutching her coat and lunch, anxious for the field trip.

"I'm not sure.  We will just hang out and see what happens.  We will all practice being flexible," I answered in my most calm, in charge, teacher voice.   Of course, secretly I was feeling a tinge of excitement at the thought of possibly returning home to an unplanned afternoon away from school.  And on a Monday.  I could relax a bit after spending a big chunk of my weekend preparing my conference files.  My positive morning was getting more positive by the minute.

I give my students a lot of credit.  They sat in their seats and waited for me to tell them what we were going to do.  It was too dark to see the white board.  It was too dark to work on our cursive. It was too dark to read or write in their notebooks.   I asked them to share what they had done over the weekend, while I discussed the predicament with my teacher friends in the doorway.  How much fun it would be to get an unexpected gift of a half day off!  We even began thinking about what to do in the event the power was out on Tuesday also (conference night).   You know teachers, always planning.

Back in my classroom, I located my flashlight set aside in my never touched school issued "Emergency Kit".  I gathered the students on the back carpet and read our read-aloud book by flashlight.  I noticed the students pushed in closer than usual to me.  Several students offered to hold the flashlight for me while I read.  Many were pushed up against my legs as I sat in the midst of them on the carpet.  One little girl hooked her arm around mine and smiled up at me as she listened to the story.  And I read and we acted like everything was normal.  Like we always gathered on the carpet in the dark to read and talk about our book.   I was proud of them all for reacting so calmly and trusting in me that everything would be fine.  That just because things weren't the way they expected today, that everything was still alright.

They say that flexibility is one of the things our kids need most, now and in the future.  I venture to say that my kids certainly displayed that today.  Even when I told the students we wouldn't be able to go on our field trip, instead of groaning loudly they all kind of gave a collective sigh.  I let them know we'd try to go another time.  We even had a birthday today, so I let him hand out his cookies in the dark and suggested we celebrate again tomorrow when the lights were back on.

Staff members in the building without students updated us frequently and answered our questions as they patrolled the dark hallways with flashlights.  The bus drivers waited to make sure each student had a parent at home or brought them back to school.   Teachers manned their cell phones to try and make contact with parents and kept the students safe in the classrooms.  And the office staff went over and beyond what they normally do contacting parents, negotiating pickups, and answering many questions, all with a calm smile.

As the building grew colder and even darker from the rainy day, the last student was picked up.  Three hours had went by and now it was the teacher's turn to leave.

"Is the mall open?" one well-dressed teacher asked with a smile as we all grouped together for the announcement from our principal that we could leave.

I didn't hear one negative comment today amidst all the chaos.  In fact, everyone I heard reacted in the most positive of ways, helping out wherever they could.

I learned just a short time ago that the power is back on.  We will be back in school tomorrow, business as usual.  The first thing I will do is compliment my class on their behaviour and flexibility.  I'll tell them I'm proud of them.

In some ways I feel as if today was a positive gift delivered to us teachers on a very stressful week.  Maybe all this collective positivity in the building is working?
Or maybe our positivity vibe in the school is so strong it knocked the power out?

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