Our students want and need consistency and routine. Knowing that, we try our hardest to provide it for them in our classrooms. However, sometimes, life happens and the predictability they want disappears. And although it might be hard for them, learning to handle those unexpected and unplanned events is a life skill.
Reading Sick Day Jitters and discussing the students’ reactions to the parade of substitutes marching through their day is an easy, nonthreatening way to introduce this idea of the difficulty of unexpected change to your students and how to handle it when it happens to them.
Students will be introduced to the idea that many people have difficulty handling change or unexpected situations. They will also come away with some concrete actions that they can take to help them get better at going with the flow.
Ask students what they think of having a substitute teacher. Do they like it? Dislike it? Feel like it makes it harder to learn and be themselves? Then discuss what they would feel like if they had different substitutes teaching them throughout the day. Try to get them to identify feelings and the reason for those feelings.
After giving a brief overview of the book, tell them that you want them to be listening for places that show what the students’ think and feel as they react to all of these different people coming into their classroom.
As you read, you might want to stop at certain places and ask your students, “What are Mrs. Hartwell’s student’s feeling right now? How do you know?”
After Reading Discussion:
Discuss with your students their reaction to the book. Some possible questions to ask:
- Have you ever had anything like that happen in your school?
- How did Mrs. Hartwell’s students react to having multiple substitutes AND having their day disrupted by doing unusual things? How do you know?
- Why do you think the students were upset?
- What do you think about the other teachers not sticking exactly to the plan?
- How would you have felt if you were in that classroom?
After Reading Activity:
Explain that it’s natural to feel stressed or bothered when unexpected, disruptive changes happen. Go over these easy strategies to use when the unexpected actually does happen and they are feeling stressed or anxious:
- Ask yourself if the change is something that will matter to you in a week or two. This will help you determine its importance in the scheme of your life. Consciously recognizing that it isn’t a big deal might help to keep it from seeming like a big deal.
- Stop for a minute and take a few deep, calming breaths.
- Try the strategy of self-talk and say something like, “I know this is unexpected and kind of stressful, but I can handle it, and it might even be fun.”
- Ask the students for other positive ways they might use to help them cope with an unexpected change in their schedule.
Here are two good resources to help you help your students with their social and emotional learning.