I ended last week's blog plotting, I mean planning, some tomfoolery.
Since scattering confetti was definitely out, I went with balloons. Here’s the thing, though. I have self-diagnosed globophobia. I HATE BALLOONS. The squeakiness, the popping, the fear…all of it. My kids were blowing up balloons for their own birthday parties since they were three, that’s how much I hate them.
So here’s what happened Monday morning.
I bring a bag of balloons into the room before class.
“Does anyone want to blow up some balloons for me?”
“It’s to put in Mr. Hindmarsh’s office.”
“Is it his birthday?”
“Is this a prank?”
“Nope. Well, not really. It’s a joyful surprise.”
“To bring some joy. And it’s a surprise.”
Another kid walks in. “Hey, is it someone’s birthday?”
“Then what are the balloons for?”
Fast forward that same conversation at least seven more times, plus me giving a GIANT WARNING ABOUT NOT POPPING THE BALLOONS OR I MIGHT HAVE A HEART ATTACK and the kids were blowing up balloons faster than I could gather them up.
Six garbage bags later, I unceremoniously dumped the bags of balloons in Josh’s office. It didn’t exactly fill the room, but it did pretty much cover the surface area of the floor.
So, did it work?
Well, it was definitely fun for the kids blowing them up and batting them around. There’s something about the relative weightlessness of a balloon that is different than a ball, like it’s defying the laws of gravity.
For the kids, even the big ones, who were in Josh’s office for a variety of reasons that morning? “Mr. Hindmarsh, is it your birthday?”
A trip to the office is often a stressful experience, even if you aren’t in trouble lol, but he said it absolutely diffused tension for every person he saw that morning.
Like all great ideas that cross my mind, however, this one had a couple of pitfalls. It’s like a sauna in Josh’s office, and so some of the overfilled balloons expanded and popped. I think our Admin Assistant might need a day or two off now. Out of sheer coincidence, the RCMP visited the school that day, and were in the office beside Josh’s when the popping started.
I only heard about this at the end of the day when I went with a pair of scissors and all the bravery I could muster to forcibly deflate the balloons that were left. It brought laughter to people, even in the retelling of the day’s events, so it succeeded in the surprise part, and the emotions mostly seemed to be joyful.
So the book was right on that point, and it’s really got me thinking of ways to continue to incorporate joy without having to involve those air-filled latex demons.
I've written before how we always have Games Day on Fridays, with the focus on human-to-human contact (no tech allowed) and social emotional development. It’s always a joy-filled time as kids get excited and the noise level raises. We try to stick to language games like Scrabble or thinking games like Blokus, but this week a boy walked in with two ping pong paddles, a ball, and a retractable net.
“Mrs. Landry, do you think we can play this today in games time?”
I started to explain that it didn’t exactly fit the purpose of games day, and then stopped. Why bookmark tweets about the importance of play, and read books that suggest ways to infuse joy in our lives, and then say no to a (pretty cool) student suggestion?
Well, you hedge your bets is what you do, and agree to try it this time and then see what happens for future Fridays lol.
It couldn’t have been more awesome.
Some kids chose to play board games as usual. But the ones who gathered around our improvised table had so much fun. They set up their own rules to play and how to take turns. They created a list on the board for fairness. And they laughed and laughed and laughed as they played. Even our EAs got in on the action, and the stakes went higher to see who could beat Mrs. Starling.
Adults modelling fun. It was fantastic.
I even went next door and had Mr. Hindmarsh poke his head in.
“That’s what joy looks like,” I said. Super cheesy, I know. But it’s true. And I’m starting to realize more and more how important it is to name the things that we are seeing and doing. And especially naming them in front of our students.
[I have a huge thread on vulnerability that’s coming soon that speaks volumes to modelling, vocalizing, and reinforcing these big ideas simply by saying the words out loud.]
There’s a lot more about bringing joy into our classrooms that is going through my head right now, and will probably keep writing about, but this post is already too long. So I’ll wrap this one up with a quote from Joyful:
“If we rarely laugh or play, if we never have glimpses of magic or flashes of transcendence or bursts of celebration, then no matter how well fed and comfortable we are, we are not truly alive.” (Ingrid Fetell Lee)
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