June 2, 2022 | Abby Hall Choi
A while back, when I was a fourth and fifth-grade teacher, the team of teachers noticed that as we turned the corner to the final weeks of school, students started frustrating each other. There were unkind remarks and misunderstandings. There were jokes that crossed the line.
Sometimes families say to us, “We don’t expect this kind of behavior at Mustard Seed School!” Our use of Responsive Classroom practices supports the building of a strong sense of community in our classrooms. Our daily practice of hearing stories of the ways God would have us treat others with loving-kindness, respect, and fairness teaches students that these things are valued here. At Spring Concert and in exhibitions, we see students collaborating and inspiring the best in each other. Students at Mustard Seed School know each other deeply and we invite them to care deeply as well.
But in these last couple weeks of school, sometimes that deep knowledge of each other can be exasperating. The metaphor we used as a class community when I was a teacher was a car ride.
Car rides are fun adventures. But long periods of time in close quarters with the same people can leave everyone primed for disagreements and conflicts. Despite the goodness and excitement of the trip overall. We are all human. At the end of a car ride, or at the end of a long year, anyone can feel ready for a break or ready for a change.
I remember these experiences from childhood car rides. We were tired- It had been a long trip and we were ready for a break or a change. This may be true for your child as well. It’s not uncommon during the last few weeks of school for students to start to distance themselves from classmates. (Adults do this too before a separation. It is easier to leave when you are mad at each other.) Or, you might see your child’s frustrations bubble over because they have used up their ability to cope with even small frustrations.
Conflict is normal in a school environment. Each conflict is an opportunity to learn more about how to navigate a shared life. And conflict in this time when people are ready for a break and a change and when we are dealing with the emotions of an anticipated transition is more than normal. But it does not mean that students have to work it all out on their own. During the school day, please encourage your child to let their teacher know. Teachers and directors work with students involved in disagreements to help address harm. There are many ways we work to support student growth during these times: Sometimes there is an apology in words. Sometimes there is an apology through actions. Sometimes there is an action plan. Sometimes there are scaffolded positive social interactions.
We also encourage families to develop warm and supportive relationships with each other. These relationships may be felt especially valuable when misunderstandings or conflicts occur between students at the park after school or online, over devices when students are at home.
Sometimes families will let the child’s teacher or director know about an incident that occurred outside of the school’s supervision. While we do not directly intervene in these scenarios, we appreciate more fully knowing about the social interactions of students. This gives us insight into a discussion for morning meetings with students or content for a blog for families.
Families have access to the family portal in order to establish relationships and sometimes there may need to be some collaborative problem solving with or for children. When a student has a problem with another student when the students are not under the supervision of Mustard Seed School staff (i.e., in the park after school or online while at home), the families should work together to help the students resolve the problem.
Talking with and listening to your child is the most important thing you can do. These are important moments to demonstrate and enact your family’s values. And they are also times when adults can help students catch a glimpse of the perspective that a conflict can be overcome and that it is very normal to feel frustrated with people you spend a lot of time with. It is normal to feel anxious about upcoming changes and have those feelings spill over into lots of places.
While your child may have functioned well all year at a certain level of independence, they may need a slightly higher level of supervision for a bit. Here are some helpful practices to support your child’s social and emotional needs at the end of the year:
For devices and check in on the family rules and expectations regularly. Ask to look at their texts and social media together occasionally. It is good to remind them that it is a bad idea to post or send anything that they wouldn’t want to show to you.
It might be a good time to remember the phases of friendship