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Character Education

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Digital Learning

Greet Students With the Arts

 Yeah, I spend way too much time on Facebook. It's hard to resist especially during this past year apart. All my friends are in there! I can pick up my phone or iPad, or turn on the computer, and find family and friends right there. I can interact a little, feel comforted, and step away. (Well, most of the time I can step away!) It has definitely become more of an addiction during the past year though.

During one of my recent forays into Facebook, I ran across an open post from a former school superintendent. Her name is Teresa Thayer Snyder, and she is the former superintendent of Voorheesville School District in New York. Dr. Snyder had some excellent advice for our return to school, originally posted on her own Facebook page, but currently spread far and wide all over the internet. Dr. Snyder is a fierce opponent of the catch them up and test them philosophy. Rather, she asks teachers to welcome their students back with art supplies and writing materials, with music and dance, with every avenue of the arts that will help the children to tell their stories, to enter into the historical record the many ways in which the past year has changed their lives. 

Dr. Snyder is a woman of my own heart. Exactly the way my classroom ran for thirty six years. Welcome them in with a love of the arts, and make sure that they have every opportunity to tell their stories. I've blogged about all this before, and will include a roundup of those posts at the end of this post. Never has there been a more important time to be soft and comforting with kids, to allow all the time in the world for them to get acclimated to school in person again, and to encourage them to tell their personal stories. 

On a personal note myself, a former student who was going through some life issues recently asked me if I could just pull something out of the closet in Rainbow City (what we called our classroom) to make it better. Thinking back on what I might have pulled out all those years ago, I'm pretty sure that it was as simple as some art supplies, writing materials, and maybe a little background music. (And, oh yeah, glitter. If you truly know me...) Stir these ingredients gently and add a dash of time, and you just might be able to help your individual students to heal from our shared trauma. When I'm trying to heal myself these days at home, that's just what I do - head to my art room. (The children have grown and are gone, so their rooms can be whatever now.) Once inside my art room, I pull out the journals, paints, brushes, and glitter and turn on the soft rock station. Might even dance a little. No one's watching. I promise you that it's much more healing than cramming for a test.

School districts now are actually considering ditching the standardized tests. I hope that for each of you, that comes to be, and I hope that you will be planning some art-infused activities to gently return to learning while honoring what your students have been through. 

You might start with a "Bucketful of Shivers" activity as detailed in this post. Simply, this activity gives kids a chance to throw away some negative thoughts and to start banking some positive thoughts. We all need a bank of positive thoughts to drown out the negative when we encounter those. Pretty easy to make buckets out of construction paper and pretty easy for kids to decorate them with crayons or markers!

You can find a lesson on creating a memory box and filling it with a special moment story in this post. This is a private way for students to write about a special memory with a loved one. Stories can be about a grandparent that they might not have seen for awhile, or could be a private way to remember and honor a family member that they may have lost. 

How about dancing in a storm in your dress clothes? Remember dress up clothes? I hear they'll be replacing our sweat pants soon. Hope some of mine still fit. 😂 Why not put on some music with a prompt to dance right at your socially distanced desk, imagining a certain situation, like wearing your pajamas in a softly falling snow, or wearing a tee shirt and shorts as you sink your toes into the sand at the beach? Wearing your ski clothes and trying to dance on a merry go round. Your kids can come up with much better prompts, I'm sure! Here's a post about a free lesson to get the fearless learning ahead started! I would absolutely do this dancing in a storm in your best clothes thing the very first day back! 

I wrote a post in June of 2020 after reading Glennon Doyle's book Untamed. Lots to think about "burning it down" with regard to how we used to teach and finding freedom in teaching in new ways. We are forever changed by what we have all been through during the pandemic year. All of us. Teachers, families, children. What a perfect time to let go of the past and move forward in a way that fits who we are now. Here's my take on Untamed Teachers.

Try some letter writing. Step away from the screens. Let your kids decorate the stationery and write the letters in their own handwriting. Letters to themselves during the last normal school year that they had, and letters as you go through the year to their future selves. Find a lesson on reaching out to future selves here.

Bring in a bagful or bucket of rocks and break out some paint. Let your students spread some positive words for others in your school by painting and spreading rocks at the entrance. Find a post about sharing our One Heart here.

Click here for a post about the need to give students the time and space to tell their stories.

And finally (for this post anyway), find a plan for using the arts mixed with literature to teach perseverance.

I would love love love to hear about an activity that you are using to welcome your students back that integrates the arts! Tell me please in the comment section below! 

For more thoughts on teaching in March and April, don't miss the following posts by the members of Teacher Talk! If you would also like to be a part of Teacher Talk, we are a group of teacher bloggers who share posts that are heavy on the ideas with just a little selling of our educational materials at  For more information about joining The Best of Teacher Entrepreneurs Marketing Cooperative, go to  Feel free to email me at if you have any questions. 

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1 comment

  1. I agree— the arts are so important, especially now. Thanks for the reminder!