I Guess The Beatles We’re Right…A Hug is All You Need (To Cure the First Day of School Blues)


Uh oh.

You decorated your classroom with family photos. You even got the audio recordings of family members dishing out comfort.

But kids are still crying! They still want their moms and dads. What should you do?

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Just like any lesson, there is no formula for getting kids to learn. But there are strategies.

No matter what you are teaching, whether it is emotional resiliency or a literacy concept, kids need lots of ways to process new information.

Want to know the biggest mistake that even the most accomplished, veteran teachers make?

They treat emotional learning different than academic learning.

But guess what? It’s all learning.

If you want something to stick, kids need to feel it. They need to live it. Touch it. Experience it with all their senses.

When you teach a letter, do you simply draw it on the board and point. “Repeat after me: ‘This is the letter A.'”

Uh, no. You create tactile experiences, auditory experiences, kinesthetic experiences. Maybe you eat apples and add a gustatory element. Maybe you have Letter People and you turn the Letter A into a character in a story so you have an emotional element. You teach that shit from all angles, don’t you?

You get all the senses involved. Visually, auditory, tactilely, kinesthetically, emotionally. Maybe even more.

So don’t be surprised when the visual element isn’t enough to make kids feel safe and secure at school. Family pictures will work for some kids. They may even work for most kids. But just like any lesson, we have to spin it a hundred different ways to make sure that it resonates with all kids. Don’t separate the emotional from the academic. Everything is a lesson.

And helping kids learn how to feel safe in school is an important one.

Are you ready for the full-body experience on drying up those tears?

Great. Let’s do it.

Trusting Body Language

I could sum this section up in three letters: H-U-G.

Sometimes that’s all these little ones need.

Think about yourself. When you’re feeling like a stampede just trampled all over your heart, what is the only thing you really want from the world?

But I don’t have to tell you how to empathize. You’re a freaking preschool teacher. Empathy is your middle name!

Still, sometimes we can be a little hesitant to open ourselves up on the first day. Boundaries are important, too. You don’t want to freak kids out any worse by swooping down upon them with open arms, like an eagle looking for an early morning meal. Yeah, definitely don’t do that.

Trusting body language isn’t just hugs and hand holding though. It’s about getting on a child’s level and looking them in the eyes. It means remaining open (literally and figuratively), so no crossing your arms or legs. Keep those hands out of your pockets, too. And please, PLEASE, smile. These things matter.

Kids are emotional. They are intuitive. Show them openness so they can open up with you.

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Can you tell who in this picture has the right body language?

Here’s a quick checklist of warm, open, trusting body language. Do you do all of these?

  • On Kids’ Level
  • Eye Contact
  • Smile!
  • Open, Uncrossed Arms
  • Palms Facing Up
  • Great Posture (Even if you’re sitting or kneeling)

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Body language expert, right here.

Once you have the body language down, it’s still a good idea to ask kids before touching them. Again, we don’t want that bird-of-prey hug. Ask questions like, “Do you want a hug? Will a hug make you feel better? Can I give you a hug?” before scooping a child up in your arms.

Or maybe a hug isn’t the best idea. In this case, you can offer your hand out (palms up) or simply take their hand and see if they want to go for a walk. Say something like, “You know what always makes me feel better when I’m sad? Going for a walk and exploring. Do you want to go for a walk and explore? I know a really cool place we can go. I think it will make you feel a lot better. Do you want to go?”

Now, where are we going? That’s for tomorrow’s post. Tune in then.

P.S. And don’t worry. I will put all of the posts together into one loooooong First Day of School Survival Guide.

P.P.S. Whenever I drop some quotes, don’t feel obligated to use the language I use. That’s my teacher voice. It’s how I talk to my kids. It’s definitely not a script for you to follow. You say whatever works for you and whatever flows.

After all, your middle name is “Empathy.”

See you tomorrow.

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