I realize that as tied as I am to the Common Core State Standards, there are certain lessons I must have in my fifth grade classroom that aren't related to academics. There are specific life lessons that elementary students should get before they head out to middle school.
Lesson One: Personal Hygiene
Many of my students don't get the awkward taking care of of our bodies talk at home, so it's up to the schools to supply these life lessons. Luckily the nurse takes care of the our changing bodies talk in May, but the need for deodorant & antiperspirant comes much before that in Las Vegas. Often resisting the urge to febreeze them down at the door after PE, I subtly resorted to a knock-off Scentsy from Hobby Lobby that not only masks the fifth grade smell in my classroom, but turns the whole hallway into a tropical oasis. However, we still need to have that tough talk.
We ease into this chat by examining the prefixes "de" and "anti", so students think we are just having another chat about affixes. We talk about the purposes of deodorant and antiperspirant and how they should look for a product that contains both. I then ask students anonymously (heads down) who has talked about this with their families. Very few students raise their hands. I lovingly tell the boys that Axe doesn't replace a shower and that if they must, use one spray not four. I tell the girls that they should pick one or two scents as to not smell like the entire fruit department. Most importantly, we talk about needing to shower every day. Then it's questions time and ten awkward minutes later, we may resume with our scheduled day.
Lesson Two: "little kid" and "big kid" eyes
Based on the novel Loser by Jerry Spinelli, around page 97, the author talks about little kid and big kid eyes. Little kid eyes are full of wonder and curiousity. Little kid eyes want to learn everything. Big kid eyes start to notice things, notice differences. Big kid eyes start to judge and whisper about others. We should practice using our little kid eyes more often.
Lesson Three: Circles of control
Many of us have things in our life that we can't control, my students being no exception. This lesson goes along with Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day which we read within the first week of school. For those of you not familiar with this adorable book,
the main character has a series of frustrating things that ultimately lead to a wretched day. We talk about strategies for calming down and one of the tips is making a circle map about things that you can and cannot control, like this one:
It lends itself to important discussions about how to cope with difficult situations.
Of course, this life skill isn't a one time discussion. It's a conversation we have multiple times over the course of the year. We talk about it as a class. I talk about it with small groups after a situation. But most often, I talk about it privately with a student or two in the hall way on a case by case basis. Growing up is hard. Making good choices is difficult. But it's up to us to help guide students to make the right decisions, even though it doesn't directly align with standards.