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I’m very lucky! I work with amazing and talented people on the Kindergarten team at our school. But when one of these great people suggested that we put on a Kindergarten Musical for the holidays, I was beyond stressed. Yes,it was my suggestion to maybe do something different for Kindergarten families, as we have almost 70 JK/SK students, and this could be a great way to just celebrate them. But when I made the suggestion, we had less than 15 days to go before the Winter Holidays, so I thought that maybe we could pull off a holiday song or two. A twenty- to thirty-minute musical production terrified me! As my wonderful teaching partner, Paula, reminded me later: there was no way that we could forget about Christmas — as we did with Halloween — considering this play decision. How was I ever going to deal with this much stress?

There are different reasons that I was feeling stressed.

  • Usually, when we’ve put on a performance before, we practice for months. The day after Halloween becomes the first day to sing the holiday assembly song(s). Now we have less than two weeks. Would our entire program become practice time? How might the students respond to this change in routine? How would we? And what if we don’t have enough time for the children to learn the song lyrics and the lines? What will the audience think of us at the assembly? Fear of failure coupled with the stress of a possible dysregulated classroom was making me feel overwhelmed.
  • Then there’s the musical component. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with music all my life. I love singing to music, as long as I’m alone in the car with the radio cranked up really loud. But an audience terrifies me. I keep thinking back to my tuba experience from middle school, and the belief that I would never be good enough. Now I have to help direct students in learning multiple songs, and I wasn’t sure where to start. 
  • Finally, there’s the potential impact that this performance will have on our play-based program. Our class is all about following the lead of the child. We don’t have required activities, and we work hard to connect expectations to student interests. We would never force anybody to do anything at the same time, and now we’re doing just that for the play. Of course, the creation of some costumes also means creating a template and moving in the direction of a craft … something that we also don’t do. There is always the worry of what message will this send to parents about what we believe? Will this be contrary to the message that we’ve sent up until this point?

We knew that we still wanted to do this performance. It was so nice of the other Kindergarten classes to include us. One of the teachers spent a lot of time recording all of the words to the songs and organizing the scripts. She created the Kindergarten Assembly that we were hoping for and that we know that the parents and students will love. But boy was I feeling dysregulated! That was until my incredible teaching partner, Paula, changed things for me. 

  • She took the lead. She knew the play from a few years ago, and talked with the students about the flow of the production. She figured out which songs to play first, and how to get the children to listen to the words while also trying to sing them.
  • She regularly breaks out into song in the classroom. Paula learned the words to the key songs, and started singing them while walking through the forest, while playing with students in class, and while helping children get dressed for home. Pretty soon, children were chiming in with the words, and even singing spontaneously as well. 
  • She looked with me at how to incorporate the performance into play. We know that right now, students love putting on Annie in our block area, so we thought that we could interrupt this play by adding in a few scripts for The Littlest Christmas Tree. Then children might start to practise this musical more through their own play in the room.
  • She constantly reminds us that there’s still time. When we started practicing, we had exactly 14 days until our performance. To me, this was a short period of time, but Paula is helping me — and the students — feel differently. While Santa Claus has lots of lines to learn, Paula just reminds him to keep practicing, and offers feedback throughout. She stays calm. Her tone helps all of us relax and truly believe that there is enough time to make this work.
  • She figured out a way to make the tree and wreath cut-outs less craft-like. We would love to have students create their own unique costumes, or even make the trees and wreaths unique, but since they have to wear them as costumes, we’re a little more limited. That said, Paula reminded me that we don’t necessarily have to provide craft items for decorating the cut-outs. What about colourful Sharpies?Students can even write holiday messages on the trees and wreaths. And while we need all of the trees and wreaths completed, each child does not need to do a different one. Students can support each other, and interested students can even work on multiple ones with their friends. Each tree and wreath can have a little bit from multiple child contributions, and this can help make each of them special and different. I feel a lot better with this plan!

This holiday performance experience has been a great reminder to me that as much as we may know about Self-Reg, sometimes it’s co-regulation that makes the biggest difference of all. Paula’s been my ultimate co-regulator, and is helping me reframe the stressful holiday play as an exciting experience for everyone. During this holiday season, I have to say a special “thank you” to those people that help us see things differently, reduce our stress, and make life that much better. When has co-regulation made a difference for you? Paula reminds me that we don’t have to make it through all challenging experiences alone!