Just when we thought we might be building the mid-section of the COVID-19 plane, 2021 ushered in a winter storm so fierce that the entire state of Texas was designated as a disaster area.

To protect my mental health, I won’t go into descriptions of the storm because I live in Texas.

In my heart, I have been saying, “The buildings may be ready, but the people aren’t ready.”

Ready or not, we return to school tomorrow.

Whether weary, exhausted, living in a hotel, still in search of water, milk, eggs, or dealing with residual impacts from power outages and flooding, we will return to school tomorrow.

We are still building the plane as we fly it with COVID-19. Now we have to build a new plane simultaneously, dealing with the aftermath of natural disaster in the midst of a global pandemic.

I shared what I’ve been saying in my heart, now let me share what’s on my heart. I feel that some educators may be uncertain as to what to do over the next few days returning from disaster while still in the midst of a pandemic.

The best thing to do? Be real.

Welcome students back, give your classroom space for fluidity. Engage in conversation with no agenda, no lesson plan…simply check-in with each other and give everyone who is willing – an opportunity to share. Even if it is uncomfortable, be willing to do your part, be willing to share. Students value our authenticity more than anything because it builds trust.

Most districts have extended the grading period – make it a point not to mention grades the first day back. Focus on the well-being of students – and yourself on your first day back. It will be good for students and you.

The graphic below shares some ways to help students not only express their feelings, but process their feelings, and even create tangible products.

But, before we get to that, I want to share some ways to have fun. It’s important to remember to laugh.

Guess the Movie Theme

Can You Guess the Disney Voice?

Guess the Kids Movie Song

Guess the Disney Character

The week before the winter storm hit, a dear friend of mine told me they were going to get several inches of snow. Fascinated because we rarely have snow events in my area of Texas, I asked her to send pictures. I was fascinated, the snow was beautiful. I shared the pictures with my students and their jaws literally dropped.

Fast forward, in the midst of the snow that made its way to Texas, I thought it would be a great experience for students to see weather patterns across the globe in one snapshot in time. If we were in a winter storm in Texas, would people in Hawaii experience the same weather? Canada? Now, of course, I know the answer to that question, but how cool would it be for educators worldwide to become weather reporters for students? Well…it happened! I asked educators to give a brief description of their geography and the weather pattern they were experiencing. At last check, we have Australia, London, Canada, & the States reporting live! It’s not too late! You can add a weather report at any time by adding a video to FlipGrip using the join code. Let’s keep building it out for students to travel around the world with educators and experience the weather in real-time!

Back to the graphic, take a look at it, if you use any of the activities, share the experience on social media or comment on this post. If you have other ideas and ways you support students in processing emotions, please add them in the comments below. Readers will appreciate it – and I will, too!

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