By Kari A. Hulsey

For the past two years I have been working with the same student in order to strengthen his ability to be a team player. As a seeing teacher, I tried to get a better understanding of why it was challenging for him to accept failure as a part of learning. Despite everything I tried—changing games so there were multiple winners, talking with him, having peers talk with him, talking to his parents—nothing stuck. His day would be ruined all because he lost in United States bingo! In order to better prepare him for fifth grade, I knew that I had to try a different approach for him to have a successful year.

Working Through Challenging Feelings

My school is committed to fostering social and emotional skills and recognizes that this is an incredibly important part of student development and learning. One day, my student was having a particularly difficult time. I wanted to better support him, so I turned to my Fly Five curriculum. I began reading through the competency of self-control because after looking through the themes, it felt like these were the lessons I needed to be teaching to my class right away. That very next week, I taught two lessons around self-control and really focused on the whole class gaining the ability to recognize overwhelming emotions. 

We spent the next couple weeks working on talking through the emotions, developing strategies to deal with them, and practicing ways to anticipate strong or uncomfortable feelings even before they occur. I also took some time during Morning Meeting to set up small game-like activities. During these games, I encouraged the student who was working on letting go to be a role model for others who were also in need of similar support. After this particular activity, we debriefed and connected our Fly Five lessons to the Morning Meeting activity. We continued to play these games while using Fly Five strategies for two weeks straight. Students practiced the strategies not only in the classroom, but on the playground and in PE as well.

Continuing to Develop Self-Control

During this year, I saw tremendous improvements in this student’s ability to regulate his own emotions. I felt proud that he left my classroom with actionable strategies to move through challenging or uncomfortable feelings in a productive way. The entirety of my class was able to put Fly Five language to work by expressing themselves effectively— even when it felt hard. Together, we finished the school year with a better understanding of self-control as a vital strategy for positive emotional growth. These Fly Five lessons gave my students and me the tools we needed in order to foster self-control in the classroom. In the end, although being an educator can be challenging, watching my students progress makes this work all worthwhile.