Oct 28, 2012

Life is a Team Sport

My days often feel like a never-ending treadmill. Lots of stuff going on all the time...I haven't had much time to be on any social media or to write here. I hope that some of you are still out there reading and apologize that I haven't been writing as much lately!

Here are some of the things I've been up to and thinking about:

A FAMILY OF ATHLETES!?!

If you've known me for a long time, then you know that I have never really been athletic or coordinated. The only activity I've ever been able to master is running (one foot in front of the other, no team to disappoint!) and I injured myself multiple times at that. So it is amazing to me to have not one, not two, but THREE young athletes in the family! Where did they get these athletic genes from? It's a mystery to me! So far this school year, my son has played junior high football, basketball, and is also on a club basketball team. My middle daughter is just about done with volleyball season, and is taking multiple dance classes. My youngest just joined a club basketball team and is also a dancer. We run from school to practice to game, often eating in the van on the way from one thing to another. It is crazy-busy almost every day of the week and I don't know how my husband and I keep up with it! I really don't. I know that I fall into bed in a heap every night and can barely stay awake after the kids are in bed. But it is fun to watch them play, to cheer them on, and to see them having fun!

She gets a dig! My daughter at the net during a game.
My son, front/center, after a basketball tournament.

The newest baller in our house, wearing Michael Jordan's number!
PROUD TO BE A PART OF THE TEAM 

My new job is becoming less of a mystery as I learn who my students are, who my colleagues are, and how to go about day to day business. I just have to say that I really am proud to be a part of a great school, doing great things for all kinds of kids.  This week I was very impressed by the way my administrative team handled several student crises, including two physical altercations. One of my students initiated an act of aggression before school. After an act of physical violence, it is easy for any principal to become angry and look at punishing the student aggressor. But it is much harder to look at that student and realize that there might be a hurt, scared child inside of their teenage body, a child who is acting out in the only way they know how. This week I saw my principal and assistant principal take the more difficult path. One spoke in a soothing voice, rubbing the student's shoulder, reminding the student, "Inside, I know you have a good heart. I believe in you. You are a caring person who can not only graduate, but go on to do good things." The other did not demand that a working mother drop everything and come get her aggressive child. Instead she called the mother, got permission to drive the student home herself, and met with the family to make a plan to prevent further acts of aggression at school.

My new team makes me proud to be an educator. They truly put students and families first, even when it is not the easiest or most common way of doing business. 

IS IT EVER ENOUGH?

With every day being a never-ending treadmill, I have this constant gnawing feeling that I am falling behind. I can't stop wondering if I am doing enough for my kids, doing enough at my job. I was feeling really inadequate last weekend as I sat in my messy house wondering when I'd ever have time to do everything that needs to be done. Of course, whenever things are that busy and I'm stressing about how to get it all done, mother nature forces me to take a break by sending me some germs! I was forced to spend a day in bed with a sore throat and cough. While trying to sleep, I took a few minutes to browse Pinterest and came across this---and instantly felt better. Hope it offers the same sigh of relief for you that it did for me!

Oct 14, 2012

The Key



Working with kids who have behavior challenges is never, ever dull. So when I had a couple of quiet days in a row, I knew that there would soon be a volcanic eruption. That eruption came early in the week and lasted several days. What follows below is a true story from my classroom. I share it (and plan to share more each week) because I want you to know that there are many young people whom our society seems to fear, or whose behavior leads them to a place of punishment (sometimes directly to prison)...But those behaviors happen for a reason. It is my job--and the job of my colleagues--to figure out why.  So when you read these stories, don't just gasp (the way my husband does) at the shocking nature of the behavior. Don't just shake your head and mutter about "kids today" the way a lot of people do. Think about what a kid must be going through, or what might be happening in their minds, that led them to act a certain way. Really, when you figure out the puzzle of why a behavior is occurring it changes the way you see a person. Empathy is a very powerful thing.

True story:
This week a girl was in study hall and she was very disruptive. She has this enormous belly laugh that made me smile when I first heard it (hard not to laugh along!) But she can roll that laugh for a full hour, non-stop. Her friends seem to enjoy getting her going, making sure that her laugh is all anyone can hear anywhere! Forget studying, thinking, talking, anything! When that laugh is roaring, there is absolutely no way anyone can focus. So she was laughing in study hall and wouldn't move away from her friends. She wouldn't quiet down. She refused adamantly and was referred to the Intervention Center to calm down. When the escort came to get her, she refused to go. Eventually, all other students in study hall were asked to vacate so that staff could try to calm her without any peers goading her on. It was the last period of the day, and when she finally calmed down her mom was called, and she was escorted off school property for the rest of the day. She was told she'd need to spend a day in the Intervention Center to problem-solve and get ready to return to study hall again at some point.

The day after her study hall disruption, she was in my room. She sat quietly in a study carrel at first, completing work that she was missing from class. Another student sat next to her in a separate carrel. (He had been referred to my class the previous day and had vandalized a wall pretty severely. He was doing a great job of earning his way back to class by processing through the incident, and completing his schoolwork.) The girl had a house key on a lanyard. She twirled it the way a lifeguard twirls their whistle...round her finger and back again, round her finger and back again. Eventually that twirling got boring, so she started whipping it around the wall of her study carrel, listening to it thump on the other side. But there was that boy on the other side, so the key kept whizzing by him as it hit the wall next to him. After a couple of near misses to his body, he did what I would have done: when the key came whipping over to his side of the wall he snatched it. The key came off the lanyard and he tossed it toward me. Now, I am totally uncoordinated and clutzy. That key may have been aimed at me, but I didn't see it coming until it hit the floor at my feet.

The key sat there for a moment and the girl said to me, "You need to give that to me."

I said, "No, I don't."

Almost immediately, she got up out of her seat. She headed toward me, and I thought she was going to get the key. She looked up at me mid-step and said, "You need to know that I do fight boys. All the time." As quick as a flash she changed direction and was leaning into the study carrel of the boy who'd been sitting next to her. There she began punching him repeatedly. He sat there, still, as she pommeled him; and I tried to maneuver in between them. Since they were both in a very small, confined space, I couldn't work my way in there. I had to grab her from behind and pull, all the while hollering for an associate who works in the room next door. (My own associate was escorting another student who'd had an earlier crisis back to class.) Help came quickly and together we separated the girl from the boy. I called my administrator on a walkie talkie to ask her what should be done next.

The consequence was that we would call the girl's mom to let her know we were sending her home. Physical violence will not be tolerated at school. Her actions led to one of the very few out-of-school suspensions doled out in my building.  My associate escorted her off school property, and she was instructed to stay off the property for a total of three days. I tried calling her mom but got her voice mail. My administrator tried calling later and was able to get through. The girl's mom was very understanding and supportive, but also let my principal know that her family has come upon really hard times. They've lost their housing voucher and are being evicted from their home. They expect to be homeless by the end of the week. At this point, they don't know where they will live or how they will get by.

And so I think about it....how would I feel if I was a young teenager and knew that within days I'd be homeless? What if I'd finally found a way to laugh out loud and was told to be quiet? What if I felt so scared and frustrated about my life that I'd look for any way at all to let some of those feelings out--even going so far as punching someone?

For sure, the reason for the behavior does not excuse it. No matter what is going on in her life, it is not okay to punch someone who was just sitting next to her trying to avoid being hit by a key. There is no place for physical violence in my room, in our school, or in our community. 

But now I can see why it happened. Now I can begin to talk to her about less harmful ways of expressing her fear and frustration. I don't know if it will work, but I have to try--not only to help with her behavior, but to see if there is anything at all our school can do to help her family through this hard time. We start our problem-solving journey tomorrow. Keep us in your thoughts and send some positive energy to Iowa for us--especially to her. Her family needs all they can get.




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