Wow, there is so much to say, and yet I don't know that I know what to say. And, as Dave can tell you, I am typically not at a loss for words. In our Episcopal church, each week, we say a litany called "Words for the Wordless". One of the last lines says, "We believe questions are more valuable than answers". I was working with some administrators the other day on how they talk with their teachers after an observation. I was sharing with them that many teachers, when talked WITH about their observation versus being talked TO about their observations, say they have never before gotten so much chance to share their thoughts. These same teachers will say things like, "This conversation really made me think." Isn't that exactly what we want? So, I shared with the administrators what we say in church----certainly not to proselytize---but to say how valuable the questioning process can be.
After the death of George Floyd and the subsequent protests, demonstrations, and widespread violence, I have had the opportunity to talk with some of my dear friends who happen to be black. Scratch that---I took the opportunity and made time to talk with some of my black friends. What's the difference? I've always had the opportunity to talk with my friends who have been margianilized because of their race, color or religion. But this time, I took advantage of asking some questions. I asked questions about whether they had felt overt or covert racism in their lives. I heard stories about feeling watched when they were the only black person in a room or class of white people. I heard a story from a black teacher named Gerry who was new to a school. On the "welcome back" day, the principal stood at the door as all the teachers entered and shook hands with every white teacher. When Gerry got to the principal, the principal held up his hand in an effort to "high-five" him. Gerry held out his hand to get a handshake, just as was done for every other teacher. Did the principal overtly or consciously mean to be racist? I would guess not. But Gerry remembers this experience from years and years ago. One of my friends told me that, although she grew up quite "privileged", she still experienced racism in various "shades"----people calling her the "n" word in school, etc. I was appalled, and yet I remember being a principal in a school that was mostly filled with white children and a handful of Hispanic and Black children. The first time I heard a student tell me they had been called the "n" word, I was livid. After all, we had (for years) worked on the character traits of respect, kindness, and courage. Why would any of the students in our school say that word in the first place, much less to call another one of our "family" that horrific name? When I asked the offender, he said, "I didn't think it was that big of a deal. My dad calls the people he works with n________s". It reminded me of that song from South Pacific, "You've Got to Be Carefully Taught", in which the lyrics say:
"You've got to be taught to hate and fear
You've got to be taught from year to year
It's got to be drummed in your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught
You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade
You've got to be carefully taught
You've got to be taught before it's too late
Before you are six or seven or eight
To hate all the people your relatives hate
You've got to be carefully taught"
I get chills every time I read those lyrics, as I totally believe this is true. How would little ones ever know to show hatred for anyone whose skin color is different if they hadn't been carefully taught? I was not taught that way, as growing up in San Antonio, the skin colors of all of us were so varied, who would have been the "target" audience? But I still have black friends that say, "You may feel different from all your Jewish friends because you are Episcopalian, but people do not pre-judge you when you walk in a room since you don't have 'Episcopalian' written across your forehead." I know that to be true, as well. When someone is black, their very skin color is announced the moment they walk in a room.
So, what am I called to do? I think the first thing I was called to do was exactly what I just talked about---asking questions of my friends who are black and truly listening to their experiences. I also think I am called to examine my own "white privilege" even though I have always shared that I grew up most of my life with a single mother who worked super long hours as a ward clerk at a hospital. I felt upset when she was too exhausted at night to come to most of my choir concerts or when she didn't have the extra $7 to allow me to go to an end-of-year field trip/party when I was in middle school. But really?? Is that the same as being judged from the second you walk into a store and being followed around by store employees simply because of your color? I think not.
I still have a long way to go to understand my own views on these issues, and I ask God each morning to direct my thinking. However, I know for certain that I will only grow if I am prepared to feel a bit of discomfort. And, most of all, I have to honestly believe that questions are more valuable than answers.
In one of the classes I'm teaching for Educational Leadership at Grand Canyon University, I posed a question about who the students would or could talk to if they found themselves in a position in which they didn't know what to do or how to handle a particular school situation. One of my students spoke of the "tribe" she uses to bounce ideas off of. Several of us have posted responses to her practice. I am so blessed to have several tribes with whom I use for different situations in life.
In presenting to teachers, school leaders, and university professionals all over the world, I have been so happy to find people with whom I can co-present, people who I go to for new ideas on presenting strategies, administrators who network with me and continue to become true friends and comrades in this education journey. I tell new teachers and administrators to "stick with the winners" and only go to those people for advice. Some people in education (any profession, also, of course) can get burnt out and share their burnt out feelings. Who needs that?
When faced with a situation in which I'm feeling resentful, discouraged, or troubled by worry, I have a tribe of spiritual advisors and fellow travelers who are still making their way through situations that used to baffle me. We can discuss our journeys, give each other advice and not be offended in the least if the person decides to go a different direction (after all, it is not my business to "grade" someone on the choices they make, only to be there to support).
Dave makes fun of me because I tell so many people "I love you". You know why I do that? Because I love so many people. I know better than to share every single secret in my life with every single person, but I still love and cherish the relationships I have with so many friends from so many different seasons of my life. Let me preface this by saying I went to 8 different schools in my 12 years of K-12 schooling. I still have managed to stay friends with Tricia, my bestie from 4th - 6th grade. I also am still EXTREMELY close to my rock and cornerstone best friend from high school, Denise. She and her family even vacation with Dave and me once every other year to Cabo San Lucas. Robin and Kelly were my best friends in college, we were in each others' weddings, and we now get together at least twice a year (husbands are allowed to come for the summer trip). We just finished with one of those "you can come, too, husbands, but beware----there will be loads of laughter that turns to crying between the three girls". The guys have simply resigned themselves to the notion that you can't contain this joy, so they no longer try. All of these friends are near and dear to me and are unique in each way we value our friendship.
What about you? Who is in your tribe? And for what reasons do they stay there?
Happy Communicating (in and out of your tribe),
In a total Godwink and collision of events, the question posed to my Education Law students this week was the following:
You are an assistant principal at a high school where less than 10% of the students identify themselves as non-white. An African American male student is frequently sent to your office by different teachers because of disruptive and non-compliant behaviors. You have found him to be a likeable student, but he has shared with you that he feels his teachers do not understand or like him. You have a good relationship with Jason. However, each time he is sent to your office, you wonder if other issues need to be addressed. You have set up a conference with his parents. During the conference, they point out to you that on the campus only 2 out of 90 teachers are non-white. They further state that the posters and art displayed on campus as well as the school’s website do not depict students “who look like our child.”
At this point, how do you address the concerns with the parents? What other actions do you need to take as the assistant principal?
All of my Education Law students had various thoughtful responses. Erin Bueche (yes, she gave me permission to use her name) wrote something I felt deeply compelled to share with people who read my blog. Please let me know what you think. I will certainly pass it along to Erin.
I think it is about time someone stepped forward to recognize that the art around the school is outdated and not diverse! Let's collaboratively work together and change this! See, I grew up in a rather urban school. I am a white girl who grew up playing basketball with all my black friends. I brought my black friends home; they taught me to double dutch, and we never saw a difference in skin color. I was 5'7 in the 6th grade, and I learned to play ball like a young Michael Jordan... OK now that is a hyperbole, but what I am saying here, is that I would thank the parents for scheduling a time to come in and talk. I am going to stand with them, and it is about time I get put in my place about the school decorations. Perhaps those small changes can make Jason feel welcome and excited to learn, and perhaps his behaviors may change.
Additionally, why is Jason's behavior so bad? Why is he always getting sent to the office? I must see the data on this student regardless of color. I want to ask Jason a few questions with a counselor and his parents if they allow the counselor, and get to know Jason and his family better. Is there something at home that is bothering him and it affects him at school? Does he struggle with a topic/ certain teacher? Have there been any changes in his life that cause him to rebel? I believe in a social-emotional connection with my students. Building trust with them, even at the high school level, is important. I would ask the parents, "Please tell me more about how you feel about the people at this school not looking like your child." To what are they referring? Once I get the answer (I am certain I will hear about racial or ethnic backgrounds), I will remind the parents that staff and students cannot discriminate against one another for color:
There was a time in my elementary school years that I will not forget. Every student created a ceramic tile in art class that was going to be cemented to a beautiful mosaic art sculpture outside of the library for years to come. Each one of us students made a tile that represented who we were and they all randomly got cemented to the sculpture over spring break. When we returned, we were all amazed at the unity in that design! My tile got placed next to my two black best friends, Alisha and Raven. We are friends to this day, and just so, that sculpture still stands.
I loved her response for so many reasons. I am currently questioning my own inadvertent denial of white privilege, white silence, assuming good intentions are enough and so much more. I hope all of my white friends and family are doing the same. For all my black friends and family, I extend an invitation --- an invitation to tell me more about your own story. I truly want to listen to you talk about times you have been scared when, even as a young girl, I would have never been scared because I must have subconsciously believed my skin color provided some "Teflon". I am making it a point to DO something instead of just thinking about doing something. What are you doing to either show your outrage or to help ensure that one day there is no need for outrage.
Loving all of you and happy communicating to all,
Who among us has not been altered by technology in the last few months? I know so very many people who only knew Zoom as "ZOOM, Z-double-O-M Box 354, Boston, Mass. 02134. Send it to Zoom". You're welcome, by the way, for putting that in your head. If you know it, you'll be singing it all day. Back to our regularly scheduled program. Technology platforms like Zoom have pushed people out of their comfort zones in whole new ways. I will share just a couple from my perspective, even though I have been using Zoom for years.
1. Student teacher supervision---I supervise student teachers in Tucson. During the pandemic, I have been able to get on Zoom to watch my student teacher teach on Zoom. Crazy, right? It's like those Russian nesting dolls or a hall of mirrors. But I love it! It has given me the chance to watch one amazing student teacher use skills in whole new ways, rather than teaching her traditional way (which, by the way, had already included tons of technology). She has said she wants to continue to use Zoom in the future to talk to parents or even talk to her students at home even after we go back to our brick and mortar schools.
2. Webinars to build relationships--I teach online master's level courses for students who want to become school leaders. In the past, my relationships have been limited to my online discussions with them, the occasional phone call to clarify an assignment, and maybe a video I have made to introduce myself to them. Now, I am using Zoom to have weekly webinars and book clubs with them to help them with their clinical internships. The true blessing? We are building a community of learners, and we all look forward to seeing each other. One course ended this past Wednesday, and I can honestly say I think it was my favorite online course I have ever taught, as we had truly formed bonds. They have promised to keep in touch with me and I will do the same with them! Without this pandemic, I'm not sure I would have MADE the time to do something like this. Do I get paid more to host them? Yes, in relationship dividends.
3. Church services---we are now calling ourselves the Christship Enterprise, as we are blazing new trails with technology. There are about 7 of us who meet at the church every Sunday morning to prepare for worship. Our priest does her regular thing (which is always to deliver an amazing sermon), Dave reads and carries the cross, Dale films the service, Eliott plays the organ, I broadcast our service to Zoom and to Facebook Live (and lead the hymns), and we are building technology savvy parishioners. Our evangelism has grown, as we have about 1/3 more participants in worship every Sunday than we had pre-pandemic. Pretty cool, right?
I am prepared. I am WATCHING for the blessings, now, instead of simply being surprised by the miracles that continue to occur.
I hope you are experiencing them, too!
I admittedly thought I was finished with this topic, but apparently it was meant to be a 3-part series. Why? I have a few people who have shared thoughts with me about this very topic. While we are still tormented by news of deaths related to COVID-19 (one we just heard about in our church this morning), we are also getting smarter, used to reminders about how to stay safe, and freaking out less about the potential disappearance of toilet paper.
We can make jokes about how we are handling things, but the truth is: we ARE handling things differently. How?
Our tolerance for others' quirky tendencies has expanded: A dear friend of mine just shared with me how things that really niggled at her and got under her skin are no longer bugging her nearly as much. She said that, where she used to be annoyed with a couple of people's habits, she is seeing them as part of the make-up of them, and she is finding ACCEPTANCE. What a beautiful word: ACCEPTANCE. Many of us have heard the notion that acceptance does not mean we have to agree with what is happening or what someone is done or has done, but it does mean we need to find some acceptance that it did happen or that person is the way they are. I don't know about you, but all the wishing, hoping, and cajoling have not ever proven to aid me in changing another person. I do not have to agree with that person's actions or demeanor, but they are who they are. I can simply control what is in my own "hula-hoop" as a dear friend continuously reminds me.
Appreciation for one another in the education world: Let me preface this portion by saying that I have loved and laughed at the memes of parents lined up in the wee hours of the night before school re-opens, begging schools to take their children back to educate them. And I have watched and admired passionately the creativity that teachers and administrators have shown in the way they are educating and caring for students. But, as a I had a beautiful opportunity to lead and engage in a Professional Learning Community (PLC) with educators around the world the other day, I heard so many educators say how impressed they are with how resilient not only the students are but how resilient the parents are, as well. One said, "I keep reminding the parents they don't have to know how to multiply fractions the way we are teaching that skill now. All they need to do is be supportive of the struggle their children are going through." Parents and teachers need to be gentle with themselves and not expect miracles, although we are seeing miracles happen all over the world. I pray we never take these miracles for granted.
What's the lesson? What's the blessing? My dear spiritual advisor said this the other day, and it stopped me in my tracks. She was talking about how God puts situations in our lives. Our work may just be to figure out what lesson we can take away from it and then also see the blessing that comes right on its heels. This "lack of traveling for work time" has shown me the lesson in slowing down a little bit. It has also helped me in being totally present in the graduate courses I am teaching, providing opportunities for my students to engage in weekly webinars with me. More work? Sure, but the blessing has been that I have truly gotten to know these students as people, not just names on my roster, whose papers I grade on a weekly basis. Now, when I grade Mike's paper, I see Mike's face. He is a living, breathing person, and having met him, it allows me to talk to him in a much more relational way than I would have before. Therein lies the blessing.
By the way, if anyone else is from the south and loves their southern roots with a longing and deep passion, as I do, you might just want to steal that last point and alter it to say: What's the lesson? What's the blessin'? Then, it rhymes so very nicely. You're welcome.
Happy Communicating, and hang in there. There might even be a How Have We Changed? Part 4. Who knows?
I know, I know. My last blog was on this same topic. However, while I don't know about you, for me, I have learned more and more since I last wrote Part 1 on this topic. Here are some things I've learned:
1. You're never too old to learn how to get on a web-based meeting: When my mom was still alive, Dave and I gave her a computer when we got a new one. Yes, I just re-read that last sentence, and of course it should be obvious that we gave her the computer when she was still alive. But it makes me giggle just a little bit (my mother had a wicked sense of humor, too) to read that, so I'm just going to leave it right there. Back to the computer. Dave and I tried to teach her all the cool things she could do with it, like type letters to us on it then email them to us instead of sending them via snail-mail. As Dave said, we might as well have given a pig a stop-watch. My mother wanted NOTHING to do with a computer. She would press the space bar and leave her finger on it a second too long and all of a sudden, she was in distress about why there was so much space between words. Unfortunately, my mother passed away in 2005, before we could ever figure out a way to teach her how to use a computer. In the last few weeks of online church, more and more of our parishioners are getting used to using a web-based format to engage in the service. It is such a joy to see even some elderly folks unmute themselves after the service is over to say "hello" to Rev. Debra.
2. College friends can have happy hour together without using any frequent flyer miles: There are nine of us who have gotten together twice in the last few weeks for a "happy hour" (I bring my non-alcoholic ginger beer to the "party" and toast everyone just fine, thank you). Thirty-six years may have passed since we all met as freshmen at Trinity University in San Antonio, but I am going to tell you we can still make each other laugh until we cry about the silliest or the most poignant things. While one friend is dealing with "living" with her college students until they finish classes online for the semester ("they can't cook for themselves!" she cries, when we ask why she needs to be there), another friend's family business is taking a hit due to the virus. Two more of us lament the fact that our Habitat for Humanity build that was scheduled for July of this year in Africa has been cancelled. We talk, we laugh, we listen, and we keep each other in our prayers, no matter what happens. We have vowed that the frequency with which we get together may alter a bit when we don't have to do so much social distancing, but I suspect we are going to make it a point to do more than a "once-every-five-year" reunion like we were doing before.
3. Now that people have toilet paper, we seem to be nicer to one another: When we have to get out to go to the grocery store, it seems like everyone is just nicer to one another than before. What on God's green earth do we need to do to make this phenomenon hold true after the pandemic is long past? Remember, after 9/11, how everyone seemed to be just a little nicer to one another? That seemed to fade away after a few months. I pray with my whole heart that we can remember what it feels like to help one another out and be kind before jumping to the negative tilt on life.
4. Remarkably, even though we are quarantined, we seem to be appreciating the beauty of the earth a bit more. I have evidence of this on my Facebook feed (people sharing beautiful spring flowers that are growing in their gardens or in their neighborhoods; people taking pictures of mountains and trees that have literally stopped them in their tracks with their splendor and glory; and the list goes on). Isn't it ironic? While we are quarantined, we seem to be enjoying God's canvases a little more. I run each morning, and I find myself taking in breathfuls of the scents the desert has to offer in the springtime. I hope you are able to, as well.
5. We are getting more creative. I don't know about you, but more of my friends than not are in the education world. What a transformative time this has been for educators, school leaders, students, and the "new" teachers---parents. I have been in awe of how resilient and creative schools have gotten, in their zeal to help provide the students with the very best education they can while learning to fly this new airplane while it's still being built. Wasn't it Plato who first said, "Necessity is the mother of invention"? Boy, if that isn't the truth today!! As a clinical supervisor who oversees student teachers, I have had the pleasure of watching one of my "babies" finish her student teaching in style----over Zoom. She and I were on a Zoom then she conducted a Zoom with some of her students. She has become masterful in creativity and learning how to communicate effectively via different methods.
Will we ever go back to "normal"? I, for one, hope not. That is not to say I'm not ready to go sit down at a Mexican restaurant and eat all the chips and salsa I can shove in my mouth while waiting to be served my cheese enchiladas. But maybe we can take a look at the changes we'd like to keep when we are allowed to go back to our "regular" lives.
In the meantime, happy 6 - foot - distance- communicating to all!!!
First of all, I don't want to sound as if I believe God put this pandemic in our paths in order that we might learn something from it. Everyone has their own belief systems, and I happen to believe there are simply some things that happen in life, and if we have faith in God, we will move through it as serenely as possible. Again, that doesn't rule out dying, by the way. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, Dave and I didn't pray for me to "not die" from cancer. What we prayed for on a daily basis was the ability to handle each "next right thing" we needed to do with His guidance and without anxiety. The reason we held this belief is because if we didn't, it sort of sounds like, "If you pray hard enough, or you have enough prayer warriors rooting for you, you won't die." What does that say if I had died? Those prayer warriors didn't do the prayers it right or enough? That isn't how the God of my understanding works. While it might initially sound a bit selfish, I am actually praying for ME. Yep, you read that correctly. What I mean is: I am praying that I might remember, at all times and in all situations, that I am right-sized. I am no more important nor no less important than the next guy in line to the Pearly Gates. And so, every singly morning, as I roll (sometimes literally) out of bed and onto my little "kneeler" by my bed, I pray for God to direct my thinking for just that day. I ask Him to remove my shortcomings, so I can better serve those people who I meet along my journey for that day. The serenity prayer is my constant ending:
God, grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change
the courage to change the things I can
and the wisdom to know the difference
And therein lies the rub. I can do the first two parts pretty well....it's that wisdom to know the difference with so many things that happen in my life. Is it God upon who I am relying or is it my own flawed brain telling me to do this or that? For instance, should I get my butt out of bed to go running, or should I stay curled up under our duvet? Okay, not really. I am not talking about that kind of decision (although our duvet is so comfortable, we sometimes are up and dressed before Kirby comes out of his burrowing spot where he has taken up residence at my feet under the covers for the night). I'm talking about those decisions about job opportunities, whether I am led to offer more assistance to those in need, what I can do to make education for traditionally underserved students (and teachers) better, etc.
But as we have moved into this COVID-19 Twilight Zone reality, we have learned a few things. First and foremost, it is perfectly acceptable to be on a Zoom call while still in pajamas. Second of all, people are clearly worried that an airborne virus is going to give them bowel issues (thus, the run on toilet paper----no pun intended). Next, and this really is the crux of my blog: we really can make do with a lot less than we thought we could. In fact, there are so many amazing stories out on the internet that I know mine won't measure up, but here is what has happened to Dave and me:
1. We have been asked (maybe because we are about 10 - 15 years younger than the average parishioners at our church) to step up to the plate and help out a bit more. Each Sunday, a VERY skeletal crew goes to church to set up for Facebook Live and a webinar version of church. While I used to do the readings (from the Gospel, etc.), I have been asked to "man" the Zoom chat for parishioners who need help getting on, etc. And Dave is now reading! Wait, that sounded bad, didn't it---like, "Look, you guys, Dave has actually learned to read! Well done, bloke!" What I mean is that, since I Zoom a bunch for work, that is my niche and he has been asked by Rev. Debra to read passages from scripture. We adore this small church that has been our "home" for about 2 1/2 years, but recently, we have gotten to get to know more folks and help in ways we might not have before this virus came along.
2. Our dogs truly love us. Obviously, we knew that already, but this pandemic has helped us find more time to curl up with them (especially with Rudy, as she is aging quickly and has medical issues---we adore finding more time to spend hugging on her and loving on her).
3. We have begun binge-watching "The Blacklist"---why, for all of my friends out there, have you not talked me into checking this Netflix series out before now? We are hooked!
4. We are grateful for the little things SO much more---Zoom happy hours with Dave's family, video chats with girlfriends of mine from college, seeing how people step up to the plate to make what used to be "live" events simply move seamlessly to online events.
5. I'm doing two book studies---one with my niece and grandniece and one (starting next week, and there's still room) on Jeanine Cummins' book, "American Dirt" (RUN, don't walk, to find a copy----it is truly heart-wrenching, action-packed, and drama-filled, you will not be able to put it down).
People say they've encountered hoarders at the supermarkets; people who are "Zoom-bombing" AA meetings by shouting out "Who wants a shot of Jim Beam???"; longer times for packages to arrive; longer than usual wait time to get customer service to help with business issues; and the list goes on. What I say is, "There will always be people who are doing things I may not love, but it is my own fault if I let those people or things block the sunlight of the Spirit".
I am thankful to all my friends, family, co-workers, partners in consulting work for schools and districts, and I am EXTREMELY confident they are all doing the very best they can. But what happens when we're allowed to return to "business as usual"? How long will it take us to forget these poignant moments that seem so sacred during this unprecedented time? I hope it will take us a long, long time. I pray we can keep the memory of what we are doing for one another "green" long after people take off their masks and gloves. Rachel Platten's song, "Fight Song" was there for me during my breast cancer struggles. I hope you can find some peace in it as well (and the wisdom to know the difference).
What about you? I'd love to hear your good-news stories. Please feel free to share them with me!!
Happy Communicating (and wash your hands!),
What better mantra right now than this one to keep us focused on the present versus projecting into the future that which we cannot control?
My first teaching position right out of college was supposed to be to teach students with Specific Learning Disabilities at the same school in which I had completed my student teaching, a low income school in the heart of San Antonio. What happened a few days into the school year was something nobody could have predicted---there were not enough students with SLD for two teachers, and I was low man on the totem pole. So, my principal gave me two options: a nearby school had a vacancy for an SLD teacher OR I could remain at my current school and teach students with Severe Emotional Handicapping Conditions. Not wanting to leave the comfort of my "known" school, I didn't really think about anything besides the 2nd option but asked if I could go by and see the classroom. My principal hesitantly said, "Yes" and told me where it was. As I got to the top of the steps, I heard before I saw a woman crying at her desk (no children around---apparently, they were at P.E.). She was crying out, "I can't do this! I can't do this!" --- not much of a Chamber of Commerce ad for taking over her classroom. The principal told me she couldn't handle the students and had suffered a nervous breakdown. When would I start? The next day.
I met with the assistant that afternoon and figured we'd get along just fine, and I went home trying to figure out what to wear that would look both "confident" and "friendly". I ended up wearing a sweater dress with black high-heeled shoes (that would be the first and last day I ever wore high-heeled shoes in that class). One of the two girls in the class, Joy, who had a severe conduct disorder, entered the room, looked at me and said, "Ooooh!!! Look at you in those high-heels". The other girl, Reminda, was quiet and shy until she wasn't and then all Hades would break loose. She had a mother who was schizophrenic and would dance in a sheet in the courtyard of their apartment building. At that time, I had about 10 boys (ranging from 3rd - 5th grade) in various stages of anger, trauma, and tremendous hurt. After that first day, Eric had shoved me (hard) when I tried to escort him to the time-out section of the room. Michael and Richard had gotten into a fist fight, which I thought about breaking up but it happened after Eric's shoving episode, so I let them figure it out. There was no resource officer. The principal was frankly more scared of my students than I was, and the assistant did whatever I told her to do (nothing more and nothing less). I went home and cried and cried (and cried some more) until I figured out that the next day, I had to do SOMEthing different. I went in the next morning, put up a chart on which student could earn points for work and behavior, posted it on the wall, and explained to them all what this meant. The day went significantly better, until Hillburn lost some points and told me to F**** off.
Again, I went home, crying until I came up with another idea. We'd keep the chart but they could only lose points if there was a severe infraction (to include hitting someone else or worse). Otherwise, they could simply earn points. It was on that day that I realized that extrinsic points could likely ultimately lead to intrinsic motivation, if they were just given a fair shot. I asked them what they would like to earn once they got to 100 points, 500 points, and even 1000 points. 100 points ended up awarding them with playing a game with the Special Ed. guidance counselor for 30 minutes (one of the funniest things Mario ever said to our counselor was when she warned him to not get so angry when they were playing a game or she would have to send him back to class. He narrowed his eyes at her and said, "Don't you think we have games in OUR classroom, Miss?"). 500 points earned them the privilege of going to lunch with me on the weekend along with a trip to the bookstore, where they could pick out their very own book that I would purchase for them (this became the very best thing I think I ever did in my teaching career---talk about building relationships and social skills at the same time!!). 1000 points would allow them to be "included" in a regular education classroom for one subject at a time.
After a few days of going home crying each day, I realized that I was crying less and solving problems more. When I got permission and money from my principal to buy 15 copies of "The Indian in the Cupboard" (I think he was just so grateful I wasn't sending my kids to his office but rather handling their behaviors in my classroom), I came in the next day with brand new books (on which I allowed each student to write his/her name) and a poor teacher's version of a cupboard. Inside the cupboard for each day we read the book, I would put three or four items. The students would then write their predictions of what would happen in that next chapter based on the items I put in the cupboard. Talk about motivating students to read! All I know is I was simply taking it one day at a time, dealing with the next thing that popped up like in Whack-a-Mole. I began loving those students so much, I can still tell you 30 years later details about each and every one of them and their homelives.
Dave and I did go to real church this Sunday. It was the last service until this virus has played itself out. Our dear priest, Debra, read and talked quite a bit about not being afraid, which (who knew) appears in the bible approximately 365 times. I think that means we are really supposed to heed that advice, and it seems pretty sound to me.
Living one day at a time sounds like pretty sound advice to me, as well. I hope you are able to do so. It sure beats the alternative, and it definitely got me through my first year of teaching.
Prayers and well wishes to all!!
Dave and I were at dinner last night with some friends of ours (former co-workers of Dave's ----you know, in the days before life was more than golf every day and he actually knew what day it was), and we began to have a conversation about the state of our lives and the lives of others. Since Dave and I began working with the Gospel Rescue Mission in Tucson to help find solutions for homeless folks (we have our first official Peanut Butter and Jelly Ministry on March 1st, in which some members from our church will make 100 PB & J sandwiches and take them down to the mission to give to those in need), we have changed in many ways. We see people differently; we view issues differently. Don't get me wrong---Dave and I still have spirited disagreements on political issues, but more and more, we find ourselves in conversations with people who want to find greater solutions than handing out a dollar or two to people on the street corners.
What do we do for the mentally ill who cannot work? What do we do for homeless vets who cannot afford even one good meal a day? What I know to be true is that the answer is not found in saying what is wrong with our "system" or what is wrong with "those people". The answer is going to be found in working together to help create community operations that systemically help larger numbers of people and do more than put a band-aid on the problem (or worse yet, ignore it or gripe about it).
Have I changed? Immensely. Yes, I'm still giving up something silly (sweets) for Lent, but I am also working with a dear friend of mine on giving up something really bad for Lent---gossip, judging others, resentment, lumping all people I think are "alike" into one group, and the hits just keep on coming. I'll pick one of those "bad" things to start giving up, and I pray that it will spread to the others. I kinda see it as a domino-effect. If I can either speak my truth in a way that is palatable for others to hear and not gossip, that may trigger a lessening of resentment on my part as well.
In the way God works in my life, there are no coincidences, and I have just recently been asked to work on a focus group to add Character Education into the teachings of our Educational Leadership courses at Grand Canyon. Talking with the group on Friday solidified my feelings that, while parents are certainly the child's first teachers, our teachers are also spending 7 hours (sometimes more) with students, so we have a duty, I think, to instill integrity and respect and love for humankind into our students. I remember, many, many years ago when Dave and I first moved to Florida, and I became involved with some pretty amazing people who wanted to help our youth have character brought into the lessons that were taught in schools (not changing the curriculum, mind you, but simply acknowledging when courage came up in a lesson on World War II, or when integrity came up in a class chat on being honest about taking something from someone, etc.). I will never forget going to the local college to have a panel to talk about Character formation in schools. One man stood up and pointed his finger at us and said, "Nobody is going to teach my kids any other religion but our own. Don't you dare!!" Wait, what??? When did kindness, trustworthiness, and respect become something that would defy anyone's religion? We were stymied. But, lo and behold, soon I was a guidance counselor, teaching lessons on character to middle school and elementary students for the next 9 years. After that, I was a principal at the best elementary school in the world, where we focused on Stephen Covey's seven habits of highly effective people. We taught the students (kindergarten students talking about "synergizing" and truly understanding the concept will not EVER be forgotten) that these traits help us become leaders.
What are we doing in our own lives to transform not only the students and children with whom we work, but ourselves as well??
All I know, for today, is that on Sunday, March 1st, some children and adults from Church of the Apostles Episcopal Church in Oro Valley, Arizona are making sandwiches to take to people who might be less fortunate than ourselves. I can't wait.
Have a blessed day! I can't wait to hear your thoughts about what you are doing to grow in your faith and character formation! Who knows? You might just inspire someone else.