Sunday, February 28, 2016

Snow Day Intentions vs Reality

Having two official snow days in the books I realized a few things during my time off.
1. My best intentions to do nothing, while sounds great, is not really a reality when you have one or more of the following; children, a house, an appetite or social/moral obligations.
2. A mere watch of a video on Youtube can send you down a long and powerful thought train.

My intentions for Thursday were to curl up with a new book and read it cover to cover. The night before I had finished off a book, so it seemed completely conceivable that I could stay in my jammies and read the day away. It sounded lovely. I picked up the book and read chapter one. After the first chapter, I did a quick calculation and figured it would take approximately 8 hours to read the whole thing. Dang! That was longer than I originally expected. Maybe I better eat breakfast first. And check my email. And sort the laundry. Oh and then do some laundry. And play a couple games on my phone. Oooh look, there is Facebook. Ah, a video. I should watch that. So I did.

First, let me say I am a sucker for real life stories. If you were to write your life story, I would read it. If you were to video yourself sharing your struggles and triumphs, I would watch it. I would because I love learning from my fellow man. So here was this video with a post stating, "Statistically, I am supposed to be dead, in jail, or homeless. So what happened? ONE. CARING. ADULT."
If you have not already watched it, you should. Click on the link below and do yourself a favor and watch it. Yes, I know it is 16 minutes and 42 seconds long. Watch it anyway.

In it the speaker, Josh Shipp, shares about his time in the foster care system. His intentional process and plan to get himself kicked out of his foster homes. In which he successfully did, time after time, until he ended up in the home of Rodney and his wife. Now I don't want to spoil it, you need to watch the video for yourself.

It made me think of my kiddos at work. I am working with the at-risk and struggling students. My kids have stories that make you shudder and some that make you cry. The things I have heard in my short time at the school, well quite honestly, it sends me to my knees. Sometimes I would really like to sit down with the "adult" in their lives and have a little heart to heart. "Do you not know your influence?" "Do you not know there is a better way?" "Do you know Jesus? Let me introduce you to Him." "Do you know where your child learned their interesting "vocabulary?" "Have you ever heard of Celebrate Recovery? Any hurt, habit or hang-up!"  "What is life like for you? Do you have anyone supporting you?"

Because the reality is, many of my kiddos parents are also from broken homes. They are also struggling. They themselves are at-risk. They too need one caring adult in their lives.

So around and around my thoughts bounce. Thinking through the kids who intentionally push, prod and provoke. What is their motivation? For Josh, he was scared, confused and hurt by the things happening to him and around him. One of the lines that stuck for me, "What kids do not talk out, they act out." Kids are acting out.

Then there were Rodney's words, "We don't see you as a problem. We see you as an opportunity." How I can relate to Rodney's words. I don't see my kids as a problem. I see the opportunity. The possibilities. I see these kids with bright futures. Every day I show up at their table, I have the opportunity to make a difference in their lives. Beyond math facts and strategies, I am an adult that truly cares about each one of my students. So I smile. I hug. I encourage. I teach. We talk through moral characters. We talk about perseverance. We talk about respect. We talk about self-control.
Opportunities. I look them in their eyes. I listen.

Something I am doing is working. I have seen tremendous growth in the last couple weeks. I have earned their trust and I am seeing results. In test scores, yes. But more importantly, in how they respond at the table. Kids that used to tear down, encouraging. Kids that used to give up, keep trying and because they kept at it, master a concept. Kids that used to throw around furniture for attention, sit respectfully (not yet quietly) and excitedly work on whatever I put in front of them. I see eager faces. I see compassion. I get hugs, lots of hugs. One of the things I emphasis with my groups is struggling is okay. Frustration is okay. How we respond to the struggle and the frustration is up to us. We can act out or we can ask for help. I let them know I am there to help. I am there to be a caring adult in their lives. I believe in them.

God knows I had people in my life that believed in me! My parents for one. But beyond that, I had a few amazing teachers. People that at just the right moment spoke life into me. Because the truth is, I could have been a statistic. In some regards I was a statistic. I relate more to my students than most of my coworkers. I was that girl that went to school with her hair unkempt in elementary. I was that girl rushing after boys in middle and high school. I made choices. Others forced their choices upon me. I fell into wrong circles. By the grace of God I fell into the right ones. I have a history. One that makes me know without a shadow of a doubt, that each child is worth it. There is value in every child. That hidden among the arguing, complaining, and obstinance, is a life that can do marvelous and beautiful things. I know because I am that child. I see myself in the kids that I serve and where others see the behaviors and failures, I see the opportunity and potential.

See what happens when you watch a video? It requires you to respond. At least that video did. It made me put down the book. After shoveling the drive and spending time with my own kids, I never did pick the book back up. Instead I picked up a better understanding and appreciation.

Plus there was always, Friday's Snow Day... a day to binge watch the new Fuller House series.

It was my full intention, except life happened. I watched the first six episodes. Then, I ate tacos and  found myself at the Magnusson Hotel with the Homeless Angels . Three generations of my family putting away winter coats and relocating furniture; making space for new donations. Running to the store to pick up 2XL men's underwear because there was a man in need and no clean underwear to give him.  Making a difference; one smile, hug, moment, donation at a time.

My book is still resting on my end table.
I did not do it in one sitting but I did finish the Fuller House season one.
My intentions ended up different than my reality. And for this I am grateful.

Here's the video:

Every Kid is ONE Caring Adult Away From Being a Success Story
Statistically, I am supposed to be dead, in jail, or homeless. So what happened? ONE. CARING. ADULT.More videos & resources at:
Posted by Josh Shipp on Monday, February 8, 2016

Saturday, February 13, 2016

MTF's Musings of my Mind

I'm not exactly sure why I wait so long between posts but by the time I get back to the blog it appears there are so many thoughts that have been swirling around my mind, ready to get sorted out into coherent thoughts in print. Hold on, in no particular order, these are the most recent musings of my mind.

There are moments at work that I hear the phrase, "It's not my job!" Where someone has been asked to do something that they feel is not really their responsibility. I get it, I do. Yet a part of me doesn't, it is not really my mindset. I am a former home school teacher. As a homeschooler you never have the luxury of something not being your responsibility. The moment you decide to home school you are acutely aware that you are responsible for EVERYTHING! There is no curriculum committee, it is you spending hours upon hours, reviewing all the options. There is no administrative staff; all phone calls, orders, copies, medicine distributing, arrangements, appointments, it's on you. Discipline? The majority of the time it is you making a phone call to the dean of discipline, aka Dad. Yet there are times when it you that deals with it, in the moment. You are the field trip coordinator.  You spend hours prepping and preparing; Calling establishments and organizations, making the magical memories happen. Custodian? Ha! Let's be real, that is you all the way. Data? It is you analyzing your students progress. Deliberating painstakingly, if those curriculum choices, YOU MADE earlier in the year, are effective. Are they meeting needs? Are you seeing growth? Are your students engaged or bored out of their mind? What are the areas of struggle? How can you support each student to be successful? No intervention team, it's you. Then there is the actual act of teaching. The lesson plans. The time instructing. The grading. Repeat. How about the home school community, that we choose to participate in? More lesson plans, teaching a multitude of other kiddos(5-50), in whatever area of (sometimes)expertise or interest you may have.  At the end of the day it boils down to one main truth, success or failure, it comes down to your effort. It is your responsibility! Oh and let's just for a second talk about the pay. There is none, not even a tax deduction. In fact, it is YOU financing the bill of hundreds (possibly thousands) of dollars educating your children at home. So maybe it is just me but after being responsible for everything for ten years, I just assume whatever comes my way at work and embrace it because it is a small fraction of what I was responsible before. No fretting. No worries. Bring it, I got this, I was a home school teacher!

The elderly are beautiful! Today, my children's choir had the privilege of singing at a local nursing home. First, all the children sang for the residents in general care. Then, a smaller group went to the memory retention ward, where the Alzheimer patients were. These residents rarely receive as the head RN put it, entertainment. Immediately, you notice a difference in the cognitive level within this ward. Some have clear looks in their eyes, where others are clouded over, perhaps lost within their own minds. Yet when the children sang, they responded. Their faces brightened. Some tapped their feet, feeling the music. Some smiled. Another, slept through the entire thing. After the children finished singing, they greeted the residents. Speaking with them based on their ability. The church had provided a valentine craft for each resident in the building. The kids used this as an ice breaker to talk with each person they reached out to. They made the valentine for them. It was really rather sweet, watching these kids interact. A small group went off into the wards dining hall to make the craft and connect. I love the connection part of going to the nursing home. Some of the kids are shy but more so they are so open and uninhabited in their interactions with the elderly. The seniors just eat it up. They love having the children there. Each time we go, there are a few resident that make their mark in my mind. Today, it was Ed, Mary, and John. Ed and Mary have been married for nearly 67 years. 8 years ago she was diagnosed with Alzheimers. One year ago she came to the nursing home, every day he comes and visits her. He hasn't missed a day! Talk about the Notebook in living color. So sweet!   John? John was a sweet man that recently turned 102! Yet he looked more like he was in his 70's. I wonder all that he has seen in his life. I wonder what goes on in the mind of each of the residents in the memory ward. In a short amount of time I saw such a contrast of sadness and joy.

Update on my loss of consciousness: the chiropractor was pleasantly surprised that my neck did not show signs of trauma. In fact my neck and spine looked pretty great. Yeah! I went back to work the following Monday, armed with gatorade. It took a few days to get back to 100% but I got there. I am feeling pretty darn good these days. My son however did have a bout of the flu. He slept for a day straight, barely waking to take meds. Knock on wood, Formica, plastic, whatever is nearby, we are all healthy now and hopefully stay that way.

Our school appears to be the only school that has school on Monday. McCuse me! If anyone tries to rub this in, I may throat punch you and tell you Carla sent me. Please don't gloat! ;)

A huge shout out to my daughter, she earned her master badge in the make-up guild tonight. She can now crew head the make-up crew at our local theater. She has worked diligently towards this goal and I am super proud of her.

It is no secret that I love my Nepali family! In one week, some of my dearest friends will be moving to Pennsylvania. They are not just friends, they are family. To say they will be missed, is a huge understatement. I am so thankful for current technology that will allow me to facetime them and stay in touch. Today, I was able to chat with hajur ama and hajur baa on a smart phone. Such reassurance that we have this capability. When I think about the mark this family has made in my life, I tear up. When I think about the fact that they are moving 10 hours away rather than being just down the road, I feel sad. I know we are forever bonded. I know I will be making trips to their new home. I am already plotting when that trip can be made. I really wish I could take the week off so that I could go with them. Instead I will be helping load the U-haul and wishing them well. They are going to be so missed. I don't even want to think about the garden this summer without them. :(

The garden. What is it going to look like this year? With me working full time and mom's commitment to the Homeless Angels, it will probably look differently. Yet essentially carry on all the same. My plan is to do garden registration during Spring break while I have the week off. If weather allows, I hope to do the plotting that week as well. Sadly, this will be without my right hand man.

Without. Thursday, towards the end of my work day I found myself without my phone. I checked all the logical places it could be and it simply wasn't around. When I truly came to grasp this, it was time for dismissal. Not good. My responsibility for dismissal is to gather a group of kids and take them to their bus. I have to do this in a timely matter so I really did not have time to deal with it at that exact moment. As I went to make my first pick-up, I grabbed my daughters iPod and had her bring up the tracking feature to try and locate my phone. It was clear that it was somewhere in the building but I had no idea where and the battery was too low to send out the alarm. So I went about the dismissal process. As soon as all my kiddos were safely on their buses, I checked in to see if I could pinpoint where in the school my phone was. Except it was no longer in the school it was slowly and steadily moving away from the building. Ahhhh! Not cool, this could only mean one thing. A student stole my phone! So not cool! I watched it go...I could clearly see the direction in which it was moving. Do I chase after it? Ahhhh! I still had after school tutoring. What to do? I activated the lost mode, that shows a message on the main screen stating the phone is lost and allows you to add a contact phone number should it be found. I called the police. A little while later, my hubby called the school. He had received a phone call from someone that had my phone. The long short of it, the cousin ratted the guilty party out and it was now in the guardians hands. Phew! Off to tutoring knowing it was at least found. I had an address and a phone number. Hello my darling tutoring kids! After tutoring, I had a decision to make. Go to the address (in a sketchy neighborhood), go to the police station as they had not yet shown up to the school, or call to see if they were willing to meet me somewhere. At this point I did not know who had the phone. I did not feel safe going to the house! I also felt like I needed to follow-up with the initial call to the police. So I decided to go to the local precinct for advise. Only the local precinct apparently doesn't have office hours after 5pm. Ahhhh! They did however have two phones on the wall, a red one for emergencies and a brown one for non-emergencies. I picked up the brown one and spoke with the dispatcher. She found my initial call and transferred my location to the the precinct. She told me an officer would be there at their earliest convenience but they weren't sure how long it would take. Dispatch also advised me, "Do not go pick up the phone. Wait for the officer." Alrighty then! So I waited and waited and waited. We were late for theater. More waiting. After an hour, I picked up the brown phone again. The officer was in route and would be there in approximately 10 minutes. I saw the officer approach the door and then saw her walk back to her patrol car. I had to run after her. She took the report and said she would go retrieve the phone. Phew! She said she would bring it by my house sometime between 9-10pm if she was able to recover it. Yeah! Off to theater, better late than never. At this point I was pretty frustrated over the inconvenience. It was looking like it would all work out though. I came home from theater and decided to read to pass the time. I read and read and read some more. I was about to call it a night when the phone rang. The officer had my phone and was willing to drop it off if I was still up. Yeah! It turns out it was a FIRST GRADER that took my phone! I went from frustrated to disappointed which later turned to sadness. The officer spoke with the child, which I am thankful for. I hope it will be a turning point for this child. But the reality is, as the officer stated, this is probably just the beginning for this child. Perhaps it was a learned behavior from the adults in this child's life or as I believe is more likely, it is a result of neglect in the early years which has caused this young one to hold tight to anything they can get their hands on. This is not this kiddos first time with sticky fingers. They have taken things off peers desks, out of other kids back packs, school supplies and teachers property. My phone was probably the item of greatest value but it is really one item on a list of many. Will the visit from the police make an impact? I hope so. If it does, that afternoon of inconvenience was more than worth it. I pray for this child's sake, that it makes a difference. I am not even angry at this kiddo, just sad. The reality of my job is that not everything is as it seems. I have no idea what my kiddos have survived, what they face, what they have overcome...I must be vigilant and love them exactly where they are.

Happy Valentine's Day everyone! Hold your loved ones close. Tell them you love them. What you do makes a difference!