Thursday, September 18, 2008

Grandchild Wisdom

     Healthy Thinking.
     My granddaughter age eight was riding in my car with me to the mountain cabin.  We were having a heart to heart talk.  She said, "You know grandma, some people say I talk to much, but I love to talk, so I think I"m just going to keep talking."  I her grandmother who also loves to talk was proud of what I thought was a rather Healthy attitude that she ought to keep throughout her life.

     Too Old to Share
     My four year old granddaughter wasn't happy about sharing her crayons with her three year old cousin. Her older and wiser sister tried to persuade her that sharing was the right thing to do. With her hands on her hips and her lower lip stuck out, she uttered, "I'm too old to share!" 

The Case of Casey

The Case of Casey
     As a teacher, many of my experiences are of a light-hearted nature.  Memories that one would look back on with laughter and joy at the cute antics of young children. However some experiences bring a different type of joy.  It might be described as the joy one feels after a difficult and exhausting journey with a troubled child that concludes as a victory with a wonderful sense of satisfaction and reward.  A gratitude perhaps of just being part of that young child's life. That of being able to make a difference. Such was the case of a young lady by the name of Casey.
     My introduction to Casey came before she entered my second grade classroom.  I had agreed to help a friend who lived out of town to help her take care of her rental which was just across the street from my home. The first renter that occupied it was Casey, her younger brother and her single mom. Unfortunately her mom was not a great parent. She was on drugs, couldn't hold a job or care for her children. 
After trashing the house, she escaped in the middle of the night without paying her rent. A lawyer was hired, but not much was accomplished. Two months later the office at my school sent me a new student. Imagine my surprise when there stood Casey and her mother in the door way of my classroom. Hence began the saga of Casey in the classroom. She was a very pretty and intelligent child. She was always dressed in tattered, dirty clothes usually too small and shoes to large. She didn't have many friends and a very low self esteem. Most of the students liked her and tried to include her, but unfortunately I had two rather mean-spirited little girls who seem to delight in making her miserable whenever they were out of sight and hearing of the teacher. Casey's reaction was an extreme tantrum. She would kick and scream and throw desks and break things. Partially, I think that she didn't receive enough love and attention from her mother. It is also my understanding that drug parents are either very happy and high or very low, angry and out of control. There isn't too much emotion in between or on the level so to speak. With that background, Casey would often fly into a rage, especially if tantilized by the two little girls of which we previously spoke.
At our school, we had a discipline system called the "Owl squad". This was to help with students who had issues of self control. When a student acted out,  a squad made up of a group of teachers would be summoned.  This system made it so that the other students didn't lose out on their education and the offending student was carried often kicking and screaming to the time out room. They were given the opportunity to walk alongside the team of teachers if they could stay in control. It also protected the teachers from hearsay and lawsuits, as their were plenty of witnesses.  It didn't do much for the offending students education process, but then they weren't ready to learn at that point anyway.  I decided to come up with my own in the classroom method so the other teachers wouldn't have to leave their classrooms so often, although they were not out very long.  So this is when the idea of the  "Chill Chair"  was born.  
The chair was put in the hall and Casey and I had a discussion that if she felt anger coming on or If I said Chill Chair and pointed my finger towards the hall, she was to go there and stay there until she felt in control. She could come back in at any time she felt she was ready. If she had issues that she wanted to work out, she made an appointment with me when I was not in the process of teaching and we would get to the root of her problem. That way I could go on teaching and the other students did not suffer downtime for learning. It worked beautifully, because Casey loved to learn and it gave her time to cool down.  Soon her head would peer around the door and back in she would come because she wanted to hear more of what we were learning. Sometimes that was the end of her anger and other times we had a problem solving session later. That year Casey and I developed a good relationship and she made some friends and learned a lot.  Several years later when Casey was in junior high she and her mother appeared in the door of my classroom again one afternoon after school.  This time Casey and her mother were in the area and Casey wanted to say Hi, to her favorite Elementary teacher.
Her mother was off drugs and had a responsible job. They were doing well. It is days like this that make teaching all worthwhile!  It is my hope and prayers that she is still somewhere moving forward with her life and making the world a better place.