Amplifying Minds

Learning and Growing Together

Archive for the category “Championing Kids”

What Am I Thinking?

I am such an Introvert–yes, with a capital I. I truly renew my energy when I am alone or with a small group. It takes a lot for me to enter a convivial group, but I do it because I know it stretches me and helps me learn–and I love the friends I have made on the Internet and at conferences and in so many learning places–and I want to see and connect with them all.  So I am here at ISTE15, but I am in my room, skipping #HackEd, because I have to sort out some thoughts about the momentous Supreme Court decision made yesterday–to allow marriage between any two consenting adults.

“The decision is a reminder that “change is possible, shifts in hearts and minds [are] possible,” he [President Obama] said.

“This nation was founded on the principle that all people are created equal,” he said. “People should be treated equally no matter who they are or who they love.”

I am an Introvert, yes, and I am also gay. Early in my career, I almost lost my job over being accused of it. I had to deny who I was, and I had to deny who I loved to keep my job. So I’ve been there–in a spot of being discriminated against because of who I am. I’ve been there–surrounded by judgmental people who wanted to do something mean to me just because of who I am. And, I’ve been there–thinking there was something wrong with me because of who I am.

I sit here and write on WordPress, and look at the rainbow header–their doing, not mine. I think of the picture of the White House–the White House, for goodness sake, bathed in rainbow colors!

whitehouselights4

I think of all of the amazing responses we have gotten from folks when my partner of 22 years and I announced we had decided to get married this summer. I think of a post I saw on FB by my partner, Becky, about all of the bible thumping folks and hope it is read…This is an interesting read for folks who are thumping the Bible over today’s SCOTUS ruling – http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/3397304.  I think of all of the rainbows I have seen all over Facebook in the last 24 hours, and I think of the kids I teach.

Because despite all of my past fear, hurt and anger, (at times), over the discrimination I have been shown, what I mostly think about today is the children. They will grow up in a different world than I did. They will hopefully not be threatened with losing their job over who they are. And they will hopefully be in a school system that will support them and encourage them to be who they are, as they figure that out. Not all of us know right away who we are, and even more importantly who we want to become and what we can do to get  there.

I watched a boy in one of my schools, who at 7 years old in 2nd grade, wanted to be a girl, and was pretty vocal about it. He wanted to play with dolls, to play with the girls at recess, and to wear girl clothes. The school’s reaction, when the parents asked for advice, was to counsel them to get him psychological help. The school counselor put him in a social skills group with other boys to help him develop friendships. He was seated at a table of boys to help him have role models. He was encouraged to play in the “boy games” at recess. No one dealt with his very real feelings that he was different. No one talked with the other kids about what he verbalized to them. The very caring classroom teacher sought advice from other teachers, but she, too, didn’t know what to say or do. I didn’t speak up at the time, because I was still afraid I would be branded and ousted as the gay teacher if I spoke up. I hate that I let my own fear keep me from offering support and help to those parents, and that child. He moved at the end of that year, so I don’t know what happened, but I often think of him (or maybe her, now.)

I think of all of the people who, for one reason or another, judge others and treat them differently because of that. I think of the bible teachings I learned as a youngster–“Judge not, lest ye be judged” and think of all of the hypocrites I have known–that claim to be Christian, but judge anyway–and treat others according to that judgment. And I think of how that treatment changes folks–kids or adults–in how they think about themselves, how they perceive their interactions with others, and how that affects who they are and who they become.

And I want teachers, everywhere to realize there is a LOT of literature out there right now with gay characters, with transgender characters, with characters who are struggling with eating disorders, or mental or physical disabilities–and with many, many other issues kids deal with, often without help. Developing empathy in kids supports kids who need it getting help. Reading and talking about books like this change kids.

When we read Out Of My Mind

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as a group of third graders, I had a kid say she didn’t want a child like Melody in her room because it would take too much of the teacher’s time and she wouldn’t learn as much. I kept pushing books on her that dealt with kids with issues and two years later, in fifth grade, she said it was one of her favorite books of all times.

We can make a difference…

…with all kids–whether they be introverts, extroverts, gay, transgender, biracial, questioning, incredibly smart, incredibly needy (for whatever reason), disabled (however that may be), “normal” (whatever that means) and/or any other way kids are. We can make a difference no matter who or how they are.

So as we sit in our sessions at ISTE15, (or any conference, or any professional development, or any meeting, or any classroom, for that matter)  and talk with the folks we see rarely, at conferences, I am thinking we need to always think about what we are helping the children learn–what are we inadvertently teaching them by NOT talking about issues important to them?

What are we saying when we have no books about gay kids or parents, when we don’t talk about the social issues they are engaged in, when we ignore the pain we see in their eyes or faces as they walk in our rooms? We, as educators, need to be open to all sorts of learners, to all sorts of people, and, more importantly, we need to help them empathize, to care, and think deeply about who and what they are and want to become.

We need to help everyone in our lives understand we are all people–mostly with the same insides, and mostly with the same goals in life–to survive (and thrive), to be happy (have fun), to be loved, to be safe, to belong, to have control over our lives, and be free to be ourselves.

I’m thinking we need to be familiar with lists of books that help kids understand other kids.

Here are some to get you started:

Top 13 YA Books for Talking to Teens about Tough Stuff

Popular Teen Issues Books

Best Teen Books About Real Problems

And I’m also thinking we need to get some serious conversations going among educators about how to shift hearts and minds, as President Obama said.

What are you thinking?

Superheroes and Stereotypes…

I haven’t written on any blog for quite some time. I haven’t done much writing on any social media for quite some time. I have been involved in my schoolwork, my kids and more recently, getting ready for my wedding. I have lots to share about all of that, but really, with all the news focusing on Caitlyn Jenner and a post that came over my feed today (Heteronormativity in Schools) and a recent happening at school, I just need to think out loud.

I love the message this picture I saw on Facebook sends to girls:

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It comes from a campaign begun by a tech company that sponsors a “Girls in Tech” event.  Quoted from that:

“In science, technology, arts, mathematics, politics, houses of worship, on the streets, and in our homes, insightful women are often uninvited, overlooked, or just plain dismissed.

“Through storytelling, community building, innovation and creative disruptions, It Was Never a Dress will foster necessary conversations, vital voices, and images from around the world that honor ALL women. When we see women differently… we see the world differently!”

When I showed it to a second grader, she immediately smiled and said–“It’s a cape!” Her Mom happened to be right behind her, walking into my room and said, “Oh, cool.  Girls are superheroes!”

Then the original girl and another kid asked to put some around the school. I suggested they put them in the girl’s bathrooms, and so we printed a bunch out and a middle school helper and two 2nd graders organized hanging them around the building.

About 15-30 minutes later I was in the girl’s bathroom when an adult came in “checking for signs.”  All of the work the girls had done had been undone in less than 30 minutes. I don’t know on whose authority (our principal wasn’t there that day) and I also don’t know why. It’s been a heck of a week, and frankly, I just haven’t had time to ask. I will ask, but we’re two days away from the last day, and it’s crazy busy right now.

But I have been thinking and wondering why…

I have also been wondering why no one said anything about it–no question to the staff, no comments, nothing–and there’s one of these on my door, and on the doors of other teachers/classrooms in the building.

I am a gay woman getting married this summer. I have gotten some pushback about that from some surprising places, but have encountered MUCH more support, and my colleagues and principal have been just plain downright wonderful. As I said to my staff in a celebration they gave me, unless you’ve been part of a minority that’s experienced discrimination, you really have no idea how deeply it impacts your life in many, many ways–both good and bad. It makes you pay attention to things that may mean nothing, but may also be representing people unthinkingly perpetuating discrimination or prejudice. One often doesn’t know, but if you are part of a minority group, you wonder.  At least, I wonder.

I just can’t help but wonder why a picture that makes young girls think about themselves as superheroes would be a bad thing to post in an elementary school.  Thoughts?

The Summer Experiment

Cross posted from the Facebook page, “It’s All About Books.”

summer experiment

Got my hands on an advance copy of The Summer Experiment  by Cathie Pelletier last night and I read it in a couple of hours. (I am a fast reader.)  As I read, I kept thinking, “Oh, Katie will enjoy that part.” Or “That sounds like something I might have said as a youngster.”  Or I can’t wait to share this with my kids!” (I said that multiple times–I have many kids who will love it.) The one thing I didn’t like was the title….I didn’t think it did the book and story justice.   I really enjoyed the story, and wish I could share it now with my kids, though it will be an awesome one to do later in the year  as we approach summer, too.
The characters are well-developed enough (Grandpa rules!) that I cared about them and will remember them…I even shed a few tears at one point. I laughed out loud as well…so what can make a book better? I really loved the main character, Roberta–reading the story through her words and thoughts was so realistic…and so honest, I wished I could have had her as a friend when I was 11 years old.
Living at the very tip of northern Maine, she readily admitted her life was more like the childhood of her parents and grandparents, but iPhones and the Internet were part of the story. The innocence, though, and the freedom the kids enjoyed was a reminder of times gone by in most areas. It’s a great story of acceptance, grace, sibling rivalry and connections and knowing when to push growing up.

Dear Joey…a note to a very special Sandy Hook child

joey

Dear Joey,

My birthday is December 10 and my best friend’s is December 11, the same as yours. I can’t imagine not having her here to celebrate my birthday with and I know your family is probably looking at your 8th birthday without you with sadness and longing to have you here.

It says so much that your family nicknamed you Joey from your more formal name of Josephine–my dad did the same for me as a toddler–from Pauline to Paula. I love the nickname Joey–I wish I had known you personally. However, your pictures say a lot about you.

Your precious smile, your contagious enthusiasm for life and your eager willingness to play and be silly will always be missed. But is it exactly those things that will also sustain the ones who love you and wish you were with them today. You made your family smile. You made your family laugh. And you made their hearts full when you hugged them and shared your love with them.

I am so incredibly sorry your life was cut short. I also know you are in a loving, giving, wonderful home now where you are being taken care of with care and grace. Your family’s sorrow may last a long time, but their love–and yours for them–will last forever. Love transcends all.

The strength of everyone involved in the Sandy Hook tragedy has impacted the world. Teachers (and I am one) now look at our classrooms differently. (Where would my children be safer? What would/could/should I do to keep them safe? How can I keep them safe?) I keep my classroom door locked. I talk with my children about strangers more and the importance of following OUR safety procedures.

But I also make sure that worry does not permeate our lives–because I want to see the smiles on their faces like the one on yours in your pictures. I want them to be enthusiastic about life and all it has to offer, as you were. I want them to play and be silly and enjoy the laughter and love of those around them as you did. You see, you–and your friends–and your family and other families of Sandy Hook inspire those of us who are left. The pain, fear and incredible sadness you all had to endure was way more than any one should have to overcome, especially at such a young age.

But your legacy is to leave the rest of us with determination to be like the Sandy Hook community–to be brave, stoic, and strong in the face of adversity. Your legacy is inspiration to make each moment count and live, love and laugh to the fullest of each moment we have. Your legacy is a promise of strength, connecting and sharing to survive together.

Your legacy–that you left to each and every other person in the world–is hope. And I thank you and your family for that precious gift. May God bless you all.

Reimagining School: A Student’s Perspective

From Nicolas, a kid I taught in 5th grade, who is now in 9th.

http://nicolascres.wikispaces.com/Reimagining+School

Nic has some interesting perspectives, but the thing I have always appreciated about him is that he is thoughtful, caring, looking to make connections, a risk-taker and first and foremost, a person I am proud to know.

Just as my opinions are my own on this blog, his opinions are his own on his wiki and blog.

Making Readers

My Mother helped make me a reader.  I remember being read to before I was 7 years old.  (I lived in W. VA until then and I have memories of being read to in the W. VA house.) So I got that early exposure to reading, and I’m pretty sure I was reading before I went to school. Then, we moved, and in our new house, I remember my Mom and I going to the library to get books every week. I walked out each week carrying so many books I could barely hold them. I remember going home with every book in a picture books series–back then it was books like Flicka, Ricka and Dicka and Snip, Snap,and Snurr. (These have been reprinted in the mid-90’s.)

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50 years later, I could have told you (before I looked them up), that they were set in Sweden.  I knew they were books about triplets and that I loved poring over the illustrations.

I remember moving into chapter book series like Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys and then into Heinlein and Asimov (thanks to my brother, Rod.) All of this was done through the public library. (Thank you, Roanoke City for building a new one on the grounds of my Jr. High School!)

Then, I got more into science fiction and fantasy and in college and when I began to work, I began buying my own paperbacks–and so when I moved into my house, I had to have floor to ceiling bookshelves for those books I had been moving from place to place. I also have bookshelves all over my classroom and have spent way too much of my lifetime salary supporting my love of books.

I mostly spend on children’s books now–just to keep up with the upper elementary kids I teach. I introduced Out of My Mind and The One and Only Ivan and Hurt Go Happy to the kids in my school.  I read the Nerdy Book Club posts and often buy the books reviewed there. Just the other day I watched the Scholastic Spring Preview and immediately got some of those.

And I am still wondering why schools often don’t  make a lifetime reader.  I grew up on Lucy Calkins, Donald Graves, Regie Routman, Jane Hanson, and others of that era where we began talking about really teaching reading and writing like real readers and writers act. Yeah, I’ve read Donalyn Miller’s Book Whisperer and Reading in the Wild. I have kids who are readers…and I have kids who can read, but choose not to.  I have kids who HATE, HATE, HATE anything that has to do with Daily 5 or a literacy menu, because they see that as making reading boring.  Kids don’t mind discussing books–but filling out packets of comprehension questions doesn’t cut it with them. And, I’m seeing more and more of that coming back into our classrooms.

So I struggle with preparing them for the state tests, which gives them a passage and asks them to answer questions like those typically found in packets. I sporadically give them worksheets on making inferences and reading for meaning, and interpreting various kinds of reading (poetry, narratives, non-fiction, etc.) but those don’t make them a reader.  They support them becoming a good test taker. And, as a teacher, I do see that as part of my job–because taking tests is part of schooling as we know it now.

I spend most of my time with students talking books, sharing books, enjoying stories together and supporting them loving to read, thinking deeply about connections and meanings and themes. But it’s the talking that matters to my kids.  They have a lot to say, and most of them are really thinking. They have questions, they wonder, they ponder why an author did this or that, they imagine being in the story, they engage with the characters, they connect around similar plots and characters, and they share recommendations for good reads.

I wish they could prepare a portfolio for the state assessment.  I wish theycould write a testimonial to the kind of reading they do.  I wish they could share their blog posts of reading recommendations.  There are a ton of things my kids–and all kids–could do to show they are successful readers beyond reading a passage and answering multiple choice questions about it. But while my state requires that test, I’ll continue to do test prep–enough for the kids to do well, but not so much they begin to see reading as a test to pass, or as answering questions, or as worksheets to do.

And, in the meantime, we’ll continue to share good books, read together, cry and laugh together over events in the stories we co-habitate in, and we’ll look to finding the next great book that flies around my classroom because we just can’t put it down. Because while I am expected to do test prep, I believe making readers is more important.

I Write To Make Meaning

A while back, I wrote a post called “I Write For Myself.” I’ve been thinking about whether that was completely true or not, and I’ve come to realize that writing is incredibly important to me.  I started a blog years ago because I was beginning to connect online and it seemed like the thing to do.  As people read and responded to me, though, I realized the connections were important , but my figuring out what I had to say was even more so. I do write for myself, and I write to make meaning. But without an audience, an authentic audience of people who choose to read my writing, I wouldn’t grow nearly as much as I have since I began that blog.

Ruth Ayres, in Celebrating Writers, said, “We write to communicate clearly, to come to new understandings and to connect to others.” I think that pretty much sums it up for me as well. Writers–real writers who understand the craft of writing–know that it is, as Ms. Ayres also says, not about writing for publication but writing for meaning. I write to understand my own thoughts, and when others respond to them, it helps me learn, ponder, think and grow.

Tomorrow I begin a six week writing club after school. I’ll have 6 hours to support these kids who chose to spend some time after school writing. I’ll have 6 hours to (potentially have to) undo the idea of what writing is that they have learned in school.  For many kids, there is school writing–the 5 paragraph essay, the writing on command, the writing for the teacher, the writing just to be writing– and then there is

w*r*i*t*i*n*g*

W*r*i*t*i*n*g* tugs at our hearts, it is hard work, it connects us to other people. 

W*r*i*t*i*n*g* exhilarates us, it makes us cry, it makes us laugh, it makes us feel human–big and powerful. It also makes us feel small and alone.

W*r*i*t*i*n*g* touches us in ways other things can’t–but only if it is good…and we have to help kids find that thread within themselves that allows them to share those thoughts and feelings–through words– with the world.

We can’t set kids up to think writing happens for the teacher–or for the grade.  or worse yet, for the test. Writing comes from within, from a need to get it out–and yes, from a need to be heard. 

Tomorrow I begin a six week writing club after school. I’ll have 6 hours to support these kids who chose to spend some time after school writing.

I won’t be using a red pen–we’ll confer to talk about how to change their writing.

I won’t be having them write for me–they’ll have a real audience, and I hope you might be part of it.

I won’t be asking them to write to prompts of my choosing, but I will help them find ideas– theirs, not mine.

I won’t even mention the 5 paragraph essay (except to maybe say ignore that structure as they write), but we will be talking about beginnings and middle and endings.

I will be working to touch their hearts and tug at their empathy strings and  help them feel their emotions and learn their thoughts through what they write.

I will be asking them to get to know themselves better and make meaning of themselves and their world.

I will be asking them to respond to each other, to reflect on what they are doing, and to rejoice in what they are learning.

I wil be asking them to write for meaning.

EDUsummIT2013

So I am an invited member of an international summit on ICT in Education. You can click on the logo below to join the discussions through google groups, and I hope you do!

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I am so excited for the next few days –it is such an honor to be here, and I really have been nervous about what I can contribute.  There are some amazing thinkers here (including some of my Apple Distinguished Educator buddies), but my introversive tendencies and also my belief that others could contribute so much more make me wonder how I’ll share.

However, my friends come to my side to shore me up without even knowing they do…Monday evening, my Superintendent wrote a great blog–How Twitter Tore Down My District’s Walls. Pam gave me great credit in her story (or great blame… I guess it’s all in how you look at it, LOL). My librarian and I did a workshop Monday and we made an impact on our teachers….nothing feels better than that in the moment! And, then, Monday night was the reception for the Summit–at the Library of Congress, no less, the day before the U.S. government might shut down! And, the coolest thing happened.

I really am not good in receptions.  I really am not good in large groups.  I mean, I can be, but I really prefer small groups or individual conversations over being in a large room of people and being expected to mingle…but I pushed myself to go to this reception. I ended up at a table talking with two guys from Europe–Hans from the Netherlands and Balfour from Italy.  After we had all finished our small plates of food, Hans from the Netherlands asked if we were on Twitter.  I said I was and he pulled out his phone to look me up. The first name that came up was not me, but I saw a tweet in his search that had @pammoran in it along with other names–and I pointed and said “I bet I’m the @paulawhite mentioned in that tweet.”  Sure enough, I was–but then Hans from the Netherlands (that’s how he named himself multiple times while we were standing there, which is why I call him that) turned his phone around and, showing me the little “following bird” said, “See, I’m already following you–I thought I recognized you. You have a great profile!”

That was a confidence booster…once again a friend came through without even knowing they did. Just knowing her knew something about me from Twitter made me feel more like I was chatting with a friend than standing in a room full of people I didn’t know. I’ll have to point Hans to this post tomorrow as a thank you!

But this makes me wonder–how many of our kids–our introverts-our insecure ones–our kids who are not confident–go through each school day wondering who will notice them, who will get into their space, who will ask them to talk when they don’t want to, who will ask them a question when they want to be left alone?

How much do we pay attention to the cues they send us?  How much do we honor their request (silent, maybe, but there none-the-less) to be left alone? How much do we accept them (without commenting on the different behavior) when they do choose to interact?  How much do we afford them opportunities to work alone or not require the collaboration we ask of others?  Is that fair? How often do we set them up to be seen as competent by their peers?

How do we, as teachers, read each kid, meet each kid, and help each and every kid? How do we support the learning of all kinds of learners?

Well, the answer is simple.

We don’t.

We rely on the networks we establish–the community of learners in the classroom, our online friends, our friends in the building. We realize no one person can do it all and we work to set up the best situations for all learners–or any learner. It’s not about looking at one of us or ourselves or any individual as the one who can do it all. We work together and grow together and share what we know about kids to help all of us grow and learn and be better…

It’s not about us in isolation–it’s truly about us as an “us.”

Because the “culture of participation” Pam describes truly does help all of us.  As Maya Angelou is given credit for saying (and @beckyfisher73 always quotes), “None of us is as smart as all of us.”  And, as Pam says in the post I mention at the beginning of this,”No one of us is more powerful or important than all of us together.”

So we need to work together to do the best we can for our kids, and build everyone’s capacity to work together and be sensitive to one another.  I need to rely on the network of people in our Summit, and in the room, and out of the room to help us all think deeply about the issues brought to the Summit.

Won’t you join us in the Google groups and help us all get smarter?

Thanks!

Kids Champion Each Other

You know there are always kids in a school every other child knows–you know, the leaders, the clowns, the misbehavers, the in crowd, the whatevers…but darn near every kid knows their name and recognizes them where ever they are.

And, new kids often don’t know those kids or at least, they may not know initially which are the clowns, or the misbehavers. So it’s nice when someone can give them the inside scoop.

I’m often in a unique position to talk to kids because of being a resource teacher. I sometimes am testing a kid so get some private time, and sometimes do small groups, so kids are more likely to bring things up, and I let kids have lunch in my room–which means I sometimes overhear casual conversations that allow me to get into something we teachers may not otherwise know about.

But one of the funniest times I championed a kid was when one of our kids tried to pull a prank on the new kid. The new kid was in my room, and left to go to the bathroom, fairly close to my room. He came back a few minutes later, with a somewhat uneasy look on his face , saying “John was hiding behind the bathroom door when I went in.” I said “What?” and he repeated what he said.  I couldn’t help it–I was absolutely fighting to hide my chuckling.  I then asked, ‘You mean John was hiding behind the door to scare the next kid who came in?”  New Kid:  “I guess so.”  I burst out laughing at that point, and said something to the effect of “Oh, my gosh, I wonder how long he was in the bathroom waiting for someone.”  At that point, the new kid laughed (as did other kids who were listening) and we all began wondering how long one would have to stand in the bathroom before someone else came in. The new kid’s fear was diffused, he recognized that the “hider” had no ill intent other than to be funny, and it became no big deal.

In fact, a week or so later, the new kid was in my room, and the hider walked in to say something to me. (He was avoiding going to where he was supposed to be, so I reminded him he needed to be in Science.)  As he left, the new kid laughingly said, “And, don’t go hiding in the bathroom, either!” The “hider” turned around, made eye contact with the new kid, smiled, and immediately headed to the bathroom.  We all laughed.

Within a few minutes, the new kid asked if he could go to the bathroom.  I asked what he had planned and he said he was going to let the other one scare him so he wouldn’t have to hide in the bathroom long.  I knew then that I didn’t need to champion the “hider” anymore with the new kid–he had the “hider” figured out–and was trying to help him!

Ya gotta love how kids figure out how to support and champion each other.  And, yeah, I know this isn;t an academic thing, but the social often outweighs the learning if it’s not good.

Championing Kids’ Acceptance

Part of what we do as teachers is help kids accept other kids.  If our attitude towards certain kids is less than accepting, or worse, sarcastic, then kids see that as permission to discard that student as well.  And, let’s face it –we all have kids that are hard for us, for whatever reason.

I found a long time ago that if I find myself not liking a kid, the best thing to do is spend MORE time with that kid. I find something fun to do and invite the kid…and once I have spent some time one on one, that often negates the feelings I had ben having. The bottom line, though, is that we cannot allow ourselves OR OTHERS to kick kids out of a group.

Championing Kids means to accept  them and help others accept their quirkiness as well.   YEARS ago, I was teaching K and had a kid who was a hitter–had no social skills to speak of, so I was trying like crazy to help him acclimate himself to being in a group, follow school rules and stop hitting. But, boy, was he smart…I had taught an older sibling and knew the family, and this child had pretty much grown up without boundaries, but with much love. I also knew the family valued the kids behaving in school, but were just too busy to deal with conforming at home–and the older siblings were 10+ years older.

So, one day after having watched some usually nice kids in my classroom attempt to get together to isolate this child, I decided to have a class meeting.  Sitting this kid on my lap, I decided to bring his behavior up to the group. I basically held this kid in a hug while I explained to the other 5 and 6 year olds that he was not deliberately trying to be mean when he grabbed stuff or hit, but that he just didn’t know YET how to be considerate (see my K rules post) and that I thought they could help him. I then asked him if wanted our help to be more able to play nicely with other kids, and he nodded.  That led into a discussion about how the rest of us could react when he hit or grabbed a toy. We spoke to language we could use, we practiced it and we gave him the words he needed to use as well.

championed him my letting the others know it was NOT okay to kick him out and make him feel ostracized.  I championed him  by sharing how smart he was and explaining we needed to help him learn because he just didn’t have it YET. I championed him by empowering him to acknowledge he would take help, and then we gave him the words and phrases he needed to learn how to share.  And I championed him by NOT putting him down but letting him know we accepted him and cared for him and would help him be the best he could be.

The important things here were that I asked his permission for him to get help from others, I was clearly saying by holding him that I accepted him and cared for him, and I took away the other kid’s feelings about HIM being a bad kid and put it on his actions, NOT who he was. It took a while to eradicate the hitting, but his behavior markedly improved right away and soon he was no longer hitting or grabbing toys as his first strategy. I’ve always remembered that because I basically talked with a group about one child’s specific issue…and I had some qualms then about doing it and have pondered if there was a better way many times.

BUT, the most important part of this story is what happened 10 or 11 or 12 years later. I had organized a group of alternative HS kids to come over and connect with my kids. You see, they were working on programming legos (making an amusement park, complete with a carousel, ferris wheel and other rides) and my kids had been working with Duplos. Our Superintendent, @pammoran, connected the teachers and we decided to share our activities across the kids.

So who walks in, but this kid I have shared with you.  And, as I gave him a big ‘ole hug, the first words out of his mouth were, “This is still my favorite class of all the ones I have been in!”  He then sat on the floor and began talking to my kids with respect, with kindness and with laughter and joy.  I caught him looking around and as the big kids were leaving, he pointed out (to his friends) things he remembered playing with as a K kid. Going out the door, he turned, caught my eye and smiled.

That’s championing kids!

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