Saturday, October 6, 2012

When Life Happens...

The beginning of this school year has been an eye opener for me.  I have been slammed with a lot of "LIFE" lately.  Without going into too many gory details I am dealing with some major stuff:

  • My family is in the middle of selling, buying, moving, and trying to make it all work with only one move... slightly stressful for a couple of control freaks (my hubby and I).
  • Parental health issues that will/are having a major impact on me and my family.
You are thinking, what does this have to do with education... well it has a lot to do with the students who walk through our doors everyday in many ways and I will be happy to make the connections for you!

Moving is stressful and it is something my husband and I despise, however we have done it 8 times in the 20 years we have been together (the past 9 years we have been in the same house).  We feel totally out of control because our house has sold and we are waiting for a short sale house we are trying to buy to close by the end of the month so we can avoid a double move.  My husband and I have had to remind ourselves that this short term stress is worth the result of having 3 acres of land to play on and a place that we will consider a vacation from our work lives.  It hit "home" today when we watched our 6 year old son run around the property.  The short term nightmare will lead to many incredible years of love and fun.  However, I know that our stress is transferring to our son in indirect ways and that makes me think of my students.

Have you ever had a student who tells you they are moving or have just moved and that they cannot find their "school stuff" because it has been "packed"?  There are tears in their eyes for a variety of reasons.  Maybe their parents are splitting up, or perhaps their family has lost their home due to the economy.  Or they could be moving for good reasons.  No matter the situation, moving is stressful and it can turn a household upside down which can have a huge impact on our students.  

Now onto the parental health issues.  Both of my parents are up there in age which creates an interesting dynamic for me, I had my son when I was 40 and so I am the mother of a young boy who has parents who now need help and care.  Again, what does this have to do with our students?
I want to make a plea of patience with our students.  Right now I am dealing with a bit of added stress, but I am so thankful in so many ways.  However, I worry about our kiddos in our classroom who are experiencing stress because of the "life" that is happening.  Guess what, some of your students have daily stresses that they deal with.
I ask you to please consider the following in your students lives:
  • Listen to them and not judge what they share with you about what is going on in their lives
  • Work to make a connection with the student(s) who seems to be a "problem"
  • Provide a safe learning environment for your students, which includes giving them more time, or lending an ear, or finding a way to make them successful everyday.
  • Look for the good in each student every day
  • Know that sometimes the reason for their actions or lack their of are due to  something that is out of their control.
  • Remember that NO student comes to school thinking "I want to fail"
Apparently, I have a lot of external issues that are impacting my daily life.  What I do not want is to impact is my students learning experiences in a negative way.  I have been thinking about how I can share my "life happens" moments with my students as a teaching/learning experience.  I want to model for them a variety of things:
  • It is healthy to show emotion.
  • It is normal to be stressed and confused about what is going on in your life.
  • Please ask for help, support and/or advise when you need it.
  • Know that there are many people who care about you.
  • Know that you are an incredible individual with many gifts to share.
Yes, I know there are those students that make things difficult in our classrooms.  They are the ones who need to know that we as educators believe the above applies to them.

Most importantly, I am asking that when you are checking homework or looking at student work and you walk up to that student you are almost sure does not have it, STOP.  There are two paths you can take at this point.  The first is giving the student a zero for whatever work is missing this time.  Or you can take the second path and have a chat with the student to find out why they consistently don't do their homework or classwork.  Find out about this kid and make changes to help him/her succeed instead of continuing the cycle of failure.  You just might be the person who changes the student's learning experiences into positive ones.