Students in crisis. It happens in every school across the world. In some areas it happens more often than others, but in these moments very similar things happen…
For me the pattern was frequent this week. On Tuesday, I attempted a fun duck matching activity with the staff, only to neglect it in lieu of spending much needed time with a student who needed the teamwork of my counselor and I.
On Thursday after school I turned to my administrative assistant and told her that I felt the tension was like an overblown balloon. We had just finished PARCC testing, Spring Break was one week away, and St. Patrick’s Day was Saturday. (I know, I know, it’s not a celebrated holiday usually – but if you work in a school – you know that any “Holiday” is exciting for kids!)
Friday morning I was determined to try and adjust the pattern, with the risk that I would again fail to fulfill my duties as “Super-Fun-Chaos-Coordinator”, but wanted to push forward. I purchased Merge Cubes and St. Patrick’s Day temporary tattoo’s from our local Walmart Store, created a shared google document…and was ready to roll.
To begin the morning my staff received an email that read –
Who wants a Merge Cube?!
Add a joke to this google doc that we all can read and laugh at on this busy Friday and I will hand deliver you a merge cube!
Within three minutes I had a joke to read –
-To whoever stole my copy of Microsoft Office, I will find you. You have my Word.
The people in the office starred at me while I was laughing out loud. Ahhhh!! Laughter. So good for the soul!
So far the morning had gone well, no major incidents, and I had made it into every one of the classrooms! Then came lunch. Again, if you work in a school, you know that even when the morning is smooth sailing – for some reason…lunch can knock the wheels off the bus!
I had considered passing out the temporary tattoos throughout the day in the classroom, but then I thought kids would be sneaking into the bathroom to put them on. So I then figured I could pass them out at lunch, realizing quickly that I would probably find 400 students in the bathroom then too! I had to think fast!
I ran to the closet, grabbed a package of new crew socks and a bowl. I threw it all together and covered it in water and ran outside to the playground.
For the next hour I froze my hands while sticking St. Patrick’s Day tattoos on 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders using new, wet socks.
This day was amazing!
Reality check – not everyday will be like this.
Not everyday will every student be prepared to face the day with a gritty and content mind. Not everyday will the building principal be able to fill many buckets at one time through quick and positive interactions.
Sometimes one student takes up the whole day. Sometimes that student needs one adult more than anything else. Sometimes the rest of the school will rise and keep moving forward, even without the glitz and glory.
It’s the weekend now, I’m already preparing. Monday may ask for the “Super-Fun-Chaos-Coordinator” or the “Crisis Manager”, be ready for both…just in case.
Adam Welcome and Todd Nesloney have an important tip for educators in their Kids Deserve It book “Leave it in the car”. They are referring to the anything but positive emotions that you are feeling before you walk into your school site.
Sounds great right? Wow, but it is super hard!
After an incredibly rough weekend and a not so amazing Monday (which is a post for another day), I felt defeated…already. Pulling myself out of bed to prepare for the day at school just seemed impossible, and of course…I had run out of coffee the day before, so the impending doom of an un-caffinated morning was weighing heavily on my mind.
I stopped at Dunkin Donuts on the way to school and picked up an iced coffee which I’ve never done, it tasted like I was gnawing on a coffee bean. Although, you better believe that I drank the whole cup!
Right away upon entering the building, I noticed that a student of mine was super early. Not only was she super early, she wasn’t even trying to hide the fact that she wasn’t digging this Tuesday morning anymore than I was.
This is the part where you expect me to work miracles – walk up to her, say something profound, and change the whole course of the day….right? So soon have you forgotten about my self-prophetizing “Terrible Tuesday”. As a result, I walked by her without comment and headed into my office (educators and do good’ers across the nation are gasping, I can hear it from Rural Illinois). Anyone who has decided to use this moment to judge can be my guest, nobody is perfect.
What happened later on though is where the magic happens.
About an hour after arrival I was still in this elusive funk that threatened the happiness of anyone around me. As I was walking down the hallway of the school, from one meeting to the next, that same young lady was in the hallway and we crossed paths at the drinking fountain. As I was filling up my water bottle she reached her arms out and took a step closer for a hug. No other communication needed. I gave her a side hug…as we are appropriately taught in our professional schooling. It wasn’t enough, she pulled me in and almost squeezed the life out of me, not to be funny friends – this was a “I’m in needed of some love hug”. I reciprocated and then as I continued to walk to my meeting my step felt a little lighter. Maybe I needed that hug as much as she did.
“Maybe I needed that hug as much as she did”
The next thing I did was the second most important thing I did all day, I set an alarm…the note I typed into my phone said “hug” set for one hour later. I was going to back to get myself one more dose of the strength and energy I needed to keep pushing through the day, in the form of a hug.
You can probably anticipate what happens next. I set four more alarms that day, all with the same note, “hug”. We both successfully made it through our day, not without strain, but we made it…and it even included more than a few smiles.
It wasn’t the strong coffee, it wasn’t a push from my PLN, it wasn’t encouragement from my internal self that gave my strength. My strength came from an accidental encounter at the drinking fountain and the blessed heart of a child. Lesson learned…Schools are a symbiotic relationship. We need our kids, just as much as they need us.”
“Schools are a symbiotic relationship. We need our kids, just as much as they need us.”
When I’m in a bind I always call the same person…my mom. She is the absolute best. Today, she was out of town. Who is my second in command?
At least I call her that. If you’ve read my previous posts you know who I’m taking about.
She is one of the most incredible women I’ve ever known.
I can’t tell you the number of times she has bailed my butt out of a school situation. Today wasn’t quite as serious…but for sure worth mentioning. I’ve had to reschedule my last two hair appointments…the girls in the room who are reading currently will be finding a stable seat…slowly.
My mother in law text to let me know she was sick and couldn’t imagine risking my kiddos. I rallied the troops into the kitchen and gave them two choices.
1. Sit at the hair salon with me & an iPad
2. Help me brain storm someone to babysit
The response to my first option from the kids was groaning…depths of your soul, pain from within, groaning.
In response to option #2 my son instantly said “Mrs. Salas!!!” To which my daughter threw her hands up in the air and grinned.
I sent a quick text and in three minutes received this reply…
“They are welcome and I’m looking forward to seeing them. We can play cards. See you tomorrow. Hope you had a fun trip to Texas.”
The next day, in two hours Chloe learned Twister, Cole learned Poker, and they both refused to leave without a hug.
I have never met a more sincere, humble, loyal, and honest person than the woman who has been with Sterling Public Schools longer than any other district employee. Mrs. Vicky Salas fills my days at school with laughter, understanding, and sarcasm…oh and sometimes…good ‘ol kick in the pants.
Mrs. Vicky Salas is my school secretary. I call her “the Boss”. You think yours is better? Bring it.
I was struggling. The #oneword2018 posts were publishing and…to be honest….I wasn’t feeling it.
Then I opened my eyes a little wider.
The weather was less than desirable for travel. After 5 glorious days with my Southern nephews, I had my fill of a hotel bed and we were scheduled to board our flight from Dallas at 1:30pm. We were on the road by 9:30am, only to discover the roads were covered in ice.
In Illinois, ice is typical in winter, the trucks roll out and spread a layer of salt and everyone carries on as usual…well…maybe a little slower than usual.
In Texas, with ice, the world stops turning. They aren’t equipped to deal with these conditions and on the 1hr drive to the airport, we saw 25 car accidents and our speed averaged around 27mph.
Thus resulted in a changed departure time 8pm.
The Stumpenhorst family had approximately 7.5hrs to explore the Dallas airport, and not a bit of it went unturned.
Chloe, my 7yr old, asked if we could “go exploring” 3 different times. Each time she oooo’d and awwww’d over the displays in the airport shopping centers, the view from the floor to ceiling glass viewing windows, and even the roomy bathroom stalls.
She had flown many times before and I chalked her awe up to a long day of travel.
The day after we arrived home the kids and I went to grab some essentials from the store. During this stop I noticed a similar “whoa!”, “oh my gosh!”, and “wow!!!” from her as we perused the same grocery aisles that we had a hundred times before.
Where does she get her sense of wonder? How am I just now noticing? It’s amazing how she sees every detail for a miracle.
At this moment, I started to open my eyes to the many moments that left me in awe.
The cashier (pregnant and clearly following my “fake-it-till-you-make-it” motto) handed me my last bag of goods with the most sincere smile, even on New Years Day she was working. On the way home I filled my gas tank in -33temps and a gentleman stood outside for an extra few seconds, just to hold the door for me (afterwards I watched him struggled to turn over his rusted out F150).
In 2018 I will strive to see the world through the lens of child. I will not be numb to the amazingness that surrounds me. I will stare at your smile, feel when our hands connect in greeting/agreement, and most definitely soak up every single Rural Illinois sunrise and sunset that the good Lord gives me.
My #oneword2018 is awe. May I live it. May I breathe it. May I recognize every single moment.
Whoa. This kiddo.
They say we rise…or fall…to external factors. I have never gone from 0 to 100 and back to 0 so quickly as when I spent time with this student just a few short years ago. We could begin with pleasantries, escalate to steam out of our ears, and finally end with a hug, all in about 15-20minutes.
Fast forward to an extremely challenging day – think “more steam than hugs“.
In a moment of desperation, I asked the student if he had heard of the famous book “The Giving Tree“, by Shel Silverstein. He said he had maybe, but wasn’t sure. In this moment I summarized each portion of the book, purposefully reminding him of the impactful conclusion…
“In the end you know what happens to the tree? It’s a stump! Nothing left to give. You know who that tree is? It’s me. I have given you everything I can…I have nothing left.”
Not my finest moment.
Later, the next day I received a return phone call from the student’s father. I hadn’t ever spoken to this gentleman. I introduced myself and thanked him for returning my call.
“Oh….you’re Lindsy Stumpenhorst? Wait a minute…I’ve heard about you. You’re the giving tree.”
I can’t even.
It took every ounce of strength I had to finish that phone call without breaking down. Thank you for reminding me that what I do isn’t in vain. Thank you for putting me in my place while I was selfishly feeling personally insulted by a child. Thank you for kicking my butt without even knowing it.
They hear you. Every single word. They may not show you. They may not respond. They probably won’t even ever thank you, but they hear you, and it changes them.
Creator of Chaos.
After the last few days, I’m pretty sure I need to add this to my resume. Typically I spend a portion of my day reminding students why we have certain rules…
This week – Pretty much all of those rules went out the window during certain parts of the day.
The last 3yrs that I have been at Washington Elementary, I have tried my best to weave in opportunity for staff to feel appreciated, smile, and laugh. Occasionally, okay…usually…those situations have led to a bit of organized chaos. I’m still on the fence as to if I should be proud or ashamed of this new realization. However, I have to admit, nothing is better then hearing teachers and students laugh in celebration or groan in agony. Nothing establishes a stronger relationship than being side by side while experiencing a range of emotions. At the end of the day, I’m okay with the teachers and kids shaking their heads and rolling their eyes at me…if they are doing it together.
Resume Update: Chaos Creator…and proud of it.
P.S. Let’s not talk about the bounce house catastrophe of October 2017.
Happy (Early) New Year! As you are wrapping up the last few days of 2017, taking in those last hugs, smiles, high fives and waves for a few days we (Lindsy, Eric, Jessica, Andy, Todd and Nick) wanted to challenge ourselves-and our PLN-to think about how to ring in 2018 when everyone returns.
This post started as a conversation while preparing for the final days before break. We realized that there is much time spent on celebrate the last few days before the winter break, but not as much time focused on how to kick off the rest of the school year when staff and students return.
The start of the new calendar year can be an opportunity for us to set new resolutions that will benefit our school staff, families and students. Here are just a few ideas-feel free to try one, or more and let us know how it turns out!