“You Can’t Go to School”

We have had frequent conversations here about the state of the country with the kids. They see me tuning in at 2:30 and 4:30 every day to watch the Governor and President.

They have had some really great questions as they try to wrap their brain around it all.

If your kids ask questions I suggest you tell them the “Glitter” story.

One day my hands were full of Glitter. I saw that you were getting ready to leave for school so I gave you a big hug and a handed you your backpack.

Where do you think the glitter went?

Then you went to school. You forgot to sharpen your pencil so you asked your best friend (insert name) to borrow one. She gave it to you and then you gave it back when you were finished.

Where do you think the glitter went?

Once she got home her mom gave her a hug and then started to make dinner. She was making a fruit salad for everyone to enjoy!

Where do you think the glitter went?

Grandma and grandpa showed up as a surprise and decided to stay for dinner. They loved the fruit salad most of all.

***Staying home is a temporary inconvenience****

 

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Kids “Work from Home” PDF

 

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Below is access to the document I created to help my kids stay on task and motivated at home. My expectation is that they complete ten items from the list, as you can see many of the items involve lots of choice.

In the box I ask kids to describe or label what/how they chose to do the activity.

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What Do You Dream About?

I’m crazy about country music.

I walked into the house juggling an unGodly amount of grocery bags, because, less trips. I hollered to Alexa, “Play Wynonna Judd”, thinking to myself – Pandora better bring it, today was crappy and I need an epic solo to lift my spirits.

I put the groceries away, cooked dinner, unpacked my bag, and sat down to check my email all while singing as loud as I could. If American Idol could see me now!

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I decorate your palace
You know I used to think that you were king
I used to dream about what I would be
Last night I dreamed about a washing machine

She makes his coffee, she makes his bed
She does the laundry, she keeps him fed
She does the carpool, she P.T.A.’s
Doctors and dentists, she drives all day

Wait. Wait. Wait. If you’re an early 90’s country fan, you sang the lyrics without even thinking about it. Reread it now without singing.

I’m far from a Spice Girl “girl power” advocate, I’m also not okay with the lyrics above…”she makes his bed and keeps him fed”? Make your own bed, or don’t, NMP (not my problem).

I have so many internal conflicts. It is impossible to keep my house as clean as my own mom did growing up, yet I almost panic about it daily.  I choose my school over my family at least once daily…my family forgives me – usually. Signing my kids up for after school activities on time, laundry, dishes, and planning meals are the most stressful things in my life. I do NOT want to drive all day and Hell will freeze before I dream about a washing machine! (see: I Can’t Do That Anymore, Faith Hill)

I’ve written a post before about this, “I can’t be the only one”. Last night my husband was in charge of dinner. My son does his own laundry. My daughter packs her dance bag 3x a week. We are far from perfect, but parents let me give you a tip…what you allow will continue. Demand help.

Are you sick of unpacking the kids backpacks? Create an expectation. Do you find coats and boots spread amongst the first floor? Create an expectation. The kids are home on a day off of school? Perfect…dog needs walked, bathroom needs cleaned, and stairs need vacuumed.

Moms & Dads- Let your guilt take a backseat so that you can have a freaking minute to not feel a need to do everything!

500 Miles

Disclaimer: Vulnerable Piece Ahead

“Mom, my friend just called, he wanted me to tell you that he nothing to do with what just happened.”

“Thanks for letting me know.”

“Mom, he didn’t tell me…what happened?”

“Just some random kids said some crazy things. No big deal.”

I came home from school, running kids, and feeling a bit behind the 8 ball. Have you ever had a day that you/ can’t seem to juggle the moving pieces without one…(or 6) plates crashing to the floor?

I decided to walk it out, give my Great Dane a little exercise, and walk around the park.

“Oh My God. There is Mrs. Stumpenhorst.”

“What the fuck is she doing here?”

“Jesus Christ we can’t fucking get away from her.”
…..

My Assistant Principal heard at a conference,  “Don’t go 13”. Which reminds us to not stoop to the emotional intelligence of our kids.

In an effort to follow this advice, I kept on walking. I knew that purpose of the language and content was in effort to burn, engage and feel in control. I have no authority outside of the school day, and they knew it. As I walked away I wanted to remind Student A of the snack I gave her yesterday when she missed breakfast. I wanted to ask Student B about the time I made sure her traveling softball fee was taken care of. I wanted to tell Student C that when his brother was in 3rd grade I helped the nurse pick nits out of his brothers hair.

I’m sure some of you would call me a coward for not addressing the situation immediately, but how often do we tell our kids to “walk away and ignore”?

I constantly hear “don’t take things personally”, “why do you let this stuff bother you”, or my favorite “who cares”.

I do. IMG_3088

Thing is…when A, B, and C walk into our school on Monday morning, I will smile and forgive them. Even if they don’t ask for it.

I’m not a doormat and I’ll have the conversation about this interaction with each student individually on Monday.  In the meantime I’ll more than likely run through 1,000 different scenarios in my head about what I should’ve done differently in the moment.

I will walk 500 miles, and I will walk 500 more, to be the one who walks a thousand miles to fall down at your door.

Code Red

I went to check in on her in the nurses office. She had blood and tears streaming down her face.

Nurse, “Hi this is the CMS nurse calling. Yes. She’s okay, but she may need stitches.” IMG-2934

Instantly she panicked. It was fight or flight and I stood in front of the door. Eventually we melted to the floor together. The conversation that took place is impactful and private. At one point, there was a knock, “there are 8th grade students in the hall during lunch/recess”.

Part of being a Principal is being able to triage. I was irritated at the 8th grade students who weren’t following the rules, but also knew that I couldn’t address that situation just yet. The most important thing in that moment was the crisis this student was experiencing.

P.S. I’m still trying to figure out how to address the students who avoided going outside.

P.S.S. She had four stitches, and I’m so proud of her.

Is That Your Job?

7:00am to my Dean of Students – “We have only 12 hours left until the weekend!”

13.5 hrs later I dropped my backpack, took off my shoes, and sunk into a chair.

“I’m freaking tired.”

My husband “Why are you home so late? I thought the dance got over 1.5hrs ago?”

“It did. The last few kids literally just got picked up.”

My husband “Is that your job?”

There are days that I understand his angst because the day is longer than expected. Sometimes I feel the same way. That night though, was a memory making hour.

Five students and I had real life conversations. We talked about future dreams, why their parents ground them, and relationships. We even had a brief snowball fight. I was invited to their personal space and was asked for advice.

I have no photos or video, truly was just living in the moment.

I wouldn’t sell those memories for $1million.

It IS my job. Thank Goodness.

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How do YOU do it?

Smile. Greet.
Smile. Compliment.
Smile. Pat on the back.
Smile. Remove hood.
Smile. Joke.

Listed above is large part of my day. Thing is, these responses don’t change, even when the reception isn’t entirely met.

Example:

Student – (wandering the hall during class)
Me – (Smile. Greet by name.) “Good morning _______! Where are you headed?
Student – “Wherever I want. It’s a free country.”
Me – (Smile. Compliment.) “Nice job! You are right! We do have freedom of speech. What class are in right now? I can walk with you.”
Student – “The stupidest class in this whole school”
Me – (Smile. Joke.) “Really? I can’t wait to see which one your thinking of. Lead the way.”
Student – (walks into class)*mostly annoyed that I’m following.

Often I will hear, “I don’t know how you do it.” Contrary to popular belief, I wasn’t born with extreme self control. I also am not naturally gifted and able to manage my emotions.

What I do have is the emotional intelligence to understand that students expect and anticipate me to not care, to yell, to lose my temper, and to write them off.

HA!!! Oh, how wrong they are. Push me. Go ahead.

I had a student in the office a while ago who had been bringing his A game, and the best thing he ever did was challenge how much I care.

The best thing he ever did…was recognize it.

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*Disclaimer* it doesn’t always work out like this. Sometimes there are a lot more issues than can be solved in the 3minute walk to class.

 

 

 

Bedside Manner

I’m not a doctor. I won’t ever pretend to have the same qualifications.

During a problem solving meeting as a teacher I was trying to think of a politically correct way to communicate with a mom, who’s son I very much cared about. He had been on a high dose of ADHD medication for over a year with very little symptom management.

Randomly I would find a shoe on a table, or him struggling to understand changes…namely he would move my backpack multiple times to a specific spot in the classroom if it was out of place. He wore his pants backwards to school twice, blue jeans. Assemblies were incredibly difficult, due to his sensitivity to loud noises. Many times he would participate in side by side play, but not engage positively with peers.

I gently asked mom “Do you ever have a feeling that your son was misdiagnosed with ADHD?” She started to tear up and said that she had mentioned it to the doctor once. He replied, “Have you ever thought your son was just weird?”

Appalling.

Doctors – Listen Up! Kids are incredible and “weird” is not an adjective that you should EVER use to describe a child. As a medical professional there should be a high regard for importance of bedside manner in graduate school. As a Principal, there should be a large amount of time put into practicing how we communicate sensitive information with parents and guardians.

Tips for creating a safe environment during uncomfortable conversations…

  1. Sit next to the person, not behind the desk. A large desk can be seen as a barrier between someone with a title and someone without. Bonus points if you can have a shorter chair than your visitor.
  2. Start with a funny story, or something that you sincerely appreciate about the child. Tell the parent what a great job they are doing (I’ve never met a parent who wasn’t constantly second guessing themselves).
  3. Apologize. Even if you are working as hard as you can. Apologize for not having all of the answers. This demonstrates a vulnerability that you are asking for help and lowers defenses.
  4. Ask what they need from you. Even if it is unreasonable…do it. You will gain trust, confidence, and if their suggestion doesn’t work you have additional evidence for your concern. I’ve had some crazy parent requests – as long as it doesn’t impact other students, safety, or policy, I try my best to honor it.
  5. If the conversation has stalled and the student is involved in the meeting, give them time to talk alone. Let the parent & child know that you are going to step out of the room so they can talk in private. Whether it’s a “pep talk” from parent to kid, or honest feedback that will help the conversation move forward. Brownie points for allowing Mom and Dad alone time to discuss before expecting a decision.

If we want families to be involved in their child’s education, we have a huge responsibility to create an environment that is not admonishing or intimidating. Don’t ask yourself why parents aren’t involved, but rather, what about the environment keeps parents from being involved?

Take Your Hat Off

“Take your hat off”
“Please, take your hat off”
“_________, can you take your hat off please?”

Heard in a variety of manipulations, I walked into this situation. An impending power struggle between a staff member and a student. The staff member wasn’t doing anything wrong, simply asking the student to take their hood down…which is a school rule. No hoods, hats, etc.

What the student thought, “Who are YOU to tell me what to do?”. What the student said, “That rule is stupid.”

In hearing the interaction I walked over, sat next to the student and reminded him that basketball practice started on Monday. I asked if he had tennis shoes with laces. I then said, “Oh hey, take that off please”, while touching the top of his hat.

He took it off and the day continued.

The staff member approached me later and told me how impressed she was at how I was so easily able to get the student to comply with the rule. Honestly, I’m not that amazing. The difference is…I distracted him, he owed me one, and he knew it.

What the staff member didn’t realize is that I had signed up the student for basketball the previous week when it became apparent that his guardian wasn’t able to sign him up due to literacy. I also promised him that I would help him with Math so that he could stay eligible during the season.

“Taking your hat off” is commonly used to describe a show of respect towards a job well done or even an admiration for something a person has done.

If you are a middle school teacher, staff, or principal…”Taking your hat off” can mean something very different. It’s an easy power struggle trap.

I want my students to take their “hat off” because they respect how hard I work to make their experience positive, successful, and safe. Should students comply with the rules because an adult asks? Yes. Do they? No. In these situations, it’s up to me to find a different way.

I recognize many off my staff doing this same thing. Unfortunately, we can’t always be in the right place at the right time.

I’m not about to let a hood or hat ruin my day, so I’m going to bend over backwards up until the day that I ask you to comply with a rule that you think is “Stupid”…in hopes that you comply because you respect me.