My One Word: Connected: Speaking up for every child

As a classroom teacher, I never really understood the difficult balance principals and other administrators maintain on a daily basis. I wanted to teach my subject, and I would lose track of the fact that I teach students, not English. Yes, I have an English degree and teaching certification, but every day students came into my room and I needed to make sure I taught each of them and gave them what they needed. Sometimes that included English; other times, I provided an ear to listen to advise for their future. What I know now, that I probably didn’t know then, was that students will remember those times that I valued them as a human being far more than those times I corrected their grammar.

In the last month or so, my focus on Speaking up for every child has been seriously challenged. We have a student in crisis, and she is literally screaming at us for help. Her behaviors have ramped up so severely that when she said something beyond horrible to a female staff member this week, I had a brief lapse when I can honestly, regrettably say that I did not want to focus on the child’s trauma or the message she was trying to deliver. My staff member was hurting and wanted to know what we were going to do – I did not have an immediate answer. I fell back to what I knew as a teacher and forgot, briefly, that we teach children – all children – not subjects.

There’s a lot I cannot and will not share about this situation, but we work daily to try to support this child and help them overcome terrible circumstances at home. While driving to an edcamp this morning, my friend Melissa Emler reminded me that no how horrible the message the child delivered, she didn’t really mean it and in a very imperfect way she wanted us to know how much she is hurting and wants out help.

So now I have to figure out how to support and encourage that teacher while also helping her see that that child needs her love and care more than even before. I cannot blame the teacher if she takes some time to come around – what that child said would be viewed by many as unforgiveable – but we teach students, not subjects. And, this child is exactly why we say speaking up for every child.” She is the reason we need the word “every.”

Even more so, I have to steel my resolve to help this child. We will ramp up our collaboration with county services and supports. We will try to let that child know that she will be OK.

When I put this topic in the blog queue, I really though this post would go in another direction. Instead, I am left hoping that our work with the Wisconsin School Mental Health Project leads us to resources that may make a difference for this student. I need to communicate clearly with our county social services division that empty promises are unacceptable and will not get this child the supports she needs.

And…I have to find a way to help that teacher see why she needs to forgive that child.

But first, I have to forgive that child. Because I feel like I am letting down both the student and my staff member.

What are your thoughts? When have you had to weigh the best interests of the child when they make it so difficult to remember that focus? How do you always remember to speak for every child? I’d love to hear your ideas.

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About jeffreyasee

High school assistant principal, hope dealer, writer of blogs, husband to Jenny, and father to Kaitlyn and Meghan

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