Saturday, March 29, 2014

Living in Crisis

Today started our Spring Break and for me it kicked my concern into overdrive.

I realize that as the Lead Learner I need to be in classrooms as often as possible, I need to connect with students, assist teachers, support staff and engage our community in sharing our story.  BUT over the last eight weeks I have had my heart tugged on more than ever.  

I've met with parents and had very honest conversations about home, school and parenting.  Many parents have opened up to me and some have even become emotional.  I've also met with a myriad of students...and there is a common many of our students are living in crisis.

Here is a recent story I feel compelled to share.  This past week I learned of an altercation between two second graders.  I was very surprised by one of the students involved, but not surprised in the slightest with the other.  I made sure to call the students down to my office to discuss what occurred.  The student that was assaulted gave me some background information and then told me what happened.  The other student simply looked at me and nodded.  He then said, "Yup, that is what happened"...then he began to get angry. He started to raise his voice and he said, "I'm mad, IT IS okay for boys to hit girls!"  I quickly learned that the entire situation stemmed from a discussion.  One boy said girls can hit boys, but boys cannot hit girls.  The other boy argued this point.  The two went back and forth until one boy assaulted the other.  I now had important information, so I sent one boy back to class and focused on the anger.

This eight year boy had a lot of anger and he was still adamant that it is okay for boys to hit girls.  I asked him why he thought it was okay?  He then shared two stories with me that told of a MUCH BIGGER ISSUE!  You can only imagine where the conversation went.  For the next 15 minutes I tried to counsel and educate the boy.  What I chose to not do, is simply punish.  This is a boy, no a family that is living in crisis.  

My second story is from earlier in the week.  I was approached by a bus driver and the driver was really struggling with a couple of young girls.  I went down to see one of the students and then we went for a walk.  As we walked, we talked about how her first year at Warner was going.  She shared several positives and only a few negatives.  As we continued I felt as though she was holding something back.  We got to my office and sat down at the table.  We talked about her interests, her friendships and her sisters.  Then the conversation shifted.  She informed me that they were going to be moving soon.  I shared my disappointment with her.  Then I asked a few questions about home.  She explained some things that really disturbed me.  She talked about "live in boyfriends" and an overall lack of attention at home.  For the next several minutes I sympathized with her, I told her how I would feel if I was in her shoes and as we talked the tears came...she cried a lot that morning, and I think she truly felt better after she let it out.  I said as we started to wrap up, "I hope you know I will always listen and try to help."  She smiled at me and said, "Can I come see you tomorrow?"  I smiled back and said, "Absolutely!"

What breaks me up is that since that day she and her sisters haven't been to school.  This is another family that is living in crisis.

At the end of the week I sat down with our Social Worker, Colleen.  We talked about these situations and more.  Then I said to her, "How many kids do we have that are living in crisis?"  For the next three minutes we were able to name more than 25 right off the top of our head.  No lists, no notes...right off the top of our heads!  I then said to Colleen, "Imagine the number if we had class lists in front of us." We both simply shook our heads.

This gets me to my final thoughts.  I'm sure we get upset with students that don't do their work.  I'm sure we become frustrated with students that get aggressive and lash out at others.  We may even get angry when our students make the same errors over and over.  I challenge you to - understand, sympathize and invest in the individual.  I will guarantee every single educator can picture a student that they know is living in crisis.  Those individuals need our kindness and caring more than anything else. How do you help?  How do you give them the support, love and patience that they are clearly lacking? 

This Spring Break I will try to catch up, I will focus on my family, but I will also worry about my kids that are living in crisis.  

This Week's Big Question:  How do you support your students that are living in crisis?

Articles Worth Reading:

Wide Turns @Jonharper70bd

Feel Like A Number @jcordery

Videos Worth Watching:

Who would you play for? (3 min)

Do You Teach or Educate? (3 min)

This kid is remarkable! (10 min) 

Sheldon tries yoga?  Anything holding you back? (2 min)


  1. Ben, THANKS for sharing your stories!! It is easy to look at "issues" that kids have as simply disciplinary. But the root cause of the problem is the most important. It takes time and someone at school who cares..thanks for caring about those kiddos!

    1. Appreciate the feedback Jenny. I get really bothered when adults ask me what punishment I've given. It isn't about simply punishing, it's about understanding and correcting negative behaviors.

  2. Ben,
    Thank you for sharing your reflections with us. I plan to share your post and big question with my colleagues. It is an important question that all of us should be thinking about and discussing in our schools. Personally, I would llke to learn more about community resources or partnerships that are available in my community that could be helpful for students in my school. I teach in a Title I school, where there are many students living in crisis. We only have a social worker one day/week. It is important for all of us to do what you talk with our kids, listen to them, get to know their stories. The students of Warner are blessed to have you in their lives. Thank you for making a difference in the life of a child.

    1. Thanks for the kind words Michele. You are correct, typically communities have resources that can greatly assist students and families. The trouble I find is that families don't always follow through. I try my best to help in the place I can control the best.

      Sometimes as adults we think our kids are too engrossed in technology or simply disconnected. Have we ever looked at the adults and wondered why?

  3. Ben, this post resonated with me to the heights! As our building has been given the opportunity to help and serve kids who are in crisis, there have been many reflections and growing opportunities along the way. Right now, for me, it's working through how to work within what I can truly control and help with when the kids are at school. (A place to rest in my classroom, coping boxes for quiet time, a Peace Table, etc.) Like Michele stated, being in a suburban community, resources and partnerships aren't as visible. My own place of worship was shocked to hear statistics about ways to help, which lead me to think about how to we bring awareness while protecting the dignity and privacy of families who want/need help? Big questions in education today. Thanks for recognizing that we all have a role in getting to know the stories of our families. You are making a difference!

    1. Your feedback and reflection are powerful Kendra. I really appreciate you sharing, I especially like the part about "a place to rest, coping boxes and a peace table". You are truly caring for the whole child. Personally I think my heart is tugged on because I do want to save the World and make it better for all my kids. It's just hard when you can't.

  4. Thank you for sharing these stories Ben. I can sympathize and feel like I spend about 90% of my day talking with kids who are living in crisis. The stories they tell me are phenomenal. To be honest, I don't know how they function as well as they do. I agree with you that the power of simply listening is powerful and many of our kids do not have anyone at home and sometimes at school to listen to them. Jim Cordery's piece this week really was right on. Too often I think we measure things that aren't important and don't measure things that are. Whenever I begin to doubt myself I simply read one of your posts or reflect on your comments and I regain my confidence. Thank you.

    1. That's very nice of you Jon. You are exactly right when you stated, "I don't know how they function as well as they do."

      I don't either. But I do see our students act differently, some get angry, others hold it in, some withdraw from society and even others appear visibly depressed. These signs are cues to adults. Basically it is the child's way of screaming for help. I want to be there for my kids and give them the hope they deserve.