The Right Question

A recent story on the local morning news involved someone being shot at an apartment complex. There were not many details. One adult shot another adult. While listening to the report I kept thinking, “I wonder if there were any children present?”

Had I heard the same story any morning previous, my reaction might have been different. That is what happens when we view our surroundings through a different lens. Gain a new perspective.

Why did this story have this effect on me on this particular day? Because the day before I attended a professional development workshop for educators entitled “The Trauma-Informed Classroom.” Dr. Barbara Sorrels, author of the book “Reaching and Teaching Children Exposed to Trauma,” was our presenter.

One of the most powerful moments of the day was listening to an actual 911 recording. The voice we heard was a six-year-old little girl named Lisa. Lisa was witnessing a violent attack on her mom and siblings by her stepfather. And it was not the first.

It is difficult for me to imagine the awful things this little girl witnessed. The fear in her voice was almost palpable. Her cries for help were interchanged with moments of extreme clarity. She provided crucial information and displayed incredible bravery.

The screams of this little girl caused a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. Once the recording ended, the room remained silent. Dr. Sorrels then asked us to discuss how memories from this event might affect Lisa in the future. What images, smells, sounds, etc. might trigger negative responses from her?

All I could think was, “How can a child be expected to function at school after such a traumatic event?”

The workshop continued with stories of other trauma children, their caregivers, and teachers. We also explored ways to help promote healing.

By the end of the day, I felt emotionally and intellectually overwhelmed. How could I use this information to positively influence my classroom? How could it help me better connect with my students?

Dr. Sorrels encouraged us to start with one objective, helping one child at a time. And then another idea and another child, and so on. I reviewed my notes, and one thing stood out-a comparison of two questions. The questions represent two ways I might respond to a child’s behavior.

What is wrong with you?

What happened to you?

These questions have definitely been asked inside my teacher brain. And more often than not, I asked the first question. I should be asking the second.

So where do I begin?

  • Be mindful that a frustrating “behavior” might actually be a reaction to trauma.
  • Realize my perspective in approaching a child has the power to foster healing.
  • Be willing to ask the right question.

The Mom Friend

I love my young teacher friends. Their energy is contagious! They are passionate about life and have innovative ideas. Young singles, young marrieds, young parents…each with their own set of plans for the future. Working hard to navigate the busy world of home, family, career.

In these circles, I often find myself taking on the role of “Mom.” I have even referred to some of them as my adopted kids. I have three practically grown children of my own, so the mom part comes pretty naturally. And the truth is, I am usually old enough to be their mom. Shhh…

With these young friends, the advice is both given and received. They listen to my personal life stories and share theirs. Sometimes we affirm each other’s choices, other times offer reassurance that it’s not the end of the world.

I count on these “kids” to keep me going. I’m not sure they realize the length of their influence. Their presence can turn the day around with a word, a smile, a hug.

Honestly, I’m just glad they want to hang out with me. 😉

One of these sweet friends recently said to me, “You’re the best kind of friend. You’re a mom and a friend.” I’ll take it!

I often wondered what it would be like to have more kids. In a small way, I guess I have a bit of an idea.

Teachers in May

The school year is ending
How can that be?
So much left to do
I can barely breathe!

Tired, walking slow
To my room down the hall
My thoughts start to wander
Does my job matter at all?

Deep down in my heart
I know that it does
But right now, I’m weary
My brain feels like fuzz

Bring on the coffee
Some chocolate, too
For the next few days
That will get me through

Reflection will come
There’s no time today
I’ll wait for the sun
And a clear summer day

Two Places at the Same Time

Our family has two graduations to celebrate next month. Our youngest son, Ryan, graduates from high school. Our daughter, Rachel, graduates from college. Each milestone represents commitment, hard work, dedication. Each represents a big step, moving forward in life.

As a mom, I am thankful and proud. Also, a little emotional. You can imagine my disappointment to discover both graduation ceremonies will occur on the same night, at the same time, in two different locations!

No matter how many ways I attempted to resolve this dilemma, nothing worked. Extended family and friends would certainly help make sure both kids were supported. Even though each would understand any choice I made, it felt like I’d be letting someone down. How could I possibly choose?

My husband is an administrator in our district. He has graduation responsibilities. There was no question which he would attend. Besides, he has had the privilege of handing our daughter and oldest son, Robert, their high school diplomas. It would only be right for our youngest to have the same experience. Plus, I need that third picture. 😉

So, what should I do? I continued to weigh options and fret about these things which were out of my control. And then, my children stepped in. Here I am, worried about disappointing one of them, and they provide not only the solution but with the perfect logic.

It all began as I visited with Robert. I was talking about graduation, not knowing what to do. Robert said, “Mom, this is Ryan’s first graduation. You need to be there. Erin (his girlfriend) and I will go to Rachel’s. We can livestream her walking across the stage, so you don’t miss it.”

Wow! That did sound like a good idea. But what would Rachel think?

I shared Robert’s solution with her, and her response was precious. “Mom-Dad needs to be there to hand Ryan his diploma, just like he did for me and Robert. And you need to be there to see it.” So matter-of-fact and without hesitation. I could not argue with her reasoning.

There were some tears. But these tears were no longer due to sadness over missing an important event. These were tears of joy. Joy because my children provided a thoughtful solution for their mom. They understood how difficult this was for me and why. And their decision showed how much they value our family.

On May 13, 2019, I will proudly watch my husband hand our youngest his diploma, just as I have for the other two. Hopefully, technology will allow me to also see Rachel walk across a different stage, on the other side of town. Believe me, if I could be in two places at once, now would be the time. Since that is physically impossible, I will leave it to my heart. For my heart can be in two places at the same time. Possibly even three… ❤

…if we do not give up

Not the phrase I wanted to read this morning. I would have preferred “be encouraged” “change is coming your way” or “just a while longer.”

My attitude was terrible. I was tired and grumpy. It’s been a rough week, and the report I received about students being disrespectful on the day I was absent did not help. I certainly was not ready to greet my students.

Well aware that I needed an attitude adjustment, I decided to read the verse of the day on my bible app. Surely, there would be an encouraging verse to help turn my morning around. After all, isn’t that the purpose? 😉

The first words read were familiar. “Let us not grow weary in doing good…” Hmm…maybe I am doing good as a wife, mom, friend, and music teacher. On the other hand, am I? Lately, I am weary. Causing me to question everything. Then I read the rest of the verse.

“…for in due season, we will reap, if we do not give up.”

Suddenly, I could only see that last phrase. It was as if I’d never read those words before. Screaming at me in all caps with bold letters.

“…IF WE DO NOT GIVE UP.”

So, even if I’m weary, questioning, having a rough week…it is not time to give up.

How do I respond? First, it’s the weekend so I rest. Create a good plan for the coming week. Read that daily verse, the whole verse. Read it daily, not just when I’m in a bad mood. Work on taking better care of myself.

One more thing. Hold on to the tiny moments. Here is one from this week.

Not my best teaching day. Feeling a little discouraged. First graders are lining up to leave music. One sweet little girl hugs me and says, “Mrs. Morris, you’re the best music teacher in the whole world.”

I may not have agreed with her at that moment, but her words reminded me that teaching is a “good” work. And it’s harvest is the future…if we do not give up.

“Let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season, we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

Friday Confessions of a Music Teacher

For teachers, Fridays create an interesting contradiction. The day begins with an air of excitement. Yay! It’s Friday! We made it! The weekend is in our sights, and that means rest and regroup.

So, where’s the problem? We still have one whole day ahead of us to teach. And for me personally, that second half of a Friday is one of the most difficult parts of my week.

This week was no exception. Three forty-five-minute classes filled with rhymes, body percussion, singing, and playing instruments made the morning fly by. On my feet-singing, clapping, snapping, scanning the room. Making sure everyone is engaged. It was exhausting! I’m not complaining here, just stating a fact. 😉

Next came lunchtime. Always a welcomed break. Visiting with my team, laughing while we ate. But right as the break is about to end, I suddenly found myself lacking the motivation to finish strong.

The afternoon brings kindergarten, 1st and 2nd graders. They require a much different level of energy when compared to my morning classes. In addition to the usual music activities, I now have to be a convincing puppeteer, tie shoes, and remind them to keep their hands out of their mouths and off of their neighbors.

Gotta love puppets!

Confession time. Today I was tempted to scrap my afternoon plans and take the easy way out. Surely there was an appropriate music activity we could do which would require less energy from me. After all, it was Friday.

But then the thought hit me-these little ones deserve the same energy I gave my morning classes.

I’m happy to say I did not give in to the temptation. And I’m so glad. We marched around the room while reviewing tempo terms, listened to a Freddie the Frog story, and played instruments. Instruments! Little hands echoing rhythmic patterns on xylophones and metallophones. They were making music, and their smiles made it all worthwhile.

Freddie the Frog

Most certainly I will face this dilemma again. It’s part of being a teacher. If I’m being honest, there will be at least one “change of plans” day before the school year ends. My goal, however, is to remember today and the positives which resulted from pushing through. And when I feel this way again, allow those memories to help me once again finish strong.

Friendship=Success

My classroom is a big open space. Perfect for music! I created smaller areas within this large space using sit spots. A big circle, visible right as students enter. We use this space for movement activities, games, drum circles, etc. A rainbow row of dots in front of the Smartboard. These create rows where students have their own music spot to sit.

We often move from one area to the other multiple times in one class period. This was true Wednesday during first grade. As students began to transition from our circle to their music spots, I noticed one precious girl assisting a friend. She was speaking calmly and sweetly to her friend. Both of them smiling, holding hands.

I was just about to remind this helpful girl about the location of her music spot. After all, she was heading in the wrong direction. Thankfully, I did not say anything. An interruption would have been sad. The friend she was helping is a sweet boy who happens to have Down syndrome.

We have some awesome paras in our building. They attend specials with specific groups of students. Because of their disabilities, these friends just need a little extra guidance to have a positive experience in class. These ladies provide invaluable assistance which makes that possible.

Although success in regular education settings is an important goal, how much more valuable is gaining a friend? For a friend can help us in ways no one else can. A friend is something we all need. Some might even say having a friend is a success.

This week I witnessed a sweet new friendship. I hope it continues to grow. I hope to encourage many more.