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.

School Year Successes

Reflections often bring mixed emotions. Whether it’s looking in the mirror or taking stock of an entire year of teaching, there are always things I wish I could change. For this end-of-the-year review, however, I’ve decided to focus on the positive.

One of my main goals this year was making sure all students who entered the music room were able to participate on some level. In particular, I wanted to connect more with our friends receiving special education services. Professional development early in the year was both challenging and encouraging, and it reminded me of the importance of these connections.

So here are my top three successes:

  • A smile
  • A high-five
  • A music stamp on a hand

All three involved the same child. A child who would not come into my classroom last year and this year spent most of his time sitting at the back. I intentionally approached him slowly and quietly, and he eventually smiled. When I got my first high-five, there were definitely tears. And allowing me to put a music stamp on his hand? That was a big step!

Did he sing or play an instrument? No. However, he listened, sometimes colored, and participated in his own way. He let me enter his world for tiny little snippets of time. And for that, I am grateful.

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

One Day Difference

This time of year is crazy! If you don’t believe me, ask a teacher. The number of school days remaining has hit single digits. Spring fever is in the air. Closing out the current year while planning for the next brings added stress. Many days leave me emotionally drained and physically exhausted.

The May calendar is filled with activities. Field day, talent show, picnics, yearbook signing to name a few. Although fun, they require planning and interrupt routines.

This week has been particularly hard. After school Wednesday, all I wanted to do was take a nap. But I was unable to relax or quiet my thoughts. Instead of resting, I cried. A restless night lead to a grumpy Mrs. Morris Thursday morning.

Thursday’s plan included talent show practice. Students came to the gym during specials to rehearse on the stage. But rehearsals did not take up the entire class. What to do with the remaining time? Song requests!

I like to plan a day where students request their favorite songs. Despite good intentions, this is one end-of-the-year activity that often gets passed over. Not this year.

This was the perfect day! Imagine Dragons and Panic at the Disco topped the list. Songs from Annie and The Greatest Showman also made the cut. Pop, country, rock-a little bit of everything.

Two particular selections turned my day around. The first came during fourth grade. I already had a list of songs from this group and the requests were anonymous. Half-way down the list was Baby Shark. I have done my best to avoid this song. Not today.

It was so much fun! Fourth graders simply being kids. Singing, laughing, doing silly motions. And when I asked who requested the song, an ornery boy raised his hand. I laughed and thanked him for his choice.

The second selection came in kindergarten. After singing Baa Baa Black Sheep and Baby Bumblebee, one sweet little boy raised his hand. What was his request? Jingle Bells! There is something special about a gym full of kindergarteners singing Jingle Bells in May, with only nine days of school left.

I need to remember to slow down, forget about the to-do list, and have fun with my students. These final days of school will be over in a snap.

After school Thursday, I drove home, had a snack, and slept soundly on the couch for about an hour. Yes, I’m still tired. Yes, there is still work to be done. But a little fun with kids singing Baby Shark and Jingle Bells just might get me through. One day really can make a difference!

Of course, today is Friday. It was field day…and that’s another story. 😉 Eight days to go…

Pack a Bag!

We are preparing to put our house on the market. Work to be done-minor repairs, small updates, painting. The tallest order being the painting of the entire interior. We’ve never experienced this before. We have painted a room or two, but not an entire house. Definitely a job for the professionals.

So, the professionals came yesterday. Originally they were coming later in the week. Not that any of the following would have changed…

The crew came early in the morning. We headed to school and work, not giving much thought to this process. Fast forward to the late afternoon. Drywall repairs all done. Windows covered and taped. Trim taped. Plastic tarps covering everything else, and I do mean everything.

The closet, bathtub, shower, and bathroom cabinets all sealed shut. I couldn’t get to my clothes, makeup, hairstyling stuff-nothing. Only one thing to do. Laugh and have a little adventure. Not too far, of course, we had work the next day.

Ryan headed to his friend’s house for the night. Gart and I made a Target run. A blue t-shirt for $8, underwear, toothpaste, and some inexpensive makeup. I would wear my jeans again but had to have a clean shirt and underwear. Deodorant? There was some in my desk drawer at school. Hair? Ponytail for the second day in a row.

After Target, we were ready to crash. A quick stop at Sprouts and we had dinner to take to the hotel. Thank goodness, our room had a microwave, coffee pot, and some decaf. The decaf a necessity to accompany the brownie we bought to share.

Getting ready the next morning, I realized my new blush and powder did not come with any brushes. Who knew Kleenexes could substitute? I glanced in the mirror-it would have to do.

Extra coffee helped me get through the day. A sweet kindergarten boy said, “I like your shirt, Mrs. Morris.” If he only knew. A 4th-grade girl gave me a hug and asked, “Are you okay, Mrs. Morris?” “Yes, I’m ok. Just a little tired,” I smiled. Pretty sure she could tell I was a little out of sorts.

Tonight our adventure continues. I’ve only cried once-Sorry, Gart. ❤ Ryan is at his friend’s house again. Another night in a hotel for us. This time I have a change of clothes, my own makeup, and flat iron. Oh, and I don’t have to wait until I get to school to put on deodorant. 😉

The painters will be finished tomorrow. Things will go back to normal. We will be one step closer to selling our house. The result will be well worth the little inconvenience.

I hope we never have the need to paint a whole house again. One thing is certain. If we do and the painters call to say, “We will be there tomorrow,” the first thing I will do is pack a bag!

Dream Team Lattes

I work with an amazing team. We are Art, Music, and P.E. teachers at our elementary school. A.K.A the Dream Team, five years strong! The pink t-shirts we wear on Wednesdays give it away. Students have even started referring to us by our nickname.

Every student may not love each of our classes the same way. We know they have their favorites. But they all know we care about them and they know without a doubt that we are a team.

Love these Ladies! ❤

Our matching t-shirt idea has grown to quite a collection over the past few years. In addition to the original pink Dream Team shirt, we also have a sisterhood, Rosie the Riveter, and peeps shirt, all pink of course. This year we added a silly turkey shirt for Thanksgiving and a Santa’s Favorite (Music, Art, P.E.) Teacher. Each new shirt requires a new group photo. So much fun!

Recently I’ve been thinking about why we make such a great team. Each of us is in a different life stage-a grandma, an almost empty-nester, and a young mom. Tami takes care of the group-bagels on Friday, chocolate, cream for our coffee. Shannon keeps us organized, always remembering what needs to be done and when. And then there’s me-the emotional, sometimes scattered one. We balance each other well.

No matter what, I can count on these ladies. If I’m having a hard day, they will pick me up. When there’s a program or assembly, it’s not just my responsibility. Always a team effort. Tami sets up the stage, gets mics ready, etc. Shannon creates backdrops, artwork, whatever is needed. Both help organize and chorale students while I play piano or run a rehearsal. Our team is a well-oiled machine.

This morning I stopped at Starbucks to get our team a little pick-me-up. Only two days until spring break. Shannon was also bringing us a treat. For once, we would surprise Tami. She never lets us do anything for her. But today was the day!

As I pulled in the school parking lot, a little too sharply, the drink carrier sitting quietly to my left tipped over. I honestly thought all three drinks had poured out in the floor. Panicked, I lifted the carrier back up. Only one cup was empty. The other two still had their lids on securely. I don’t know how.

Quickly checking the drink labels, I realized the spilled drink was mine. Disappointed? Yes, but also glad it was not one of their drinks. I made it inside, shared my story with Tami, and borrowed an umbrella.

I could not believe I’d spilled an entire latte in my car! And how was I going to clean it up? Did I mention it was raining?

Back outside, armed with dry and wet cleaning cloths, I attempted to clean up my mess. Picture me, in the rain and wind, holding an umbrella, squatting next to my car, trying to clean up coffee and foam. Quite a sight, I’m certain.

Once I was back inside, wet and wind-blown, what did I find waiting for me? Half of someone else’s Starbucks drink, poured into my empty cup, sitting on the desk. I wonder who would have done that? 😉

This morning, things did not go as planned. But they turned out ok. We enjoyed our dream team lattes, a snack, and had a good laugh.

💓💓💓

Oh, and my car smells like coffee…