Thursday, February 25, 2016

Preparing for #SOL16

I am jumping into the deep end this year! I am going to participate in the Slice of Life Challenge for 2016. What is this challenge you speak of? I believe it started with the Two Writing Teachers on their blog. In the challenge, bloggers (adults and children) write about a little slice of their life. This happens every Tuesday throughout the year, and it happens the entire month of March.  

So what this means for me and my readers is that I am going to write every single day for the entire month of March.  I'm not going to lie, no joke as my friend says, I'm scared!  I'm scared of being vulnerable and that my writer's voice is going to be weak, or too strong, or just not good enough.  

I was writing out my potential list of ideas, and it's a little sparse as of right now. But it's a start.  

I really do believe that this challenge is going to teach me a lot. I feel that it will teach me that I am indeed a writer.  And the best lesson of all that I am anticipating is to be kind to myself!  I am looking forward, a little reluctantly, to sharing my slices with everyone!  And also to learn about other people's lives and make new friends! 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Why I Teach and Kevin's Story

It's the beginning of a new year and a time of reflection for many.  I'm working on making and keeping New Year's resolutions, thinking about my resolutions from the previous year and how well they were kept (or not!). This year, I was reflecting on the current school year, my effectiveness in my coaching role, and really just the reason why I became a teacher.

If someone were to ask me five years ago why I became a teacher, I more than likely would have responded with the typical "I've wanted to be a teacher since playing school with my brother and neighborhood friends." Which was totally something I did, but not for the original reason I thought. I think I just liked to be bossy and by being the teacher I was able to accomplish this! (For the record, I do not consider myself bossy anymore! I think I grew out of that phase!)

Reflecting on an activity that the staff at my school completed on the first day of school for all staff, I really think I have figured out why I went into this wonderful and challenging field.  I teach for my brother Kevin, and the thousands of kids just like Kevin.

Kevin was my younger brother and a pretty amazing person. When he was little he had a ton of energy, was always getting into shenanigans, was my dad's little buddy, and just a cute, cuddly kid!  He loved basketball, the Miami Dolphins, animals, and spending time with his family.  He was smart, funny, and most importantly kind.  Kevin was always able to find the good in people, even my parents when I was royally annoyed with them.

When Kevin entered school he began to struggle and realize he learned differently than other children. I remember my mom getting many calls from teachers concerned that Kevin was not reaching his full potential. I also remember one specific incident where a teacher had a conversation with my mom informing her that it was her belief that Kevin would not amount to much if he continued with his behavior.  That was in second grade.  I also remember his fifth-grade teacher putting a refrigerator box around Kevin to keep him focused. At that time, I do not believe he had a diagnosis of ADHD, but I would venture to guess that anyone who observed him for any length of time could figure it out.  I would like to point out that this was in the early 90's where, at least where we were from, was a time where students like Kevin were not totally understood.  I am by no means trying to blame any of his teachers. My goal is to point out that there weren't a lot of positives coming from Kevin's school environment. He never really had that teacher who said, "I believe in you, Kevin!" or "I'm glad you came to school today Kevin!"

As Kevin went through school, it became tougher and tougher, eventually leading him to drop out. Kevin started smoking cigarettes and we believe doing marijuana in middle school.  School became a place where he could not fit in.  He continued on a path of destruction and eventually running into issues with the police.

Sadly, Kevin passed away on Friday, January 4, 2013.  I had been bracing myself for the phone call for many years. I think my whole family had. Unfortunately, it was a long time coming. I often refer to Kevin as a cat who was on his 10th life.

Why do I teach?
Kevin is the reason I went into teaching. I went on to become a reading interventionist and instructional coach because of Kevin so that I can have an impact on as many students and Kevins as possible. Every teacher has a student or students just like Kevin.  I truly believe that if he would have had one teacher, just one teacher who believed in him and made him feel that he mattered, that he was a part of a bigger community, that the classroom community needed him, he may have had a different outcome. I'll never know that for sure, and it's easy to get caught up in the game of could have, would have, should have.  We can't change Kevin's story, but we can change the story for the millions of Kevins that are in our classrooms today.

So why am I telling Kevin's story?

  • As teachers, we need to remember that we have the power to make a student's day or bring a student down.  We need to use this power for good. You are the factor when determining if a student is going to have a good day or a bad day. 
  • You never know what is going on in a student's life. Be kind, be understanding, be there for the student.  When calling home, call home out of a place of concern for the student and the family. We are all on the same team. 
  • I am choosing not be embarrassed by Kevin's story. I feel that by telling his story this can help teachers and students remember how short life can be and we need to be there for each other. 
  • I am choosing to share Kevin's story to raise awareness on a subject that many people don't want to talk about or admit it's a problem in their community. 

We cannot choose what students the bus drops off every morning.  We owe it to every single one of our students to make them feel that they matter.  Even the most unlikeable, unmotivated student.  We have to keep trying, we have to keep believing in them, we cannot give up.  Those students matter and those students are some parents' universe.  They are someone's brother, sister, aunt, uncle, etc. Our words matter. How we make students feel matters. Every student matters.  Kevin, you matter!