Little things

little things

A recent post from a blog I follow made me think about the little things we do for others and how big a deal those things can be.

I’m a principal of a middle school. And as much as we try to prepare the new 7th graders for middle school, it is always a challenge.

They go from an elementary school where they have two main teachers all day, are walked to all of their classes as a group, and even go to the bathroom as a class most of the time, to a middle school where they have 6 teachers throughout the course of their schedule, they have lockers (with combinations), they are responsible for walking to their classes on their own, in general they have a tremendous amount of independence that they have never had before.

Things happen and sometimes kids get lost. On the first day of school I was working with one of my 8th grade teachers to deploy iPads to students and a 7th grade student walked into his classroom by mistake.

Rather than simply tell the child they were in the wrong room and point him in the right direction, the teacher stopped what he was doing and said, “Wow, you did all the right things, and followed your schedule great. Sometimes there are mistakes and we end up in the wrong place.” Then the teacher walked with the student to the right class, never once making him feel like he had done anything wrong.

Later on, in that same teacher’s class, that same student wandered into the class asking for help. He didn’t have the teacher; he was just lost, again. Once more during the day, the student asked the same teacher for student. The student was in 7th grade and the teacher was an 8th grade teacher so the teacher never had this teacher on his schedule, yet he kept coming to this teacher for help.

During lunch on the second day of school I asked the student if he had any problems on the first day. He said he got lost a few times, but there was a history teacher who helped him.

I asked, “Was he one of your teachers?”

He replied with a grin, “No, but he was so nice to me the first time I got lost in his room, I decided that he would probably help me when I got lost again.”

And he was right. Taking the time to validate the student for trying and not making him feel bad about being lost, this teacher not only helped him find his way on the first day of school but he also helped him feel confident about asking for help.

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Loss

Divorce is more than just the loss of a spouse.

At our final court date my ex husband brought his new girlfriend, his sister and his niece. I have known his niece her whole life. I actually talked to her when her mom was pregnant. I held her as a baby. I’ve watched her grow. And for whatever it’s worth it broke my heart to see her stand before me in the courthouse and not run over and hug her. She was more mature than her 9 years of age and she stayed by her mom and her uncle knowing that it wasn’t ok to reach out to me anymore. But she also showed her age when smiled at me and waved when no one else was looking. That’s when my heart broke.
When my husband and I met we worked together. Many of his friends from work I already knew and many of my friends he already knew. When we divorced those were some of the hardest people for me to tell. They knew us when we started dating and then got married. They knew us when things seemed to be at their best. We moved to another state a few years after we married and so we didn’t see our friends from our old job all that often. So for me it was tough to tell them how bad things had gotten and that we were getting a divorce. I felt like a failure. I didn’t want them to be disappointed in me. My ex actually reached out to one of my good friends from when we worked together to ask her to help us reconcile. She didn’t want to get in the middle of it but by knowing both of us they were all in the middle. It was difficult and awkward for me. I think now I’ve gotten to a place with the people we knew together where I can just be me and not put them in the middle. I know which friends are his who I no longer contact. And I know which friends are mine and I know they love me for who I am.

His other friends that knew him first and only knew me through him have gone back to being his friends. I don’t know what he’s told them and can only imagine it isn’t good based in the looks they give me when they see me. But I have to remember that my friends are not calling him up and hanging out with him either. There is a separation of friendships.

As hard as it is to split friends, family is harder. Not in the sense of who supports whom but in the sense of loss. There are nieces and nephews each of us won’t see grow up. There are brother- and sister- in- laws neither of us can connect with any more. There are parent in-laws each of us has to pretend we don’t care about. For me, there is a whole network of people who used to be interwoven in my life who have been removed and now leave holes.

They always say that when you marry someone you marry their whole family. What they forget to mention is when you divorce someone you lose that family too.

Microcosm of society

Unfortunately, domestic violence and violence in the NFL is a reflection of society at large. I’m a huge football fan. It’s been a rough couple of weeks in the NFL with the explosion of the Ray Rice video, the news of Adrian Peterson, and now the Greg Hardy situation.

Domestic violence is a crisis in our country. There are people and organizations out there trying to make a difference and make a change, but domestic violence is still seen as acceptable to too many people. Not only do the abusers think it is acceptable, but the victims well.

Things needs to change.

Maybe now, with the press that these stories are getting, things will change. Maybe now, with sponsors for the NFL speaking out against domestic violence, things will change.

Maybe now victims will speak up for themselves, and things will change.

Effort not an excuse

photoA friend of mine recently shared with me her new favorite quote “When someone truly cares about you they make an effort, not an excuse.”

This is something that I have learned a lot about over the past year. When you are going through hard times in your personal life you learn who your friends are. But I think it goes beyond just friendships. I think that this quote is also about the way in each people approach life.

I work with people all day long. I’m a principal of a middle school. I’ve been in education for a long time. I have dealt with students, parents, teachers, administrators, support staff and community members. When things get tough people tend to do one of two things: they either make an excuse or they make an effort.

Those who make an excuse, tend to blame others for things that have gone wrong. They find an excuse for why it isn’t their fault. They try to place the blame on someone else, anyone else.  Quite often they try to place that blame on me for being the one who called them out on their behavior.

On the other hand, those who make an effort accept responsibility for their actions and try to figure out how to make a change. Some people, when being called out for doing something they shouldn’t, will apologize and try to learn from their actions. They make an effort to improve or change their behaviors.

I can usually tell the way in which a student will react by how their parents react when I call them. If I call a parent and they try to deflect the blame, the student will usually also try to deflect the blame and make an excuse for why their behavior is wrong. But when the parent accepts responsibility for their child and makes an effort to improve or at least address that behavior, the child will also usually make an effort to learn from it as well.

Teachers react much the same way by either making an excuse or an effort. When confronted about a situation that happened either in their classroom or with a student some teachers will make an excuse: the kids behaved differently in their class because I was in there, the students aren’t capable of doing what the we expect them to do, the parents aren’t supportive enough, I wasn’t supportive enough, and the excuses go on and on.

But other teachers reflect and think about what they can do to make things go better the next time. They make the effort. They take responsibility and want to make it better next time. I find that those teachers who take responsibility doesn’t even need me there to call them on something, they make the effort right away reflecting on what is happening in their classroom.
Clearly working with people who make an effort is easier than working with those who make excuses. In my role as an administrator I am continually put in a position where I work with people to get beyond the excuses and put forth the effort. I listen to the excuses, and then I try to help the individual get beyond those excuses and help them to see the part they played in the situation and focus on the effort they can put in to improve the situation. It is definitely a lot of work, but when you can get someone to see beyond the excuses and begin to make an effort, it is definitely worthwhile.

the human touch

 I’m recently divorced, again. I have 2 amazing sons. And a great job. And a HUGE family (it seriously is huge). But sometimes I get lonely and I miss that personal touch. I miss another adult to talk to about my day. I miss someone to ask about me. And I really miss physical intimacy. Don’t worry, this post is not about to get ‘R’ rated on you, I just mean a hug, someone to hold my hand, someone to rub my back, a peck on the cheek, someone to be there … for me.

 

The affectionate gestures of the cute, little, old couples in church just about bring me to tears. It is so adorable to see them holding hands, or helping each other stand up, or just placing their hand over each other’s hand. It really is beautiful and it is something that I miss. I miss someone just touching me affectionately because they want to touch me and they want me to know they are there for me.

 

It probably sounds kind of silly in the grand scheme of things, but it’s true. Human physical contact is really important and one of the things I miss most now that I am divorced. I’m not quite ready to begin dating again, but I wouldn’t mind a nice affectionate hug every once in a while, just because.

 

Gentle

Be gentle with yourself

Two people in the past few days have told me to be gentle with myself. That is something I am not good at. I expect perfection from myself at all times needless to say, I’m often disappointed. I am very gentle with my students, most of the time. And very gentle with my teachers, again, most of the time. But I’m very hard on myself.

Today was a tough day. Bringing my older son back to college was tough. I adore him and I love having him home with me. So having to leave him at college is heart breaking. This is his second year, so I knew what was going to happen and I knew we would all survive the year. But it was still tough.

In addition to the emotional struggles the day presented, there were also financial stumbling blocks. This past year has been hard, both emotionally and financially. A divorce is not easy, nor is it cheap. And college is definitely not cheap.

But facing the fact that I am still struggling financially makes me feel like a failure. I wish I could take care of my son’s college expenses. I wish he could graduate without debt. I wish finances weren’t an issue. But wishing doesn’t make it so.

So after tears and stress and frustration and kind words from my sister-in-law. I’m going to try to listen to her advice and be gentle with myself. I’m in a better financial place this year than I was one year ago. But it’s going to take some time to really get back on my feet. It’s going to take time, and I have to learn to be patient and gentle with myself.

As my blog title suggest, I’m still a work in progress, and being gentle with myself is something that is still in progress.