The way we parent, teach and coach has a direct and indirect impact on the energy of our family, school, team and community.
Like these gorgeous, old, live oak trees that grow up, out and into each other in our neighborhood, so do our decisions as parents, teachers, coaches and administrators. What goes down at our kitchen tables, in our classrooms, in our team huddles and in the principal’s office also travels up, out and into the lives of others in our communities.
And with technology, we are now connected like never before.
Here’s to a mindful +Spring!
Sarah & Trish
The first time graffiti appeared in a bathroom shared by middle and high school boys, the community was quite shocked. When the negative behavior continued despite administrator’s best efforts to stop it, many people became frustrated, including the students themselves.
One day, some student leaders came to the middle school principal and said, “The school really needs to fix this. What is the administration going to do?”
“Well, boys, this is happening when adults are not around,” the principal said. “And we are not going to punish everyone for the actions of a single person or a small group by putting in cameras or requiring hall passes to use the bathroom. That is not the culture of our school.”
The room grew quiet. “So what will happen?” said a student. “Because you’re right. This goes on when adults aren’t around.”
“But who is around?” asked the principal. The boys looked at each other, and then one said. “We are.” They each nodded in agreement. “That’s right,” the principal said. And soon after, the vandalism stopped.
To read about our +Student Coalition concept and other fundamental +Works ideas, click here to download a PDF of our +School Community Guide: http://bit.ly/1tQZRPp.
There’s a reason the word “rage” lives in the word “courage.” It was rage and real despair that led us to start +Works. Becoming activists was a positive way for us to channel our anger over what we saw as a lack of positive attention on bullying in our Houston neighborhood.
When the Houston Chronicle ran a front-page story in March 2010 about a bullied 8-year-old Blackshear Elementary student who jumped off a balcony, we got busy getting serious. We stopped crying in our coffees, put on our professional creative/strategic hats, and got to work.
Here is what we have learned since then:
• Until people are personally touched by a tragedy or near-tragedy, bullying is quite easy to ignore.
• Despite the passionate work of the years-long, anti-bullying movement, we still live in a tough, hyper competitive society, and our kids must learn to survive and thrive in it. While it is important to continue working to create safer, more positive communities, we can best make an impact one resilient child, one resilient parent at a time.
• Our kids need to be “emotionally vaccinated” early and often to build resilience. This happens over many years and is a community’s most important work. Not unlike going to the pediatrician’s office and signing immunization forms, we, as parents need to say “yes” more often to opportunities for our kids to experience adversity, failure, heartache and disappointment to build the resistance and resilience they will need to be successful. This can be a painful process; fellow parents, educators, and coaches need to support students who struggle.
As parents, we need:
• To be more confident and resilient ourselves. We need to reflect on the kind of adults we want to raise, make everyday decisions toward that goal, and connect with like-minded parents for support along the way.
• To follow our instincts and say no — early. The few times we’ve gone against our instincts, we’ve regretted it. Today’s parents have ample opportunities to make The Hard Call: whether or not to allow advanced technology, group and co-ed sleepovers, provocative entertainment, M-rated video games, and underage drinking in our own homes. Saying no to our kids and other parents early vaccinates and strengthens us to make the tougher calls as the years roll on.
• A basic understanding of child development. When we understand what is normal for the age — especially when it’s negative — it is easier to keep our perspective and take age-appropriate actions when things go awry, as they often naturally do.
• ”To see the child in front of us,” quoting Race to Nowhere creator Vicki Abeles. Every child is unique. Not every child will be good at everything, nor should they have to be. We need to support our kids in discovering their interests and talents. We need to embrace the low-cost lessons that come their way.
• To talk to people and not about people. To build more positive, upstanding communities, we need to face our everyday fears and challenges directly with confidence.
Finally, we’ve learned that speaking up can be excruciating, but it’s worth it. And although we still have our moments of rage, we have many more moments of courage. That courage builds the kind of confidence that comes from experience and from hopefully learning from our own mistakes. It’s the kind of confidence we hope to pass along to the next generation.
A Voice Called Justice
The other day, someone whispered justice,
The other day, I didn’t listen.
The next day, it whispered again,
And the next day, I didn’t listen.
The day after that, our girls were kidnapped,
The day after that, I blew it off.
Another day later, race was still discriminated,
And another day later, I still ignored it.
The next morning, my brothers couldn’t worship freely,
And the next morning, I turned my head.
That evening, our sisters couldn’t speak freely,
And that evening, I walked away.
One more day after that, someone told me I was weak,
Then one more day after that, I took a look around me.
I heard that voice, that whisper again.
And once more, it cried out justice.
But this time, my heart stopped and listened,
And this time, I decided to make a difference.
Katherine is a student at Founding +School Community Pershing Middle School (HISD) and our 2015 One +Voice Grand Prize: Writing winner. CLICK HERE to enjoy again our 2015 One +Voice Creative Awards +FlipBook: http://positiveworks.uberflip.com/i/503631-2015-one-voice-creative-awards
we gather with the people we love
and care about and care for
We hold hands
across our tables
across the ages
across all points of view
to give thanks for all we have
And to to talk about our world
and the kind of family and community and country
we want to be
We hold each other close
and again, we let each other go
back out into the world,
and with courage.
Sarah & Trish
The long-awaited three-day weekend was looming and the buzz on campus was the party being planned at her schoolmate’s house. She was excited to be included in the group text – something that had yet to happen in her high school years. She only hoped her parents would let her go. Not wanting to appear nerdy but knowing she had to ask, she said to a friend, “Will an adult be there? My parents will want to know.”
Her friend looked at her knowingly and said, “Yeah, but you don’t have to worry. It’s a cool house.”
Arriving at the party Friday night, she was shocked to see a house packed with kids, booze flowing and no adults in sight. She felt awkward when one clearly drunk student said, “What are YOU doing here?” Nervously, she looked for a familiar face and spotted her friend. “I thought you said an adult would be here,” she said.
“The parents are here,” she said, laughing. “They just don’t care what we do. I told you, it’s a cool house.”
In contrast, there is a program gaining momentum in a Houston high school called Eagle House, named after the school’s mascot. By becoming an Eagle House, parents make a bold statement to the community that they will support each other in raising teenagers to make healthy choices and to be people of character. Eagle House parents agree to actively chaperone teenagers in their homes. They pledge to not provide or allow the use of drugs, alcohol or pornography or to permit gossip, hazing, bullying or humiliation on their watch. They are open to contact from parents in their community regarding teenager activity in their house, and their family’s name and contact information are listed with fellow Eagle House members on a protected page on the school website. This concept is very adaptable for elementary and middle school homes, where many parents today crave support around issues/questions surrounding advanced technology, video games, sleepovers, provocative entertainment, and other issues keeping people up at night. As we say, we are all in this together.
Two moms were commiserating about the challenge of raising teenagers.
“My middle-schooler’s classmates were really wild. It wasn’t easy being part of that crowd, and it just gets harder now in high school.”
“OK, I hear you,” said the other mom. “But let me ask you something. Were those kids really wild or were their parents really permissive?”
“Yes, you’re right, they were and still are permissive, and I just can’t go along with that anymore,” said the first mom. ”What’s really tough is many of those parents were my good friends. And now that I am making different choices as a mom, it’s really, really hard.”
It is very hard, but kudos to the first mom in this true story for having the courage to make a bold change in her parenting. If we want to raise productive, resilient, mentally- and physically-well kids, we have to be honest with ourselves about the parenting forces at work in our kids’ schools and social circle. As Race to Nowhere director Vicki Abelese says, “We have to see the child in front of us,” and that includes their social reality. We have to take the long view, establish strong age-appropriate boundaries and attention-getting consequences when negative choices are made. And we have to remember to share our struggles because we really are are all in this together.
Late on a Friday afternoon at the end of a school year, a mother fired out an extremely negative email to an entire grade level of parents furthering a rumor she’d heard about a tough teacher instructing their kids for an upcoming, second, consecutive year. Mother after mother weighed in and piled on throughout the weekend — while the majority stood by, watching the cyber-drama unfold.
As there was no established forum for addressing these kinds of questions and concerns, the provocative voices took the lead and the negativity escalated, ultimately oozing out into a very public space, making it very difficult to contain and address.
On what kind of energy does your school run?
Ideally, the ideas and concerns of all stakeholders are respected and considered throughout the year. That doesn’t mean everyone gets their way all the time. Leaders, after all, are elected, appointed or hired to make decisions. Decisions, by design, often leave some people disappointed.
To build a sense of positive community, it is important to create a clear communication system that builds mutual trust by sharing important information in a timely manner and providing ongoing opportunities for people to be heard. Key to an effective communication structure is the expectation that people will talk to people and not about people and do their best to speak up in a positive way with the community, not just with themselves or their child, in mind.
As parents, grandparents, principals, teachers, coaches, business and organization leaders, we all set our “tables” over time. We choose the decor, tone and atmosphere. We make it formal or casual. Relaxed or not. Heavy or light.
When we set our family, school, classroom, team and/or organization table, how does it look? How does it feel? Does it matter?
Is it a table that our people join with joy? Is it a table they leave with confidence?
Is it a table that encourages authentic conversation? That welcomes different points of view? Where accountability and resilience are paramount?
Is there a sense of humor? A sense of respect?
How do we set our table — or tables? Do we set it only for today — or with tomorrow or years ahead in mind?
As we prepare for our children to leave the nest this year, we think about what we bring to our tables, what will be taken away and whom will return. And only time will tell how well we’ve done.
“Mom, did you know you’re not supposed to drive with your hands at ten and two on the steering wheel?” asked the fifteen-year-old on the ride home from driver’s ed.
“Well, that was how we were taught,” said the mother, regripping the wheel for emphasis. “Two hands right here!”
“Yes, but that was before air bags,” said the son.
“True,” said the mother.
“If you’re in an accident and your hands are up high on the wheel, the air bag can break your arms and your arms can then break your face,” he said.
“Ouch,” she said, grimacing. “I can see that.”
“Now we have to drive with our hands at eight and four on the wheel,” he said.
“OK, I can do that,” she said and within minutes caught herself right back at “ten and two.” Several months later, she’s still working at it. Thirty-six-year-old habits die hard, but being mindful and determined makes change possible over time.
+REFLECTION: We have so many opportunities as parents, teachers and coaches to model resilient and open-minded behaviors in small, everyday moments. This true story reminded us that kids aren’t the only ones who need to continually be open to learning and growing and adjusting to new situations and new technology.