Friday, March 24, 2006

Resiliency


I'm on a lunch break from a workshop right now. The kids have no school today so that we can have a professional development day - optional, but we're being paid twice as much as our normal hourly rate - I have no idea why. Speaking of getting paid, the consultants doing the workshop get paid $150 an hour and I have to say that I do not know why.

Resiliency is a tricky concept. While there is truth to it - kids do survive the most atrocious situations, and often seem to recover from illness, abuse, loss, etc quickly, I think it's dangerous. People throw around statements like, "Oh, kids are resilient - he'll be fine." I think in many cases, children are not recovering from these situations as much as they are simply surviving. And that's totally different. They are not thriving, they are not growing or succeeding like they should. It's often used as an excuse for not taking action. "Sure, he's seen his father stabbed, his mother's on crack, and he's been through six teachers this year, but kids are resilient." Kids knowing how to survive should not excuse us from doing everything in our power to help them recover.

I heard a statistic - which will be totally invalidated by the fact that I have no recollection of where I heard it - that 40% of kids in this city's public schools are suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). I think it's probably 75% of my class. This workshop isn't helping us with any of that. All the presenters are doing is telling us that kids need supportive people in their lives to succeed. And that they're resilient. Come look in the eyes of some of these kids and see how much resiliency they have left.

I am, however, getting some quality time with coworkers who I don't know very well, and that's been fun. Most of these teachers are new and are fun, intelligent people. We've bonded so far over a couple of things. In the Power Point slides, there are little clip art kids - white ones on the "Kids Succeeding" slide and brown ones on the "At Risk" slide. If I can find a scanner, I'll post the slides from the copy I have. I'm not one to be oversensitive and feel that we have to have included in every picture ever children who are black, white, Asian, Latino, and in a wheelchair. But come on - this is a little extreme. It was the black teachers at our table who noticed and then all of us got mad. I think we've been labeled the "difficult" table.

Also, we took issue with the motivating little story - it's been passed around on email and in Reader's Digest - about a teacher who had a kid named Teddy. She didn't really like Teddy and tried to stay away from him - he was stinky, poorly dressed, mean, caused fights, talked back, etc. Then he gave her a broken bracelet for a Christmas gift and told ehr she looked just like his mom and she found out that his mom had died. She looked in his file and found that he was a model student before his mother had died and she started loving him and totally changed his life and walked him down the aisle at his wedding or something. Basically something totally sappy and tear-jerking like that.

But what we all wanted to know is WHY did it take her that long and a Christmas present to realize there was a reason he was acting like this? Kids don't just act out because they like it. There is always a reason. And if a child is coming to school dirty, badly dressed, hungry, mean, and rude - well, it's just criminal for a teacher to not try to figure out what's going on, if that kid's OK and what they can do to help. This isn't a motivating story, and we shouldn't be urged to try to be like this teacher. Obviously she got it together eventually, but... We had a principal last year who was AWESOME and who I'm still more than a little pissed at for leaving after a year who would say that we should never ever ask a kid why they were acting a certain way unless we wanted to hear the answer. None of this rhetorical, "I just don't know why you are being like this!" She would say that their behavior is not acceptable. But - and this is important to understand - these kids have been through more than many of us can even imagine and they can't walk away from it. Of course they're having trouble controlling their anger and violence. As the kids would say, "Why you couldn't figure that out your ownself?"

1 comment:

Colleen said...

I feel that if someone doesn't emotionally connect with children then they have no business being a teacher. Children can sense whether someone cares about them or not, and will respond accordingly. Sometimes the only role model a child may have will be their teacher. If you introduce them to new ideas and activities (for example: Check this out, this is really fun or interesting)that you find enjoyable, they'll respond. All they (or anyone) really wants is to be loved and accepted for who they are.