Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities, Personal Learning

Stabilizer

Can you even imagine how every child could feel if we were to take what they are facing and turn it into an opportunity? When in life can you be handed the perfect storm of uncertainty to build such grit and resilience, blended with hope? This CAN happen AND through it, we have the ability to be a positive influence. What our children need is stability and we can be their stabilizer! The way that we become a stabilizer is by recognizing, owning, planning, and in the end, taking action for the betterment of every child!

Recognize

First, we need to recognize that it is our adult responsibility to do everything within our power to keep our children stable or steady.  This is the moment that we as adults should feel empowered by our knowledge, experience, and wherewithal to create impact. In addition, we need to execute and take hold of our opportunity to have a positive impact through our own words and actions.  

Ownership

Next, we need to recognize that we do have options and a larger sense of control than we always accept and project. This is the space that we take ownership of… not a space of blame.

Plan

Then, we need to plan. In order to start being a stabilizer, we must stop a few very basic things from happening that we actually are in full control of within our space. These are not limited to the 3 Step approach I lay out below in “Take Action”, but it is a starting point. I am simply pointing out that they belong to adults and not to our children! There is no doubt that I may get pushback on this by some that say they do not feel we should hide information from our children. However, the research suggests otherwise and children need us to protect the developmental process that they are naturally going through. Keep in mind I am talking about keeping the focus on our children so in turn, we must be the adults that they deserve.

Take Action

Finally, adults must take steps to stop the negative impact, in order to make room to start the positive.  Here are three simple steps that every adult can put into action to become a stabilizer for children:

Step 1

Stop blaming others… If we want to raise our children to be accountable for their own actions, we must stop planting the seed that so much of their lives is to blame on others. This only steals their own power and sense of control that we should be nurturing. 

Step 2

Stop and think… is this conversation going to lead to betterment for my child? Should I ask them to leave or maybe wait until they are in bed? They do not need to know everything and yes, it can have a negative impact on them to know too much at an inappropriate age. 

Step 3

Stop talking about their “new normal” and embrace the change that is in front of you.  No one ever said that we had to agree with it, but we must find our way through it. Simply put, we are not going to be given a pass to go around it.  Change is the one constant that we can depend on in life and we must help our children learn how to navigate it while we are still able to do so alongside them. Not only does this help them understand that life will always evolve, but that our own resilience will grow stronger with each encounter. 

Reframe

Reframing our focus and taking on the responsibility to play a pivotal role is imperative.  Let me share with you a time that my husband and I had to create an opportunity out of what felt like a complete nightmare that was out of our control.  

As many of my readers know, my son Trent has Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  I remember when he was 8 and his worst fear was a pandemic. I remember thinking to myself, how does he even know what a pandemic is at the age of eight?  And why did the world teach my sweet boy this huge fear?  I also remember the reassurance we gave him reminding him that it was so unlikely he would ever have to live through one.  It was almost like the reassurance we gave him was the open conversation we should have kept to ourselves, along with the quick reaction I had to blame the world for this fear.  That reassurance came from a space of love wrapped around what we felt was our reality.  For Trent, reassurance did not build resilience but brought about the need for more. It fed his OCD and in turn gave him less control and again built more resentment.

This open and ongoing conversation never built up his character so we knew we had to move on to a better plan. One that would empower him.  One that created an opportunity for us to be his stabilizer, keeping him steady while he navigated life’s constant change. And so we did.

Refocus

The unlikeliness of a pandemic kept us from facing some fears head-on, until now. That unlikeliness turned into certainty all these years later and what once would have broken him, became the ultimate test of his growth and strength. He is now 18 and has reframed OCD in his life. What was once a debilitating illness has now been refocused into strength and has even become his own positive stabilizer. He no longer looks at life’s struggles as an unfairness to a situation, and he holds himself accountable in the moment without letting it define his future. In place, he has stretched his mindset, developed grit and resilience, and has hope for a better tomorrow.

What will you do with this perfect storm of uncertainty? Can you even imagine how every child could feel if we were to take what they are facing and turn it into an opportunity?

Domain 2: Classroom Environment, Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities

The Elephant in the Room~ connecting with mental illness

the quiet one… the loud one

the picker… the tapper

the distracted… the focused

the respectful… the belligerent

the rule follower… rule breaker

the meticulous risk taker!

There are so many ways I have heard this elephant described.  I could probably add 100 more terms and phrases to this list without hesitation.  It is usually followed up with…

he doesn’t look like anything is bothering him 

he just checks out

he wouldn’t have to ask so many questions if he just paid attention

he just won’t let it go

and my favorite… how does he continue to earn poor grades when he is so bright?  Twice Exceptional?  But if I’m being honest the statement is more like…  this is what gifted looks like? #truth

How do you describe mental illness?  How do you view the elephant in the room?  I know an elephant.  I have raised an elephant who is best friend’s with my incredible son.  My son met his elephant at the age of 8.  Prior to this friendship, my son was a compliant rule follower… a straight A student… a role model for others.  Yes, they are separate… their own.  My son.  Mental Illness.

Then the day came.  The meeting.  The joint kinship.  The one that introduced my son to distractions, rule breaking, meticulousness ways, perfection, and repeated behaviors to sooth and calm his new friend the elephant.

I saw the changes.

I saw the elephant!

My gut knew from an early age that the tendencies were there… the kinship… the illness.  They were one with their own identities.  Our family walked on eggshells of anxiety… we reassured to the point of exhaustion, we centered our lives around the elephant in the room without saying a word.  We started to speak it’s language.  We fed it.  We calmed it and tucked it in at night.  We were literally raising an elephant alongside our beautiful son…

the elephant in our room…

OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE DISORDER

We faced it head on.  Therapy 5-7 days a week.  We exposed ourselves and our son to his anxiety.  Yet, the whack-a-mole effect of OCD did not go away.  It simply became a part of our existence.  Yes, our existence.

This is what we as educators need to understand… the elephant is NOT GOING AWAY!

Need I mention that I have a background in Special Education.  An emphasis in Emotional Support.  A Masters Degree in MOM… yet listening to fellow colleagues struggle with the elephant in the room leaves me… speechless.  

So where do we go from here?

Let’s start by acknowledging that mental illness is a part of OUR lives.  NOT just a child’s life… OUR LIVES!  We are in this together.  We must educate ourselves.  We must find a way to understand a child’s way… their being in order to educate them to the best of THEIR ability! To bring out their best… to let their light shine so bright that it puts their elephant in their shadow (in place of just the opposite.)  They deserve it!

Have you ever tried to walk in their shoes?

My son is now 15.  He battles mental illness better than many adults I have come into contact with in my lifetime.  He has strength. He has courage. He has empathy.  He has GRIT.

He said to me, “Mom, tell my story… it will help other kids.”

Yes, Trent, I will.