Guest post by Robyn Harris, @whaleyschool
What is your walk-up song? You know the one, the one you hear on the radio and immediately turn it up and begin to belt out even off tune a little bit? The one that you begin dancing , or swaying to, when you hear it . . . ever? My walk-up song is Don’t Stop Believing, by Journey. I always thought it was because it came out my 9th grade year in high school and it just stuck with me. However, when I look deep into the lyrics, I realize that it was a song putting me on the path to where I am today.
The first line says a lot! “Just a small town girl, living in a lonely world.” I was a small town girl. I grew up in Twentynine Palms, California, a town of 5,000 people when you exclude the marine base population. We had a graduating class of about 100 students. Because we lived in a military town, students rotated through our high school each year; in with the newcomers, out with those that were transferring on so to speak. We were a close nit bunch, saying goodbye to some and welcoming the newbies. We clung to each other knowing that we were all we had. “Just a small town girl.” Small town girl I relate to!
“Livin’ in a lonely world.”This was not me, but it is a place where my students live on a daily basis. My students come from dark places, lonely places, dirty places; places I can only imagine. I was not so surprisingly reminded of this just today when a student was in an escalated state, crying and yelling, “You don’t know how it feels not to see your brother or sisters. I’ve been in three foster homes in that last year! They shipped my sister out to another state to residential treatment. And my older brother and sister, I haven’t talked to in over a year. OCS (the Office of Children’s Services) has let me down over and over again and they want to send me out of state; I’m not crazy! I’m just going to do what I can to get out of this place.” He didn’t mean this in a good sense. He meant destroying every opportunity put in front of him. It broke my heart. He’s been stripped of all that he knows, his dad who’s health is failing, him mom who is an addict, and his nine brothers and sisters some adults, and some younger ones all in different foster homes. But I keep trying to open up his world from being lonely to know that we care for him now, and we will care for him always; this is how I want all my students to feel!
The line, “Streetlights, people, livin’ just to find emotion, hidin’ somewhere in the night,”says a lot about where I am day to day at Whaley School. Our students are trying to find emotions at our school. Some are escalated on a regular basis, some are escalated once in a while, and some are just trying to find their way, whether it’s cutting, stating they want to harm themselves, or trying to escape from life itself using drugs or alcohol. That same student I spoke about told me that the reason that he smokes weed and drinks is because he is trying to escape the real that is his life. I encourage him everyday to come to school so that we can get help for him; we have a therapeutic counselor here on site. I told him here he can get the care and love he needs while he’s working on himself to become strong and fight for what he needs and wants. He wants his family back together, he wants ‘normal’ again; he’s broken into a million pieces right now and I am just white space speaking at this point. Emotions, mostly negative, are seen everyday here at Whaley. Our staff tries to help our students to regulate their emotions in many ways. We have a calming room, a sensory room, enough staff to take a student for a walk, counting down, changing the scenery all together, and much, much, more. We are equipped to help. However, I’ve found that some students are not ready for that help, they’d rather be “hidin’ somewhere in the night.”
The Movie Never Ends
Each day we come to work we could sing, “Some will win, some will lose, some were born to sing the blues; oh the movie never ends it goes on and on, and on, and on.” At Whaley, students who feel they will win are those that are getting their behaviors under control. But for me, the winners are every student in the building because they come to a caring and nurturing staff each day. Students have staff who help them to regulate behavior, make good decisions, and staff who just listen to them when they are in need of a ear that listens and understands.
Students who feel that they will lose are those still having major behaviors, not seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and/or not adapting to change. These are the students stuck in the movie thatnever ends. Or so they think. Actually, these are our students that may take a little longer to realize the caring staff that is there for them, or the behaviors that need to be changed are still interfering with their academic, social, and emotional learning.
Sometimes, staff, on the other hand, also feel like they are stuck in a “movie that never ends it goes on and on, and on and on.” This is due to our groundhog day effect. We work hard with our students every day to see little successes at times, little bits of progress, then send them home to sometimes unravel that success. But, we pick ourselves up by the bootstraps and start all over again the next day. We make sure that we are giving all students what they need each day using the Maslow before Bloom theory. Our students are not going to show any signs of success or progression (or little) unless we give them all of their basic needs when they enter our building. It’s a hard job each day, but we come back strong!
Don’t Stop Believin’
I think that this is the best part of the song AND the best part of my job. I never stop believing in my students. . . ever. No matter the behavior, I’ll continue to work with students to find the best way to manage that behavior. In most all cases the behavior we see is the result of environmental or chemical reaction before, during or after the student was born. Kids do well if they can, right? We must always continue to believe, encourage, motivate and inspire our students each and every day toward progress and success; they deserve it! Don’t Stop Believin’ in your students- it’s why we’re here folks. . . and it’s my walk-up song!
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Looking for a new book to read? Many stories from educators, two student chapters, and a student-designed cover for In Other Words.
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