Tag Archives: school chaplain

Lunch with the bigger kids

Today I got to school in time to see the first/second graders going into the cafeteria. The plan had been to arrive after they were already inside the cafeteria, but there has been some changes made in the way the kids gain entrance to the cafeteria so everything was behind schedule.

This probably came about after a week’s visit from downtown administration to see how things were working on the campus. Three teachers on special assignment were kept busy last week writing notes on their clipboards as they followed the students from playground to cafeteria. One of the teachers complained to me about how badly the kids were behaving and yet I thought they were doing better than usual. She wrote down my comments, too!

Today, only five students were allowed to enter at one time, rather than the line snaking from outside to inside. It does keep the disruptions down, but it eats up huge amounts of time when the kids aren’t in a continuous line, moving forward.

I could tell that the cafeteria manager was nervous about getting the cafeteria cleaned for the next group of students, the third/fourth grade. This was the group with whom I planned to eat lunch. Of course, again, all the kids wanted to sit with me, at the table I had selected. This created a bit of a bottleneck because one of the administrators made the kids move to their respective places. I felt so bad because I was happy to see these students (they were my first set of first graders to whom I read books), and they wanted so badly to see me and tell me things about what is going on in their lives. Many of them will be moving at the end of the school year and will go to different schools next year.

I handed out 10 boxes of crayons, 20 pencils, numerous erasers, stickers, and 75 coloring pages to this group. I had nothing left to give the fifth/sixth graders when they arrived at the cafeteria for lunch. Fortunately, the oldest group wasn’t made to come in five at a time so they actually had plenty of time to eat lunch.

I sat with the class I had helped with a writing project and for whom I had arranged the guest speakers. They were happy to see me, and one of the girls who always goes out of her way to say hello to me, sat across from me and chatted about how much the class had improved since the first of the year. I dug around and found a special sticker for her in my “bag of tricks.” This will be the last time I see them as next year they will all go on to middle school.

As I went back through the office to check out, there stood one of the third graders with her mother. I had not seen her at lunch (she too always makes the point to come say hello to me) and I realized her mother was turning in a doctor’s note for her absence. I gave the little girl a big hug and dug around my bag and found one more sticker to give her.

The girl’s mother was in conversation with the school secretary about seeing the teacher and completing a contract. The little girl is too ill to finish the school year and will need to do the remainder of her work at home. She has strep throat and impetigo. Let me remind you, I gave this little girl a big hug when I first saw her. Pray for me.

Seeking my old healthy self

On Wednesday I hit a wall. The throat tickle and cough brought me down. I could hardly get out of bed so had to call and cancel my storytelling with the first graders. At 8 o’clock I was at the urgent care office that our medical group operates near our home. No appointment necessary, just show up. Terry had gone there a few months ago and was pleased with the service and results. I too found the facility to be very accommodating. I saw a doctor about 20 minutes after walking in. He agreed with me–allergies, but the buildup of phlegm had probably caused bacteria to start growing and he diagnosed bronchitis. My lungs are clear, so there was some good news.

I returned home and got back in bed. Terry went to the pharmacy to get the z-pac prescribed by the doctor. I was in pretty bad shape all day, and still suffering with coughing spasms. This morning is somewhat better and I am dressed and ready to leave for school in a short while.

I will see if the teachers whom I missed yesterday will want me to come on Friday or just skip this week. Their schedules are pretty tight and they have set aside that 30 minute spot for me each week. Awhile back one of the teachers made the comment that she appreciated being able to count on me always showing up, like clockwork. Yesterday I failed.

I’m hopeful that the antibiotics will quickly knock this out and I can feel like my old self. Starting Sunday my calendar for May is full, something every day for three weeks. Some days have multiple activities, and they are all things I’m excited for. I appreciate my good health that is necessary to keep up an active schedule.

school discipline is just not my thing

First, let me review my classroom management skills with you. I taught high school students for 21 years. All grade levels, all sizes, all personalities. I got them all in the elective classes that I taught. I believed that those classes should be so engaging and the students so involved that they didn’t have time nor inclination to get into trouble. I set up the room and the lessons to maximize classroom control. It worked most of the time, but there were occasional miscreants.

I handled those miscreants on my own. Occasionally I moved a belligerent student into another room or made them step outside, where I could still see them, while I continued with the class. When I got to a point where I could step away, then I lit into the kid with the bad behavior, pointing out what they did and what they should have done and were they ready to get back to work OR did I need to call home. My method worked better than 99 percent of the time. I seldom had to send a student to the office, but I did occasionally write up a conduct referral if I thought a good talking to from the vice principal or counselor would make a difference.

The last year I taught was one time I had to call the office for help. I had a kid show up in my advanced multimedia class and insist he was in my class now. Nope. Not on my roll. Go away. He refused to do so. Just sat himself down and would not leave. My students were busy with a website design so they didn’t have time to pay much attention to this character, but he was a little scary in that he continued to loudly insist I give him an assignment. I called the office to send help.

When the campus assistant (CA) showed up, he was rather sheepish. “Did you call for help?”

“Yes, I did,” pointing to the young man. “This kid is insisting he is in this class but he is not enrolled. Please take him away.”

The CA chuckled and got the kid on his feet and headed to the door. “I couldn’t believe it when I got the message that YOU needed someone. You never call for help.”

“Darn tootin. I don’t have time for such nonsense.”

Now fast forward to my days at Columbia Elementary. The office always has kids in there that teachers have sent to the office. I don’t get it. These kids are much smaller than those high school kids. What’s going on? Why can’t the teachers handle these kids? Things have changed, but that much? Who is in charge? Who is the grownup? What is going on in those rooms, curriculum-wise? What are the assignments that these students are trying to escape?

I sit with some of these miscreants and we talk. It all seems easy to me to handle, but I’m not the one in the classroom. I’m not the one whose back is up against the wall to produce higher test scores. I’m not the one who has to answer to parents. As I said in the title, school discipline is not my thing.

Addendum: Maybe teachers would have fewer problems if they had lessons like this one.

Heard some good news today

Way back in November I wrote about the little girl who needed an alarm clock. She and her brother were not getting to school on time and even the kindergartner believed an alarm clock would help.

After sharing the story with the attendance officer, she agreed, and said lots of students needed alarm clocks. I made it a point, from then on, to look for alarm clocks at thrift stores and yard sales. I’ve handed over quite a few to the attendance officer, so much so that she told another school about what her school chaplain was doing and recommended they get their school chaplain to do likewise. Of course, that school chaplain is a friend of mine! I’m sure I’m going to hear about this at the next chaplain’s meeting.

Today, while in the school’s workroom, I saw the little girl’s teacher and asked him about her. He laughed and said,

“I’m not too sure how it worked, but that alarm clock has turned the family around. The kids are never late. The mother has started taking a parenting class and she’s volunteering here in both kids’ classrooms. She’s been a big help.”

I don’t believe it was just an alarm clock. I believe that the kids and the parent realized someone cared about them and was willing to help them. It made a difference. I’m hoping such care and concern about kids and parents will make a difference. Some days I wonder, and then I hear a story like this.

Essays, flowers, stickers

Tuesday is the day I try to devote my visit to Columbia to the older kids, but today I did go by the first grade wing and dropped off flowers in each room. After being told by the school psychologist that most of the students in the school are suffering from PTSD, I did some research. Coloring helps. So do flowers. I hand out stacks of coloring pages each week at lunch time. So today I decided to put live flowers in each first grade classroom.


My next stop was the 6th grade classroom where I am helping the students write essays about friends. I had collected, read, and commented on their first draft. It was time to hand them back and start the rewrite process. The essays are really good and I can hardly wait to see the finished products.

I rushed from that 6th grade room to get to lunch with 3rd graders. We ate teriyaki beef:


After lunch I handed out about 50 coloring pages, a box of crayons, numerous pencils, and some erasers. Those who ate their veggies got stickers. Lots of them did and made sure I was aware of it.

On my way out, I found three students loitering in a hallway. Took me awhile to sort them out to where they belonged. I walked one little guy to his class only to hear from his teacher that he had been sent to the office for bad behavior. The teacher had two conduct referrals written for a girl and a boy already in the office. I walked the girl to the office, connected with the other miscreant, and turned in the referrals to the vice principal.

After all that, the father of the previous escorted boy had shown up so I took him to the classroom to speak with his son and waited while he did so. As we returned to the office, I thanked the father for taking the time to come to school. I don’t know what he thought of me being there in my chaplain uniform. The police patch on my shirt often startles people.

Then I was ready to head home. Tomorrow I will be back to do my usual work with first graders. I will need to make more copies of the coloring pages. I used up my supply today.

Because it’s a holiday

It poured rain all night. I could hear it lashing against the bedroom window. This storm is a bit colder than the previous ones. Maybe we’ll get more snow, less run-off. It’s the run-off that causes the flooding in our local foothill communities.  However, the large amounts of water cause problems on the flat valley floor, too. Not only flooding, but causing trees to come down. The ground is soaked beyond capacity. We have now had over the normal amount of rainfall for an entire year. More rain is in the forecast.

It was raining at 5:15 when I first awoke. I could have gotten up had there been any need, but it’s a holiday, it’s raining, I’ve been up early and busy the last few days, so snuggling back under the covers and falling back to sleep seemed the best thing to do. We finally got up at 7:30 and I’ve started doing laundry. Laundry never takes a holiday.

I’ve not been to Columbia on a Tuesday, to check in with the older students, for two weeks. The cafeteria manager informed me they have been asking for me. My bag is packed with pencils, stickers, and books to hand out to various classes and kids tomorrow. I will eat lunch with the third graders who beg me every week to eat with them, but I have to leave to read to the first graders, my primary responsibility as school chaplain.

I’ve cleared my calendar for the next two weeks to be at Columbia on Tuesdays. Not only for the older kids, but because I have become friends with the librarian and she informs me that she hosts a parent coffee time each Tuesday morning and would like me to come. I would like that, too.  There will be no sleeping late on those mornings, though, as her meet and greet starts at 8:30. It’s a good thing I’m retired.

 

I must make an addendum: Terry tells me this storm is very warm, a pineapple express storm blowing in from the Hawaiian islands. Then why do I feel cold?

Sometimes a sticker is all it takes

Upon arriving at the cafeteria yesterday, I found one of the kindergartners sitting at a table in the back, by herself. This is the little girl for whom I got the alarm clock.  Now she was tearful and not eating much of her lunch except the pizza. I sat down, and said hello, then asked how she was doing.

“I want my mom,” she said through the tears.

“Are you having a bad day,” I asked. She nodded yes, sniffling. My assumption was that she was in trouble and that’s why she was at the back table. I would later learn that she had asked her teacher if she could sit back there, far from her class.

“We all have days like that. Yesterday I had a bit of a bad day.” Then I took out my phone, showed her the picture of our lunch from the previous day, and told her what had happened with the meal being spilled on my leg and foot. She giggled.

“Yeah, I smelled like barbecue pork for the rest of the day.”

“Did you know today is the 100th day of school and that you are now 100 days smarter?” She perked up a little more.

“I have a sticker for you that you can wear that says I’m 100 days smarter. Would you like one?” She nodded yes, so I got the sticker out and put it on her shirt. She smiled, still sniffling, and she said “thank you.”

“Are you going to be okay for the afternoon?”

“Yes,” she replied, smiling more and cleaning up her lunch detritus.

“I’m so glad. All of us have some hard days, but we can bounce back. You’ve done a good job bouncing back, so I have another sticker you can take with you.” I then gave her one of the very special Bounce Back Kid stickers that I rarely hand out. They are like gold. A bigger smile. And another “thank you.”

I talked to the noon-time aide to let her know the little girl was ready to go with the class. That’s when I learned that she wasn’t in trouble, she just wanted to have time by herself. The last time I saw her, she was skipping out the door, at the end of the line with the other kindergartners.