Tag Archives: school chaplain

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.

 

 

Working with small children can be hazardous 

Small children cough, sneeze, and wipe their hands on me. A flu shot is mandatory. I take probiotics to stay healthy. I also change out of my school clothes as soon as I get home. I’m always washing my hands, and I carry tissues and hand wipes in my bag of tricks, along with stickers, to hand out as I move through the crowds of children who seek me out on the playground and in the cafeteria.


I’ve had two jackets at the dry cleaners recently. One had milk spilled on it by the little girl sitting next to me in the cafeteria. The other one had pink-reddish smears on the back probably put there when one of the kids hugged me. The dry cleaning lady pointed out, with both jackets, moth holes and asked if I was sure I wanted the jackets cleaned. She probably thinks I’m some eccentric old lady.

“Yes, please clean it. I know the holes are there, but this jacket is only worn to school, to work with small children,” was the response both times.

Those two jackets, one purple, one maroon, are the only items I wear to school that need to be dry cleaned, and I only wear them on really cold days. We’ve had lots of really cold days since Christmas break.

Yesterday we had pulled pork for lunch.


This time, a different first grade girl, dumped the container on the right on my pants and shoes. Lots of pork and barbecue sauce. Fortunately, the items could be easily cleaned.

Today is the 100th day of school for our students. Lunch will be pizza, which I don’t eat, and we’ll see what happens as far as messes go.

Seeking sunshine & better days

The weather here has matched my mood–gloomy. We’ve had more rain this month than ever in Januarys past.

Although we need the water, the cold and gloomy days have not made me happy. Every time a storm front blows in or out, and the air pressure changes, the migraines hit. I’ve used more imitex this month than ever in Januarys past.

The third graders at Columbia have been asking me to come have lunch with them. The only way that is possible is to add an extra day to my schedule. On Tuesday this week, and hopefully for the next few weeks, i’m making a point of getting to Columbia for lunch with the bigger kids. Wednesday and Thursday are set aside for the first graders.

So many of the third graders (who were the first students I read to when I started as school chaplain two years ago) want to sit with me at lunch. We run out of room at the table. I took lots of stickers and puzzle pages but ran out before lunch was over. I will have to get more for next week. The cafeteria manager told me that there were more kids in attendance on Tuesday than any other day this year. She could only attribute it to the sunshine.

Next week is the 100th day of school. I have a special book to read and special stickers for the children to wear stating they are 100 days smarter. We celebrate all kinds of things in first grade!  But I find the fifth and sixth graders like this stuff, too.

Here is some elementary school fashion to make you smile. These shoes sure brightened my day: