Friday, February 5, 2016

This week started rough, but then I remembered...

Depot students making fund raising muffins.
I knew I was in trouble when I felt tired before the students even came in.

I really knew I was in trouble when they started coming in, and there weren't many smiles. Negative vibes seemed to be rippling out of them (or were they coming from me?).

There weren't any more crises than usual, just a vague feeling of weight.

Maybe it was just a sort of regression to the mean: Friday was so cool, the new week had to be a bit of a let down. Or maybe it was the effect of a weekend of stewing on all of the troubles of my students. Or maybe I had fixated on my own recent failures to reach them. Whatever it was, it weighed on me... until I remembered.

I knew that constant crucial conversations are needed, but I also knew they drain energy. They're heavy. And that's all I felt coming into this week--the weight.

By the time Tuesday rolled around, things were brightening a bit--I had some great convos with students as they cleaned and baked (part of their Depot Tier 2 Internship work), and a powerful conversation with another student about strategies for dealing with stress and relationships.

But then on Wednesday that same student crashed again.

And then my Quantitative Reasoning group went into meltdown mode--angry, hurting students rebelling against math.

That was the low point, and turning point, of my week. As I reflected on the meltdown later, I realized it would have been a great opportunity to talk about anger and social skills. I made a note for a future lesson adjustment strategy. We emphasize basic life competencies here at the Depot, and my plan is to change gears as needed during lessons to address them explicitly: "Soooo, what's happening with your mood right now, and how is that affecting the rest of us?" It's about explicitly teaching things like social/emotional skills, goal setting, organization, and self-control. (I'm so fortunate to have a teacher on staff, Shannon, who is a master at this sort of thing, so I can learn from her.)

This principle was driven home again on Thursday. As I talked with one student in the morning about the career skills rubric and setting goals for productivity, we set a goal for him of two job shadow letters by noon. He frowned and hung his head, not believing he could do it. He ended up sending out five job shadow letters.

A tough conversation later that morning with another student led to questions about depression, and later, there were conversations with students about sharing food they'd received while volunteering--all great opportunities to mentor kids and help them develop the key skills they need.

As Thursday wrapped up, I had remembered something. While talking with a staff member about issues she was having with student motivation, I remembered that this is a process. We can't expect instant success, either from ourselves or our students.

This work is heavy, and sometimes pretty rough, but it also has tremendous meaning, and it's more than worth it. Every little success is a reminder of that.

I'm not sure how I lost sight of those successes coming into this week, how I lost sight of that progress, the slowness of the growth process, or how I lost my patience, but it doesn't matter. What matters is these young people and their success, not mine.

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