Still Making Crazy After All these Years.

I had every intention of writing last week, but as you know from an earlier post, Spring Break was about to start. I tried to write while the boys slept in. I was simply so drained and distracted from them being home that coherent thoughts wouldn’t come. For the record, this was a fairly peaceful spring break. Those of you that work and live with kids with IEPs know that we have been conditioned to always be ready for that ugly snap, so we don’t relax much in their presence.

Although school was not in session, I was given much to think and write about because of tow powerful interactions.

I sat with a mother one evening and asked her to tell me her 17 year old son’s story. This is a woman I have known for a while and although I basically know her son’s story, I wanted to get it down on a timeline. The story is infuriating and sad. And once I had it in a timeline, I became very overwhelmed. That story will be shared with you all in later posts. I need time to think about how to best tell it. I want to use in a way that allows us all to learn from it so we can stop making crazy. At every step of that kid’s school journey, there were mistakes. Mistakes that should never have been made. Making Crazy.

I spent last Thursday with The Best Art Teacher Ever and heard more frustrating stories about how ineffective PBS practices are driving the bus and none of the 2nd and 3rd tier kids are responding favorably to interventions.  How even at tiers 2 and 3 the students are forced to check in and check out with the designated interventionist (the teacher with the most time at the beginning and ending of the day) to pick up and drop off their little data sheets about how they behaved or did academically. And guess what?  There is no conferencing or meaningful support given to the kids. They either (this hurts to even write) get a piece of candy, or not, depending on their school day performance and ratings from their teachers. Making Crazy.  Can we quit with the ABA behaviorism already?  It doesn’t work for long term challenges!

But today I most want to share what I did last Thursday. Because it reminded me that I certainly have done some good stuff with and for kids. Because I spend more time in the should-have and could-have corners of my life as educator and parent than in the many good things I did. It’s Monday and I think we should start with an example of something that works.

Aunt Sally, Miss May, Grandma Rosie, Miss Stella.  Don’t you just want to sit in a room with them and listen to their stories?

It all started with Aunt Sally. It actually started with The Best Art Teacher Ever, a neighborhood elementary school, a dozen kids receiving EBD services and supports, a theory about restoring a sense of well-being, a grant, a hotel mistake, and the belief that creating helps heal wounded hearts. This story deserves to be told. No, it needs to be told. Over and over again.

However, for today’s purpose you will get the shortened and condensed version with a promise of details to come. This is good stuff.

Aunt Sally, Miss May, Grandma Rosie and Miss Stella are looms. They provide the opportunity for repetitive and rhythmic movement. They make experts of kids who have been seen only in negative light. They comfort, support, encourage, calm and make strong kids who feel powerless. They give hope and restore faith. They allow kids to be makers and givers.

I come from a long line of makers. I know the satisfaction that brings. I know how busy hands help process emotional and psychological stuff. I know how rhythmic movement can restore a sense of well-being. I know that repetitive and rhythmic movement helps with brain wiring. Think swinging and rocking a baby. Kids in school who did not get much of that are usually behind in that brain development and learning can be delayed.  I will share research with you at a later date. I just want us all to feel good today. I want us all to think about all the ways we can stop making crazy in schools and replace that with what really matters.

Here is Aunt Sally. She was rescued from a front porch and put in my classroom. I was an EBD resource teacher, K-6 at the time. My intermediate kids were incredibly challenged.

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This is what the kids made on Aunt Sally.

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(This is the first roll of rugs we harvested from Aunt Sally)

Beautiful rag rugs. All designed and made by my students. All given away as gifts.

Time with Aunt Sally changed my students. They did not have to earn time with her. They did not have any limits on how much time they could spend with her. They used time with her as a way to self-regulate, to work through worries and angers. Just sitting at Aunt Sally changed some of my students. My students became experts about weaving rag rugs. They invited peers in to learn about Aunt Sally and weaving, to share her magnificence. My students were proud of their work. Their creations were delighting others. We saw a shift in how my students were experienced by their peers. They were now creators and experts. They were seen as contributors.

The most profound changes were the ones we saw between our EBD students. They shared Aunt Sally with each other. They sensed when another might need her more. I saw kids weaving on Aunt Sally scoot over and make room for a very upset peer who entered the room for respite or because they were sent out of their gen ed classroom. They never, ever touched Aunt Sally with intent to harm or destroy.  She was sacred. If a student needed to sit at Aunt Sally for 5 minutes or 5 hours, they were allowed. I let my students decide what they needed. And they never took advantage.

All the rugs were designed by the kids and every rug belonged to every kid. Sheets were donated and the kids cut them into strips using a rag cutter. They took turns designing. They wrote their pattern on a marker board and everyone that sat at Aunt Sally followed that pattern until that rug was complete. Every pattern was respected and followed. Every rug was beautiful.

The first 4 months yielded over 50 rugs and each one was gifted to school adults chosen specifically by each of my kids. And yes, they are MY kids.  Nobody else was claiming them even though they sat in gen ed classrooms for most of each day.

Classroom teachers started asking kids if they wanted to go see Aunt Sally instead of saying they needed to go to the EBD room for a time out. And those teachers reported calmer and more attentive kids returning after time with Aunt Sally.

Wow, I feel better just having shared this little bit about Aunt Sally. She is sacred. She is a healer. She brings joy and comfort to everyone that sits with her.  She is fierce.  And I promise to share lots of photos and more details in a later post. Because you all need to know the whole story. Because you all need to go find an Aunt Sally for your classrooms. Because we have to stop making crazy.

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