I Did Something Scary a Few Weeks Ago

Screen Shot 2018-12-27 at 9.31.01 AMA few weeks ago, I did something scary.  I made myself vulnerable to our staff in a meeting.  I opened up about my adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).

In the late 1990’s, a doctor from the CDC and a doctor from Kaiser Permanente set out to find connections between childhood experiences and lifelong health.  They created a questionnaire and sent it to over 17,000 people in the Kaiser network.  The results were astounding.  The more adverse childhood experiences a person had, the more likely they were to have health issues.  Someone with an ACE score of 4 had twice the risk of heart disease and cancer.  Those with an ACE score of 6 or more, on average had 20 years lower life expectancy.

Of course, ACE scores don’t tally the positive experiences in early life that can help build resilience and protect a child from the effects of trauma.  Having a grandparent who loves the child or a teacher who understands and believes in the child may help mitigate the long-term effects of early trauma.

So why did I share this information with our staff?  Because many of our students are living with adverse childhood experiences right now.  How can the adults in the building help?  First, we need to be aware of the types of trauma that our students may be living with.  Then, we need to arm ourselves with strategies to help our students build resilience and coping skills.  If each staff member is “the one” for at least one student enduring trauma in the building, think about the impact we can make!

My ACE score is 4.  Thankfully, I had two teachers who took me under their wing and helped to mitigate the long-term effects of my early trauma.  I’m fully aware that my life could have gone in a different direction.  I’m also acutely sensitive to the trauma that our students endure, as a result of my own trauma.

Last week, I finally had a chance to sit down and read Hey, Kiddo: How I Lost My Mother, Found My Father, and Dealt with Family Addiction by Jarrett J. Krosoczka.  This is a timely and profoundly important memoir, that unfortunately too many of our students will see themselves in.  But, that is exactly why it is a necessary book for our middle school and high school students.

Students who are living in a similar situation will see themselves in this graphic novel and will see how Jarrett was able to overcome his childhood trauma.  Other students will read Hey Kiddo! and will become aware of situations that some of their friends may be going through, perhaps building some empathy for their classmates.

Think about the students in your classroom or building.  Do you know them?  I mean really know them?  Do you know the trauma that some of them may endure in their homes?  As we close out 2018 and begin to edge into 2019, I will think about how I can “be the one” for the students in my building. I hope you will do the same.

©2018 by Dawn Little for My Learning Life. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Making Connections, Building Relationships

image“If you were going to let yourself be connected to people, you had to be willing to take chances.”The Secret Hum of a Daisy by Tracy Holczer

As I reflect on my reading of The Secret Hum of a Daisy, I can’t help but think about what the book signifies to me.  Relationships.  Sure, it’s about love and loss, but ultimately, I found that at the heart of the book was Grace and her relationships with those in her life.  One friendship was changing as another was blooming.  She had to learn to trust a grandmother she had never met before.  Cycles.  Trust.  Change.  Relationships.  We have all of this in our own lives and that is why I could relate to The Secret Hum of a Daisy.  The foundation of human connection – relationships.

I think about how important it is for us to build relationships in schools.  With our students and our colleagues.

Grace had a teacher who believed in her, Mrs. Snickels.  I think back to my teachers.  Two stand out.  Lisa Baar and Terese Rushford, though they were Ms. Bayse and Ms. Dukelow that year.  These two women were my fifth grade teachers and were pivotal in my development, not just academic, but social-emotional as well.  See, my parents separated when I was in fifth grade and these two women took me under their wings.  They believed in me, they took me out to dinner to celebrate my academic achievements, they took me strawberry picking, and most importantly they just listened.  They cared.  Years later, after my parents divorced and I was about to enter high school, my mom decided to move us out of state.  I was not happy about it to say the least, but Lisa was right there offering me a place in her home for the summer to help her with her children, but also as a member of the family. A way for me to transition to the new change in my life.  Cycles.  Trust.  Change.  Relationships.

When I became a teacher, I worked to build relationships with my students as well.  I worked to get to know my studets as individuals, their likes, their dislikes, their personal achievements.  I made personal connections with several students.  Several years ago, my former student Molly babysat for me. Just as I had for Lisa.  Just this past week, I ran into the grandmother of one of my former students.  Andrew was full of energy and traditional school expectations didn’t seem to work for him, even through high school.  But, in college, he bloomed.  She filled me in on all of his achievements since he was in my fourth grade class – my first year of teaching! He is now a sports journalist and works for Auburn University.  I’m so proud!  Cycles. Trust. Change.  Relationships.

Last year, I took a position as a staff development teacher.  My role is to support the teachers, but I also work closely with the principal, our instructional leader. I worked very hard last year (and continue to) to build relationships with my colleagues.  Not only was I new to the position, but I was new to the school, an established staff of committed teachers.  Our staff is committed to our students and to each other.  Cycles.  Trust.  Change.  Relationships.

As we begin this new calendar year, I strive to continue to build relationships with all in my life.  My colleagues, our students, my family, and my friends.  We all want to feel a connection to someone.

The foundation of human connection – relationships.