A Glimmer of Hope

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Remember the first time someone gave you the lecture on having a choice to be part of the problem or part of the solution? Well that lesson has sure come in handy this week. I think first and foremost, it’s important to pinpoint the cause of the problem instead of looking at the enormous entirety of it all. I remember the first time I ever saw this quote and the way it changed my perspective on dealing with problems that felt bigger than I was able to handle. It goes something like this,” Don’t tell God how big your problem is, tell your problem how big God is.” Sometimes, the solution you need is just a new way of looking at the problem in the first place.

Yesterday I found myself in what you could call an emergency end of first marking period meeting. It was recently brought to my attention that Chase had several missing assignments and a test to make up from over a month ago. Why was I just hearing about this now? Why was I just now hearing that a 4 part project was due the next day? Why did the teacher send the make up test home with Chase last week when she knows he doesn’t complete his work and the work he does complete he can’t turn in because it has most likely gone missing? Why do you give a child with ADD extra responsibility when he cannot juggle the responsibilities already on his plate? There was my answer hiding boldly behind the black and white print of the words in an innocent email the teacher sent me regarding whether Chases medication appeared to be working.This is a direct quote from the teachers email to me, “As far as his medication, he has always been fairly quiet in my class and behavior hasn’t been a problem. Are there particular signs I should look for? Does he fidget in his seat when the medication isn’t working? I know that different medicines have all different effects, so I will let you know if I notice anything out of the ordinary.”

What a moment, to finally get to the root of the problem. All this time, the teacher had absolutely no knowledge of ADD at all. She was referring to behaviors associated with ADHD which is significantly different that ADD. Worse than that is the stigma and misconception that comes along with those awful words that mislead people and teachers to believe both ADD and ADHD are merely a behavioral problem where kids fidget and act out and are treated with medication to make them sit down and shut up. This is so far from the truth however, and often why kids with ADD go unnoticed. They are the kids that behave, sit quietly in their seats and appear to be working. Only, they are labeled as mediocre students and kids that don’t work to their full potential. They are the kids labeled as lazy and unmotivated because they cannot finish their work in a timely fashion if they remember to hand it in at all. These are the kids that get a poor grade on a project because they are unable to follow multi-step directions. They are the forgotten few who quietly slip through the cracks while the squeaky wheels get oiled.

I remember how excited I was, ecstatic even, that we finally got our 504. For me, it was a red flag for the teacher that let her know from day one that Chase had a problem that required special needs and provisions in the classroom. AND, the plan would be there for them to implement so that the teachers would know what to do and Chase would have his best chance to be successful in the classroom. Sounds like a win- win for everyone right? You know what they say, if something seems to be too good to be true, it probably is.

This was my moment of discovering where the system was broken. Can you imagine assuming your children is being given his best chance at success, yet not only is the plan NOT being followed through, but also the teacher doesn’t even understand the disability or disorder behind the 504 or the IEP in the first place? So what does the IEP or 504 become? A useless piece of paper and nothing more.

This, however, gave me a glimmer of hope. When the game changes, the plan must change too. I went in and I educated the teacher on ADD. I explained what it is like for a child with ADD to sit in the classroom and why traditional teaching methods don’t work.I gave her clear examples of how she was assuring Chase would fail and alternatives that she could use to turn this thing around. She was receptive and grateful. These poor teachers have no one leading and educating them with the diverse needs of various kids in their classrooms. This has become the way of the world. No leadership or organization. It trickles down from the top….it’s not my responsibility, I don’t know whose in charge of that. People are put into positions yet are not told HOW to do their job. They just don’t know. It’s not a matter of not wanting to do it, it’s a matter of not knowing how to do it. Are these teachers expected to take this on themselves when there are 34 other kids sitting in their classroom and while they are trying to teach?

During my meeting, another teacher dropped in to let me know how much the team cares about Chase and how they were really pulling together to figure out how to make things right. She was really interested in hearing what I had to say and shared some of the suggestions she had read on the Internet and how she was using them in her class. I had a whole new respect for his team. They were really trying their best to get this right. His Social Studies teacher was telling me how excited she was that Chase got his braces, because ever since the metal was put in his mouth a lightbulb seemed to turn on in his head. She told me he was raising his hand to answer questions, getting all his work completed and handing it in EARLY. I congratulated her on recognizing the difference between a dose of medication that is not working and one that makes the difference. The day Chase got his braces, we increased his dose of medicine and guess what? She noticed! Finally what I had been asking for since the beginning of school, confirmation we were finally at the right dose.

I am feeling much better about the upcoming semesters. I really feel like we made headway and I connected with the team in a whole new way. They let me in and now we are a team of 5. I have always felt my purpose, or gift as some call it, has something to do with teaching and education. I’ve been trying to put my finger on it for some time. I now realize maybe it is much broader than I ever imagined. Maybe I’ve already been doing it, through the years I coached gymnastics, taught my patients about diseases and medications when I worked as a nurse, through the words I write in my blog, and perhaps providing these few teachers the understanding and patience and knowledge they need to pay it all forward and share what they learn with other teachers so maybe somewhere down the road, we can help another kid that sits in class quietly struggling with his ADD. I believe these teachers will do their part. I will continue to do everything I can to help these teachers better understand and as I learn through trial and error, they will learn too. It’s a road that is long. I don’t expect it to be easy, but knowing I have a small tribe on my side, and Chases side, gives me the hope I need to keep on traveling this road, and it’s nice to know I don’t have to do it alone.

10 Simple Ways You Can Be a Better Person

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1) If someone sends you a message, take the minute it takes to respond. At least acknowledge the person that reached out to you so you don’t leave them feeling ignored and insignificant.

2) Smile at someone and make eye contact. Let that person know you really see him.

3) Hold the door open for someone. Chivalry is only dead if you help kill it. Be the example.

4)Use kindness more than criticism. Criticism is the norm. If you want to stand out, be that person that makes others feel good about themselves. It’s contagious, you’ll see!

5)Use a pleasant tone. People remember the tone of your voice more than they remember your words.

6) Be selfless. Perform more acts of kindness for others and less for yourself. That does not mean don’t be kind yourself, just don’t be so self involved.

7) If someone is trying to merge, wave them in. Road rage and careless driving is killing people everyday. Will the extra second earlier you could have arrived make a difference if you don’t arrive at all?

8) Don’t go with the flow if the flow is toxic. Be a standout and lead by example. People will eventually follow.

9) Show compassion when someone is in pain. If you give someone that gift, I bet he/she will pay it forward to another.

10) Invite someone to do something. It really makes someone feel appreciated and liked. Couldn’t we all use a little more of feeling that? There is no better gift than your time and attention.

What do you have to add? Let’s keep expanding this list and pick out a few to do today. I challenge you!

Thought For the Day

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The other day I took my daughter shopping for winter clothes. As she was in the fitting room, I happened to look up and caught my reflection in a gigantic mirror. It took me off guard. I looked so small and only filled up a tiny section of the mirror. I am used to looking into mirrors and seeing my body or reflection filling that mirror. What an unexpected and great lesson. What do you see when you look at yourself? Do you fill the entire mirror or do you notice how small you really are? Maybe we should put oversized mirrors everywhere to keep ourselves in perspective. Just a thought…

A New Perspective For Myself

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The second I set myself down in bed last night my heart felt a whole lot lighter. There are days and moments and events that elate us and leave us feeling so grateful that our entire body tingles with gratitude. Last night was one of those nights.

I have been so down lately. It’s noticeable and people call me out on it. They get frustrated when I am not quoting positivity and pointing out the silver lining in every situation. Truth is I have been down, depressed and trying to fight my way back. I believe last night was the first step. I am generally positive by nature. I can look around me and know I have many blessings and opportunities that many others don’t have. I also don’t sugar coat the obvious things that are crumbling down all around me. It’s hard for me to trust. I have a pretty tough exterior and although my heart is bigger than I show I often am hard and vocally honest. I am hard on people and circumstances and I sometimes shut myself off from anybody and everything going on around me. There’s a little girl that hides beneath the exterior that has been hurt and let down and I guess it’s the person others greet that protects her. I’m not sure anyone really knows me through interactions. It’s through my writing and this blog that she safely uses her voice to share with the world her true identity. It has saved her and I am grateful for this outlet to let her live.

So, back to being down. I don’t really want to talk about that now but what picked me back up. I’ve had a couple of breakthroughs lately. I let my daughter dye a peekaboo piece of hair teal green. Yep! You read it right…green! What the heck was I thinking? Not much if you were to ask my mother. She was very willing to tell me what a bad decision I had made. Hmmmmm…. I thought about this for awhile and tried to figure out why it was bothering me so much. Then I got it. I was worried that other parents would label her a freak or “one of those kids”. Then I worried about what they would think of me as a parent. Truth is, it’s a piece of hair. The green won’t last forever and really does anyone even have the right to judge? They will. There’s no doubt. That’s what we do, gossip and judge. The question here is why do I care so much? You are probably wondering where I’m going with this. It didn’t take long after the traumatic hair dying for Kayleigh to open up to me in a way she hadn’t before. I realized that I had to honor and protect the little girl in her and not be so hard on her while trying to protect her. We all need that, someone to accept us and love us and be excited about the person we are without judgement or criticism. It was an important moment between us and helped put a little green hair into perspective. Sometimes I look at her and picture it as the teenage witch showing itself through her hair and then, I laugh.

My other moment was last night. Chase had his last cross country meet. Everyone knows how devastated I was when he quit halfway through his first race, and here we were same place, same time, different day. I was secretly dreading it. I took a different approach than ever before and probably much different than other parents would. I told him he would finish out the season and only have to run this 1 race, and if he felt he couldn’t go the distance he could stop at anytime. I told him I just wanted him to have the opportunity to give it one more shot and if his best was halfway around, then that was good enough to me. I just didn’t make it a big deal. It was one to me because it breaks my heart to see the pattern of him giving up. I just thought that maybe if I didn’t focus on success being finishing but doing his best that from me, mom, that would be enough. Needless to say, I did not breathe for the 20 minutes it took him to run, but when I finally saw him nearing the finish line I couldn’t stop the tiny tear that rolled down my cheek. He did it. We did it and I was proud.

Sometimes, things just work out and leave us feeling good. This is one of those times and I am enjoying every moment, every minute. Sometimes I just get a little down. We all need a smile or an act of kindness once in awhile to pull us out of despair. When is the last time you offered someone that gift? A compliment, a hug, a smile, a little help? I bet you might be surprised if you think about it. People need kindness.We need the child we bury in all of us to feel good and safe and respected. We need that child to be able to show herself and lighten up, to have a little fun. You can offer that to someone. Your voice and your actions are so powerful. The question is, will you do it?

Attention Deficit Disorder, a Silent Struggle

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I like to keep everyone updated on our progress with living with ADD. The first and most important reason is that I want people to have a first hand look at the frustrations and challenges that go along with trying to keep this whole thing in check. The other reason is to hopefully help people understand what these kids really need, so if they are in a position to make a difference, or around someone that can, they can share our story and perhaps make a difference in the long run for someone, somewhere needing someone to pay attention enough to care.

So, here we are about 8 weeks into middle school. On the second week of school I was fortunate enough to meet with Chases team of teachers and explain the struggles we’ve had so far with the school system, how far Chase has come in the last year, and addressed some concerns I had about some old patterns of behavior as far as not handing work in or having incomplete work because of not having sufficient time to finish it in class. After the meeting I felt like they really had a handle on things and that their continual communication among each other and with me would make all the difference.

Unfortunately, that’s not exactly how it played out. I check Parent Portal every day, every hour, sometimes every few minutes. As a parent, I try my best to stay on top of everything so that Chase does not get away with bad habits and so I can hold him accountable if he is not doing his work. I will give you two specific examples of how 2 of the 4 teachers have failed us both. The first teacher is absolutely great when it comes to posting grades as the kids do the work. However, recently she posted a homework grade that consisted of all the assignments since the beginning of the year. Chase had a 40. I was less concerned with his grade and completely concerned with the fact that one paper was late, one was incomplete, and 2 weren’t handed in at all. We are talking from 7 weeks ago. No call, no note, no email, and no indication this was happening, even after I met face to face and specifically asked to be notified. The teacher seemed frustrated when I insisted on knowing the assignments that were missing even after she let me know she would not accept them after all this time. How sad that I had to explain to her that it is my job as a parent to teach my kids responsibility, good work ethic, and accountability and that he would be completing the assignments and turning them into me on a matter of principle.

The second example is this. Today, during Fall Break I check the site to see that the science teacher submitted 11, yes 11 grades from the last several weeks. Seriously, if these teachers are too lazy to get these grades in in a timely fashion, is it even a wonder why they don’t expect it from their students. I am a firm believer that it is crucial to nip things in the bud and stay on top of work day to day. Is it fair I find out weeks later that there has been a problem the whole time?

It is really shameful in my opinion that teachers do not hold themselves to a higher standard. In most cases parents don’t even care what is going on in school.Chase has people, parents that do care and it is unacceptable to me that the school fails him year after year. I hear the judges and the critical crowd growing angry that I am holding the teachers to blame. What I say to you is I hold Chase accountable at home. I am extremely hard on him and I expect the school to do the same. Maybe, just maybe if our teachers weren’t so lax, our kids wouldn’t be either, and maybe if they held the kids to a higher standard and expected more out of them, maybe our kids would deliver.

Thank you to those of you that have followed my story from the very beginning. I know some of you are even teachers. Please help me educate the people that need to be educated and let them know how they can make a difference.

My Letter to the World

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Dear World,

We are in a time of transition. Everything around us is in a constant state of change. It is hard to admit that we have little or no control over what goes on around us, maybe even when it comes to what happens to us. My wish is this. I wish for everyone to see more with their hearts and souls and less with their minds. I wish people could address each other as human beings with feelings and not just as a person with an opposing belief. I wish we could take a step back and see how our egos are devouring the good compassionate people we are underneath our words or the toughness of our skin. I wish we could see the humanness in all of us and what lies far beneath our words and our desire to argue and be right. I wish we could step out of our selfish selves and listen to the person speaking to us without searching for our next response or the words to invalidate their personal opinion. I wish we could look into each others eyes and see the pain without feeling there’s a need for words. I wish we would value the word respect and ingrain it back into all our relationships and encounters. I wish we could let go of our need to be right or prove our point and take the hand of someone with an opposing view so that they know we understand. I wish we could see the difference between our personal truth and the real truth. There is a difference. I wish we could see that our own opinion is one of many and we do not have the right to label opinions as right or wrong. I wish we didn’t think we had the right to demean someone’s personal truth but accept we are different for a reason. I wish we could live in a world where a compromise was a win instead of this damaging win/lose mentality. It does not have to be one way or another. Our relationships success depends on our ability to respect one another and our willingness to compromise. Anything but that leads to fighting, and discord until there is a complete shutdown and the relationship comes to an end. Sound familiar? We are too different to label views and wants as right or wrong but we can respect everyone and find a solution somewhere in the middle. Until our President, and Government leaders on both sides set an example of respect and compromise, our people and our world will continue to use their words to bully, fight, and argue over the same things day in and out. Imagine if we used our words to show respect and love. Can you see how different the attitude of the world could be? If we lived in a time where respect and not power was what equalled success. I think about it frequently. I am not perfect. I get caught up in petty debates and choosing sides. I am on the side of respect and love. Bringing back civility to a world that has lost it’s soft, loving tone. I am on the side of peace and compromise and using my words to build people up or let them know that even though I may not agree, I value their opinion and hear their words. I am not on the side of insulting, demeaning, bullying or partaking in the condescending tone that has stolen our gentle voice. I am on the side of teaching my children compassion, and respect for others and will spend my every breath to teach them the lesson that they will grow more from stepping into someone else’s shoes than always only wearing their own. I am on the side that cheers for us to honor each other as individuals and to see our differences as blessings instead of roadblocks. I do not wish to live in a world where we are all robots, programmed to believe the same things, or think the same thoughts. I also do not want to live in a world where we are so pompous we believe our opinions trump someone else’s. Respect for individuality, compassion for others and our understanding that each and every one of us makes this world what it is today is the world I dream of. We all play a crucial role. I will end this letter with one of my favorite quotes and something I need to remind myself of on a frequent basis, “We are responsible for the energy we bring to this space”. What kind of energy will you bring? We all seem so insignificant but think of the power we have as we walk into a room or the great big world. You make a difference just as much as I do. Choose that energy carefully. Namaste

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