My most illuminating child, by far, "Little Tut". An eight year old patient, by clinical doctors, was considered beautiful by his family, school, and generally his social groups. "Little Tut", nicked named in my private notes, was raised with praise to feel good about himself. He was "catered to his every need" - be happy. Little Tut's parents, as many parents believe, organized their lives around him so that he would have great self-esteem. He felt 'entitled'. Little Tut transferred his learned expectations acquired from his environment to everyone else. "It's all about me" attitude was radiated from his beaming face.
"Disaster came into Little Tut's kingdom" when his parents adopted two foreign students with special needs. Suicidal (SI) and homicidal ideation (HI) at age eight. Upon classroom entry, I assigned him the storybook software to write about a young boy since he had spied the Tut art in my classroom from my foreign travels. He delved into Egyptian history in his internet searches and felt involved in it's young king. Little Tut told stories wanting to be liked.
Paraphrasing portions of the Little Tut's story plot that exemplifies his 'transference': Tut had lots of gold, but no one liked him because he was so spoiled. Not even his family liked him. Of all his journeys he had never been on the longest river that ran north, the Nile. A fairy came to grant him his wish if he killed the dragon attacking Egypt. This would be his chance to be liked, so he took a spear to kill the dragon. Egyptians had weird traditions, like shaving their kids' hair. In art, men danced with men, but they did favor all sorts of cats. There was a very rich beautiful girl mummy. She had golden cats in her tomb and was probably the second richest Egyptian. He killed the dragon.
Little Tut had not surfaced for a week while creating his computer pictures for his story. He made a pyramid with its secret hidden treasures, searched the internet, and wrote his name and codes in hieroglyphics. His hospital staff had numerous materials to lead him into discussing his own circumstanced. The King Tut Strut from Copycat Magazine (1998) encouraged his own rhythm and dance:
Beware caregivers of the "Kid trap" for using entitlement. Lynn Johnston's For Better or Worse cartoon gives a perfect example. A young boy was turning 'thirteen' and his friends expected a party. Organizing a party is the easiest thing they said. And the last frame...have your mother do it.
It's never too late to recognize the good in a child's life by seeing it in their parents' mood...seeing their world. Little Tut's expectations changed as did the parental view:
Spring. My fresh flower of spring, Lesha, 10 years old, stepped into my medical classroom as if she were walking on rose petals - a graceful flow to her quiet gait. Despite the fact that society had rained on her parade. She had been physically abused, not sexually. Lesha docilely complied with a calmness that made me shiver. She was my newest suicidal student, African American. At least she had a personality characteristic of self that I felt would thrive that spring.
Lesha lived with her recovering alcoholic mother and stepfather. Another stepfather stepping in to demonstrate his fatherly abilities of controlling. He abusively confronts her with abusive and intimidating actions and words (hand raised, in her space, "bad girl". You get the idea.) Her mother is, also, submissive. (Where would I go? He cares for us.)
The parents laughed during the entrance interviews about Lesha's suicide attempts and methods. Their rudeness was apparently obvious in their therapy sessions. Lesha's grandparents lived next door, but avoided contact for the last two years. She had been hoed under by her support group.
Incivility, abuse, and rudeness had wilted the "rose". Suicide attempted by drug overdose. (Rudeness as defined as "low-intensity deviant behavior with ambiguous intent to harm" was contagious.) Lesha clung to her belief that she was responsible for her abuse and well deserving of her stepfather's treatment.
But, the clinic tried to revive Lesha through:
Spring was in the air.
Perseverance - believe - and "Go for the Gold", the Olympian creed caused me to immediately reflect back to Trevor. He had faced insurmountable odds. His history showed physical abuse by his biological mother and was removed from his home. His father took parenting classes and regained custody. Trevor's step-mother's only statement listed under reason for hospital admission, "He's out of control. She is his third mother after his biological mother and the present living-in-female. He faced the view of four significant persons who batted him back and forth, literately and figuratively. The adults faced marital and custodial situations, school snags, and a poorly blended family. Trevor was diagnosed as behaviorally dyscontrolled and identity confusion.
Trevor was sold "believe" to help him focus his efforts. When he or any child under my medical mental health assistance was grumpy, without a word, I would snap the non-breakable magnetic mirror with "Mad, Sad, Glad" written in bright neon salmon lettering from the white board and place it squarely in front of their face. I knelt and whispered, "We get mad, sad, and glad.
Previously, I had explained that we all get mad or angry, sad, and glad, (the rhyming word had more effect for angry). Then the class would repeat mad, sad, glad a few times enjoying the sounds and rhythm. We (gesturing inclusive with big swooping arm get mad (my ostentatious pout), but then glad - that we (circling gesturing again) can ask for help. Courage.
Trevor would look in the mirror and peer at himself - sometimes silly and occasionally shyly share his own reflection, too. The mirror was a useful impromptu lesson for self-regulation.
I would share with the class that I was glad that we can all ask for help. We never know precisely what is in our heads. That is what makes us excitingly different. Difficult for us to understand, but we do not become bored. Get your hand up fast, because a first word begins your perseverance. We need to talk and ask questions for understanding and for focusing. If your class is large close your eyes tightly, wait your turn, and remember that you are controlling your mad (anger). This will help you feel glad, maybe not much, but you will feel a trickle of glad inside.
"Trevor, who is in the mirror? You, rings in my memory. You decide mad, sad, but glad that you ask for help. It's easy to get mad. It takes courage, like an Olympian, to move to the next step.
Trevor's lesson interruption reminded me to allow interruption of my focus and be aware. Societies all over the world become mad or angry, not all at the same time, we hope. Those golden moments of time give us license to ask for help.
Persevere, believe, and you'll go for the "goal", you. An eleven year old went for his own reward.
An Olympic ceremony's song pops into my head with a John Lennon verse added.
Imagine all the people living in harmony
"You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the world will be as one
My anti-Valentine's Day boys entered. Alex handcuffs, Darin with a sheepish grin, Cy hates girls, Mark thinks they are stupid like his mom, and Bailey, also, a 10-year old; who collectively did not want to do "prissy" things. Because of all the boys resistance to Valentine's Day, I gave my usual handshake and eye contact while adding a pat on the back. The pat on the back stuck a heart-shaped sticker with each student's positive personality attribute. I made sure to block the next person's view and asked them to seat themselves in a semi-circle at the worktable.
My favorite way to teach was by discovery, though it was often difficult to keep my composure. We stood for the Pledge of Allegiance, began our discussion concerning the assemble line for car manufacturing and how it would relate to our making valentine cards faster and less 'painful'. All agreed to expedite the process to have extra free time. As I talked, my educational assistant walked around the room strategically affixing compliments on the rest of the classes backs.
Suddenly all joy broke loose when Alex leaned back and exclaimed to the student beside him, "There's a mushy heart on you." The five boys squirmed like a can of earthworms trying to remove their positive stickers. Permission was granted to remove them only if they stuck them on their journals, homework folders or notebooks. These truths were to be worn for three hours and be visible if they wanted the party. This was bribery. They had permission to complain. We all remember our faults. I was simply putting their positives into perspective. (Some children kept them for their entire hospital stay).
Our Valentine's Day party let the boys discover that being nice is nice when they could claim coercion, "My teacher made me." They grumbled and groaned. I assured them that my heart ached for them, but they had to make valentines for the nursing staff. The group organized an assemble line without the conveyor belt. The mission was to assemble symmetrical red hearts with doilies designed and the verse from "Dear Abby" cut and pasted on each.
Everyone in the group had to assemble or forget the party. Clem, the brainy student, spoke up that "Dr. K does not renege on her word. She may apologize but does not go back on her word." He told them he had once lost computer privileges abruptly when she had pulled the plug saying that he was more important than any computer. While grumbling, Marc informed Bailey that "Dr. K may be nice, but she is not easy." Bailey, our only fourth grader among these sixth graders stood up in a huff and said, "Okay, I am the boss. Let's get this line going so we can party." He assigned the jobs. He put the nurses' names on the hearts and check off the names on the list at the end of the assembly line.
To my dismay and secret delight he assigned the worst cutter, Clem, to cut out the verses. Production was under way, paper and paste everywhere. Dollies stuck to everything including scissors. My assistant and I had to restrain our educational good intention instincts to help. This was a self-confidence assignment and not to be compromised. No one would have to say, "But Dr. K and Ms. H helped.
Eventually, "Boss Bailey" stepped forward and delivered 15 hearts each with a nurse's name and children's signatures. After examining each one I announced, "Mission accomplished. Men, chose your computers. Start your engines.
The party began and I knew that someday they would join us in a better way. Imagine!
The world in a better way. Share this "mushiness" and give a love pat to some one. Happy V day!
You knew a sport motivational acronym would pop into my blog after watching the National Football Conference Championship, and I went ape. The Minnesota Vikings lost to the Philadelphia Eagles. I have a Masters Degree in sports and physical education besides my PhD so this blog is about me losing control. "Focus control, Kaye, control what you can control, " I said to myself. Use APE as I had mentally coached my students. Tara, mentally unhealthy and inaccurately read by me popped into my head as the blow to the MN Vikings' spirit settle over me last Sunday. Poor execution.
Tara, an 11-year-old "terror", entered my classroom; I greeted her with the perfunctory handshake, "Good morning", a smile and pointed her to her table with her name card. Passive-aggressive was written all over as she collapsed huffily into her chair. (Subconsciously fuming to myself that her 23-year-old stepfather issues had not been clinically discussed, though I had recorded my sense of uneasiness in Tara about their closeness in age.)
Support from Tara's family was very weak. Tara's mother(33) was in therapy at age 18 and apparently attempted suicide. Tara's mother reported that Tara had severe temper, often throwing things and had "fits" at least once a week lasting 30-60 minutes over discipline, such as being asked to go to bed. Tara didn't get along with her 6-year-old brother and sister, age 8. She often ran down the road. Her stepfather followed to bring her home. She had climbed out of a bedroom window and threatened to jump off the roof. Tara's parents sent her to stay with the maternal grandmother.
We grappled with Tara to change her and her family's expectations. Speaking to the class in general I had reminded them that, just as we do in sports and my classroom, they could signal for time out in life with "be kind to yourself minutes" to warm up before beginning the actual school work. Each should find their own way, their own routine, put troubling thoughts on the back burner. We joked that I was getting them ready for the working world where people won't wait for them to 'get their act together'. (Attitude.) Acquiring a routine, 'like a dance'; no words needed be spoken, just let your body feel the rhythm and flow into the day without thinking deep thoughts. Choose a simple thought for the day --- a soft stuffed animal, favorite music, or as many adults do --- keep photos or sayings on their desks, to signify their own motivations. (Preparation.)
Here, Tara had given a burdensome smile. Her issues seemed heavier than waking up and getting the body to function. I knelt by her desk and softly said, "Tara take ten before you condemn Tara," and suggested time out to speak to her primary nurse.
Upon Tara's re-entry, I was motioned to the door. Law requires supervision by the teacher in the classroom at all times, so I hesitated to do more than simply step outside the door, but Tara's nurse had asked another nursing staff to step into the classroom and to please close the door.
Apparently, Tara had not condemned herself and felt she had finally committed to changing. (Effort.)
Tara had been taken upstairs to have photographs taken of deep bruises on her thighs. According to Tara, her stepfather had abused her physically and sexually.
The sign had been there. I had not read it accurately. Poor execution. I had gone on two premises.
Firstly, Tara had not accepted her young stepfather, thereby judging him negatively in his attempt to fill a father role, especially concerning discipline. Secondly, the sexuality concerning their age difference had not been resolved. I had put aside the latter, since I had already reported my observations a number of times without further notification on the issue.
I had had difficulty returning to the class. I had motioned my educational assistant to monitor the assignments while I sat in my office viewing them through the painfully clear two-way windowpane.
Cynicism is not what I felt as much as a flood of sadness. The same sadness as the Vikings lost. It's what I saw in their eyes, that they longed to see themselves experience the Super Bowl. The same sadness that I had felt for my failure to help Tara to feel life, "Next to Normal".
Of course, even the strongest break our own acronyms, but don't go acting like an ape. Focus control on what you can control, set goals, and "blow out" (a pause before-with effort). Claiming the lack of execution helped me and will help the Vikings 'not giving up'---attitude, preparation, and effort (Evolution;).
A Hand in
A Hand in
A Hand makes the chain of human help begin. My simple true story blog experiences from the mentally ill children link society to the importance of social services.
My "hand" narrative began with Katy. I met Katy through the fibrous dark panel of a hospital drawer. Most children in my classroom had slipped through society's cracks. But this little girl had disappeared into a "black hole" in the back of her hospital trundle bed drawer and wouldn't come out. The nurse had asked for my help, although, I had never met this fragile child.
I crouched next to the drawer. Katy peered fearfully from her encampment. As if possessed, I began coaxingly cooing in a singsong voice:
Katy, Katy, come to me.
In my school it's safe with me.
Katy, Katy, come and see
All the nice things for you and me.
I extended my hand without a word. The disheveled back of Katy's head appeared as she scuffled forward in the drawer. Her little body tumbled from beneath the bed. She reached for my hand with a shiver. Quietly and silently Katy, the nurse, and I walked hand in hand to my classroom contemplating our separate fears and apprehensions.
My own nightmare and connection to this fragile, blonde (and later bouncy and gregarious) raped first grader began the long walk; a hand in, a hand in, a hand to the classroom of hope.
Katy asked for help in writing her name so I placed my hand over hers to guide the pencil. She bit my hand. I recoiled, stifled an utterance of pain, and grimaced at the sight of blood. I offered my hand again, only, this time with my palm up as if inviting her to dance. Often, it neutralized a situation if I could defy using usual human reactions that children expected.
Biting usually was not cause for alarm for the hospital staff. Nor was it for me until the nurse popped her head into my classroom saying, "We haven't checked Katy for HIV, yet. There's some history. I will let you know." Click, the door closed. In those three seconds my pulse rate and perceptions changed.
The hospital staff and I had a deep compassion and drive to change these sick children's lives, especially those who were demoralized in their struggles. I, figuratively, grasp your hands with hope for the New Year that
A hand in
A hand in
A hand we will take joy in the small and big changes for the children of 2018.
Happy New Year!
"Abandoning your sense of reasoning, that's like you or you or you, sometimes. Right, Grandpa? I'm like you."
We begin with good intentions; inclusive; not offending anyone; and staying away from deep issues. (Destroy by a comment or family silencing members viewpoints.) These persons begin at the grade level of "E"
I formed a psyche emotional grading system that I taught in reverse at Mayo Clinic Psychiatry Center for Children. (I"ll keep the explanation in the standard order ABCDE.
Emotions are your smoke alarms. The alarms are real. The choices 'can' be confusing. We want to hit at the alarm to stop it. It takes courage to think of intelligent choices without hitting back. Courage to move form the grade "E" to "A". Mayo can help!
Accent the positives, Accept negotiation
Behavior of your brain and body
Communicate, Care, Consideration (Cool, Can)
Emotion, the Experience of perceptions
My students, especially one sixth grader, worked on the ABCDE with anticipation for each letter grade. The ABCDE lessons were required penmanship assignments copying one letter a day beginning with E. He was on letter "B", behavior of body and brain. He had truly completed moving from "E", his emotions controlling his actions through D, determination, and "C', communication. He acted like a young man with "hang-ups", and anxieties: weight, girls, and parents but he was aware he had choices and was not alone. When called names concerning his weight he rehearsed, "Please call me by my given name. My name is Bret, thank you," as he turned or moved away. ("B for Bret's Bravery" was my entry in his daily journal.)
If your behavior isn't taking you anywhere, why go there?
Sense the reasonable solution.
Low expectations, children will meet them if defined by friends and classes of people in their surroundings. Our survival compass balances to the new norm of the environment. Jeff's example exudes my point. He was a heavy set, intelligent, and affable - away from his family. His family took comfort in knowing that he probably inherited his mental condition since there were two cousins with schizophrenia, two aunts with depression, a grandfather and several cousins abused alcohol. My heart ached from the lack of empathy available to this child.
Jeff saw no justice. He pounded his head against walls, smeared feces and urinated indiscriminately. He clearly knew better. He was irritable much of the time. His sister feared being alone with him and he was jealous of his younger brother who had encephalopathy. Jeff felt particularly responsible for his brother's diminished capabilities. He knew his sordid history and wanted out - out of society and out of his family. Expectations, none. He attempted suicide by wrapping his baby blanket around his neck to suffocate. He wanted to die and said so regularly...family expectation?
I used optical illusion sessions to capture the students' understanding of the importance of seeing and asking their brains and others what they were seeing. Here are two specific optical examples that were well received. The first, with my back turned to them, I would sneakily and dramatically inform them that I was drawing line segments on the white board. I would stereotype a mad professor and tell the class I was putting arrows, carets, ray symbols, greater than or less than symbols to the lines. I would pivot back from the white board with my "Vanna White" impersonation and ask them to describe what they saw. All observations were accepted. The arguments ensued and fed discussions for understanding frustration and confusion concerning personal feelings. The feelings that disturbed their minds, that the lines were all equal lengths.
The second illusion perspective that lead the students into trying other solutions, The space ship. I would say, "Make your hands into fists. Point your thumbs toward each other moving them closer and closer to each other until they almost touch. Keeping your eyes focused on your thumbs, slowly move them toward your nose while staring at the tiny, tiny space left between your thumbs. Tell me when your space ship lands." Eeks and giggles would follow. Line, color, shape and focal point fooled the mind into believing what is not there. But their anticipation lead them to broaden their views of themselves, parents, siblings, and classmates.
Listen to differences to the discovery of what we/they have in common, attainable hope for children. Let's help children find their own equilibrium, setting specific, attainable expectations. Thus, setting sail on their own course in society.
Let Halloween begin, flash back from within, in the land of "Mayo" (Mayo Clinic psychiatry), where, ages ago truths were told of Halloween of old. Halloween week was a screech, truly and paradoxically. I felt properly gleefully gloomy and grim. Since no child in the class had a "bug" phobia, I had planned with gruesome bliss.
"For I am cantankerous already,
But I say that with a grin
Since my little spirited sprites
Discover unexpected surprises
From their person within."
My computer savvy kids nervously had maneuvered their way through the gauzy web and had settled on the carpet near my webbed chair. The Witch Has an Itch by Donna Guthrie and illustrated by Katy Keck Arnsteen (Aladdin, 1990) waited for us. The story unfolded the dilemma of Gormelda, a wicked witch and proud of it. She was the meanest magic maker in all the land with a major psychosomatic glitch - evil made her itch. To keep her reputation, she scratched and itched incessantly until it was unbearable. She sought help from the powerful wizard, Womack. He explained that there were different kinds of reputations. She could be the nicest witch in all the land. Her choice. Where does one start? Womack advised that she could start from scratch - with a smile.
The class discussed Halloween stories and cultures from around the world. They computer researched what interested them, such as: The Celt's huge bonfires to scare away demons and wearing ugly apparel to fool the demons into thinking they were one of them and would do them no harm; Roman festival to honor Pomona, goddess of Gardens and Orchards; how Halloween got it's name, the short way of saying All Hallow's Eve, the night before All Saint's Day ((which happens to be the day I was born). I tried to act saintly, but my students quickly pointed out that was a long stretch. Or, as Jas quickly stated, "You're pushing it, Dr. K."
Sensitively, we discussed Halloween relating to religion, spirits, death, and superstitions. The children took the opportunity to tell of concerns of death and things that particularly frightened them. They poured forth suggestions for handling fear and nightmares appropriate for modern times: Leave lights on; changing the channel in your mind like television; shutting down their minds or delete like a computer; telling someone; writing down their fears. For the older kids it reversed the negative caveat of their own fears by sharing their wisdom. The younger students' anxieties seem relieved.
Emily Dickson, I'm not but the empowering poems and stories collected from their research reflected truly heartfelt fears and solutions from within.
The grins of Halloween conquering fear. The yearly positive caveat on Halloween Day;)
The little kids that wouldn't; pugnacious at 8 and 6-years old.
Brother and sister, Frank and Ellen, fetal syndrome patients to the Mayo Clinic psychiatric unit, joyously bounded into my classroom. Both siblings were ADD, attention deficit disorder. Frank was eight who looks small for his age and, literally, came into this world foot first; thus with a congenital left hip dislocation. He had a small face, lopped ears, and a grooved eyelid of the two moveable folds that protect the anterior surface of the eyeball. He had a history of aggressive oppositional defiant behavior (ODD) that was somewhat controlled by medications. Oh, he hated his mother.
Frank had run away in the rain with 6-year old Ellen. Their step-dad found them at a gas station. Earlier on the way home from seeing his psychiatrist, Frank left the van and ran, climbing to the top of a scaffold in a construction site. On the day of his hospital admission, his mother had been called to school, where she had found two men holding Frank down. He was spitting, hitting, kicking and biting school personnel. This was his first serious incident in school. Frank bullied his sister, chased siblings with a stick, threw rocks at his mother, tied up the cat's legs, hit the dog and loved to hear it yelp. He argued with adults incessantly; pugnacious.
Ellen entered with bilateral drooping eyelids, a small face, loped ears and dysmorphic facial features like Frank. They both usually came dressed in dirty clothes and unkempt hair. If they arrived before the nurses removed surface blotches and smudges. Ellen spoke softly with diverted myopic eyes. At age one she had had corrective surgery for ptosis (drooping of the upper eyelid from paralysis of the third nerve). Since age three her parents reported increased intensity of her outbursts toward her family several times a day, with temper tantrums lasting up to 15 minutes each.
Medication of Tenex had been discontinued due to night terrors; Prozac discontinued due to aggression (she killed her kitten) and Ritalin and Dexedrine discontinued as they had had no effect. Ellen's mother was not sure of the dose or time usage of these medications.
Ellen had been born with the umbilical cord around her neck while her mother had had a joint in her mouth and a drink in her hand, pollution of minds and spirits. This was her second child and a third on the way. (My passive-aggressive symptoms surfaced there for a moment.) More accurately, the mother smoked marijuana once or twice a week during the first 45 days of pregnancy and at four months of the pregnancy became inebriated on her wedding night.
Ellen had been admitted under the hospital code: Resuscitate.
Her mother had suffocated the biological life out of the child. Ellen was a child who needed a new orientation for reasoning and awareness that for her was caring sharing "village" somewhere. Frank had taken advantage of her moderate mental disability to badger her, but she had a teasing streak that was her redeeming charm. Ellen's "mistake" was that she used it on the wrong person, her step-brother. She became his target. In self-defense she created an imaginary friend, Gumpy.
When she began her schoolwork, I would remind her that Gumpy was at home sleeping, but she may have one of the stuffed animals or baby dolls from the shelf sit beside her. I'd tell her, "I like you, Ellen, and I would appreciate time to sit and play with you if you're not too busy after your work is completed." The scramble would be on for the comfy toy and work.
Frank's biggest transgression was being ugly, or for the intellectual, sensitive, unattractive. He had realized neither condition was acceptable in his society. His own compensation strategy might have read, "If you cannot be beautiful, be bad. Pugnacious. I chose that time to give him the gift of my own ugly duck story. It went something like this.
As a young girl, I loved the water and wanted to swim, no matter what. I, also, had very poor eyesight. Fearing for my safety, the swim instructor tied a strap to my glasses for swimming. The other children laughed at me and called me names: four eyes, frog eyes, or and ugly duck. At first I got angry, then one day I looked in a mirror. I did look like a frog. But I didn't mind the teasing because my goal was - and here I gestured to Frank for the answer." He blurted, "To swim." "Yes, Frank, you are thinking. My goal was to swim fast, so I laughed with the name callers, or I shrugged and said, 'Yup, I do look strange." I learned to let the teasing words simply run off my back as water runs off the back of a duck. Ducks swim in lots of "yucky" water, but they keep enjoying their swim. When you feel angry close your eyes and remember your goals and let yucky words run off your back. With a demonstrable back hand swoosh, over my shoulder, to swipe those words 'off'!
The kids that wouldn't have the same opportunities of their peers would use their pugnacities of courage for their goals to conquer their world. I would use their feisty energy to fight for health care - inclusive of mental health counseling.
Kaye is a teacher and author of multiple works including Valerie Valentine Visits Vincent Vampire