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.
Kaye is a teacher and author of multiple works including Valerie Valentine Visits Vincent Vampire