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