We are reaching that time of year during which I have to work hard, like everyone else, to maintain a cool, calm approach to working in a middle school. I consider myself pretty unflappable, but these weeks of spring - way before spring is supposed to arrive, are causing me to flap more often. Tension and stress levels are rising, staff's last nerve is being tested by students and time demands, and the plate just keeps getting piled on.
Consequently, when a student tells me he was "just playing around" when he whacked the other guy on the back of the neck, or when another shares that she doesn't think it was dangerous to slide down the banister over a 15 foot drop onto the concrete floor, I'm having to work hard to communicate my thoughts about these actions without screaming ...."WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?"
And then, I reflect back on a younger (much), less thoughtful me, responding sheepishly, "I don't know," to a frustrated parent. And the absolute certainty at that time that I didn't know why I had done what I did.
I take a deep breath and remind myself that every situation can be a learning experience - and we can and should process our way through the conflict to resolution.
When the young person leaves my office I count the days until the end of the year, and meditate for a minute on my goal: helping young people accept responsibility for their actions and the consequences of these actions. It's not always a slam dunk, sadly. I've had a number of repeat offenders this year; learning from our mistakes is hard work.
Today though, one student had a victory. Chaos occurred in yesterday's "Mardi Gras" celebration in a French class - one young person responded physically. Today he and I spoke about the situation and he said, "I've already spoken to the other person involved, and I told him I was sorry, and I asked him to forgive me." He looked at me from under long bangs, questioning with his eyes if that was the right thing to have done.
"Congratulations," I said - in a stunned and happy response. "You did a fantastic job."
4 hours ago