I recently attended a fundraising event. It was a local teacher and coach from a neighboring district who told anecdotes from his past 20 years in the classroom and on the field. All ticket sales went to helping local charitable organizations.
Some of his stories were funny; some were heartfelt; some were heartbreaking. But the one that really stayed with me was the one I’ll refer to as, “The Boy with the Red Ink.” I asked him if I could share it on my blog, and he graciously granted permission.
Rick was a new teacher and was getting familiar with the start-of-the-year routines; one of them involved index cards. Before the teachers ever met the students personally, they would get an index card filled with information about each child. The general information was written in black ink, but the really important information was written in red. When presented with the stack of cards for their class, most teachers would first flip through them quickly, hoping to view a black sea of notes. The more red; the more difficult the path that lie head.
When Rick came across one card, he was startled to see a shock of red ink. He noted the name and went onto the rest of his duties of getting ready before his class arrived for the first day of school.
His first interaction with the Boy with the Red Ink and his family was on Back to School night. The student came into the classroom and began picking up items off shelves and leaving havoc in his wake. The father was no different, yet he was yelling at the boy to put everything back where he got it from.
A bit perturbed, Rick asked, “Can I help you?”
“I know you; you’ve got my son in your class.”
“Yes,” replied Rick, “and do you mind putting down my globe?”
That set the tone for the year. But Rick was determined to be a positive influence on the boy. He found reasons to praise the boy. One particular incidence involved an elaborate setup with the office secretary. The plan was for Rick to “lose” his set of keys, whereby the Boy with the Red Ink would save the day. Rick gave the keys to the secretary and instructed her to wait about an hour and then call him over the PA system that the keys had been recovered.
When he announced to his students that his keys were lost, the whole class went into emergency rescue mode, turning over piece of oak tag and workbook, reassuring him that everything would be okay. When the announcement came over the loudspeaker, the class cheered.
Then Rick very dramatically said, “Okay, who can I trust to do the very important job of going to the office to get my keys?”
Immediately, all hands shot up. But then, he added, “I really need to be able to trust this person.” All hands stayed up, with the exception of one hand that slowly retreated. Rick’s heart sank; his plan had backfired. So he improvised:
“Listen, some of you may have made mistakes in the past, but that’s okay. When you came into this class, you had a clean slate.” Kids look confused. “That means a fresh start. So think really hard… who can I trust to get my keys?”
The Boy with the Red Ink slowly brought his hand up with the rest of his classmates’. When Rick called on the boy, all the students — including the boy — looked shocked. But the boy got up and left the classroom.
When he returned five minutes later, Rick bent down, got his keys, smiled and whispered in the boy’s ear, “I knew I could trust you.”
From then on, The Boy with the Red Ink changed. Many times, students like this come around gradually. But with this boy, it was an immediate and dramatic shift from the negative to the positive
One time, Rick decided to call home with a good report. But that same father answered the phone and as soon as he heard it was the boy’s teacher, the dad began cursing and bellowing for the son, using his first, middle and last name. When Rick explained that he was making a happy phone call home, the conversation went flat. But that didn’t stop Rick from working with the boy to keep his self esteem up and continue to improve.
That was in third grade. Once in fourth and fifth grade, Rick’s power to influence the boy lessened.
Four or five years later, Rick was driving in his car and he saw the Boy with the Red Ink run across the street with a bunch of his middle school buddies. The boy called out to Rick, and he stopped his car to get out and talk to the boy. His buddies must have teased him because his demeanor changed by the time Rick approached him.
“Hey! How are you doing?” Rick asked.
“Fine,” the boy replied in a very nonchalant way.
He wanted to say something about the crowd he was running around with. He wanted to ask how his father was doing. How was school? But, sensing the boy’s embarrassment, Rick kept is short. “Well, it was really great seeing you,” was all he said.
“I gotta go.” That was the last thing Rick ever heard the boy say.
A few years later, word got back to Rick that the Boy with the Red Ink had wound up in jail. It broke his heart.
At this point, you may wonder why he told this story to an audience of fellow teachers. His point was not do discourage people from trying. Rather, to realize that sometimes, you can do your very best and wind up doing a great job; Rick did make a difference with the Boy with the Red Ink. But sometimes, it takes more than just one person.
Rick’s message was that if EVERYBODY takes that type of interest in people who desperately need it, maybe we can have a world with a little less red ink.
Of all the anecdotes Rick told that night, this story stuck with me the most.
Make it your #153Promise to keep the cap on the red pen.
Last night, I attended a parenting seminar organized by our school district. The focus was on handling sibling conflict.
As soon as I learned about the event, I knew right away that I wanted to be there- not because my children fight (I’m very happy to say my 10 and 3 year old are very loving to each other!), but because I wanted to see if a prominent expert in the field of parenting and I are on the same page.
I was given a handout upon entering the auditorium outlining some of the speaker’s finer points. Right way, I knew I’d be in for a very affirming evening; THREE of my 4 Verbs of Love were on the sheet!
Psychologist, author, coach and speaker Dr. Laura Markham presented a wealth of information regarding ways to approach your children in a manner that is kind, rather than combative.
I can’t possibly get into all the details on this post, but I must have looked like a bobble head all night because I was nodding my head in agreement almost constantly.
Not only were we on the same page; I took about a page of my own notes — my own Aha! moments, if you will — that I plan to make as future posts, linking back to her site every time.
A former student and I have a big event tonight! To say I’m nervous is an understatement!
I signed up for this gig back in October when I attended our local poetry series and jumped at the chance to be the featured poet this month- both the month that my book is SUPPOSED to be out (was hoping it’d be physically here by now!) AND national poetry month!
So… I plan to have a sign up sheet to capture people’s contact information and make it a contest to get a personally autographed copy of “One Million Kisses,” as soon as it gets back from the printers.
That way, I can blast them all when they are available for purchase.
I’m really wondering how many people will show up… My English department head read last time I attended, and there was a room full of students doing it for extra credit… I invited all my friends and followers on social media, and I know a few former professors of mine plan on attending… No pressure whatsoever, huh?
I plan to be my own inner parent to get me through this… words of encouragement like, “You got this! People want to like you! Trust yourself!”
I’ll be sure to post tomorrow, telling you all how it went.
Make it your #153Promise to be the inner voice to yourself that you want playing in your own children’s head!
The same girl who was having a huge meltdown is sitting on the floor, coloring like a normal kid. Her brother, who was adding to the torment last week, is on his tablet. Her father is still introverted, engrossed on his phone. And my heart is pounding.
She just headed off to dance class, so it’s just the dad and brother. I’m tempted to ask him if he was hear last week… Just a friendly question to start a conversation. See what he says….
(Ten minutes later…)
I did it! I reached out to him and we had a nice conversation. I asked him if he was here last week. At first, he acted like he couldn’t remember. So I explained that his kids look familiar to me, but I couldn’t place it… Was it from the Y? School? Town? We started chatting about what brings us here… my daughter’s gymnastics, etc… He said they come every week. Then his son wanted to go to Starbucks, so we talked about the different flavors… how white chocolate is an oxymoron to me. He laughed. It was nice. They went to get the kid his designer Starbucks beverage.
But then it occurred to me… if he comes here every week, why did he act like he couldn’t recall last week? In my own mind, I concluded that it was due to embarrassment from the display last Saturday.
They came back and we chatted until his daughter came back. We talked about everything under the sun: caffeine addiction; my tinnitus; how our kids got their names… and of course, my book! ; )
I managed to work “One Mllion Kisses” and my 153Promise trauma-free parenting movement into the conversation because he said how he and his wife went out last night. I mentioned how I had plans to see a speaker tonight… It’s a teacher/coach who speaks about his experiences (a future post this week) and I was going for research purposes regarding my promotions strategy. That’s when I saw it happen…
Once I began pitching my vision and mission statements, he almost cried. He said how difficult it is to raise kids, despite the fact that we love them. How the idea of a support group would be great.
His daughter came back from dance; I got my son from the play center; I gave the father my card; and we planned to see each other next week.
So here I am, Monday morning, turning this play-by-play into a post, and I’m filled with a bunch of reactions twisting in my mind:
I’m so glad I approached him with kindness
If my tactic were different, I wonder how he would have reacted
This exchange could give credence to my theory that he’s been abused by her as well
Interesting how the children were fine… not in her presence
I’m encouraged by his reaction to my goals- maybe I can make a difference instead of preaching to the choir
The L.O.V.E. approach works with my target audience, too!
I wonder if he went home and shared our conversation with his wife
Who’s going to be there next week? What will happen?
It just goes to show that you never know what is possible… Make it your #153Promise to be positive, be courageous, and be open to amazing things that can happen… and to see the amazing in the small moments.
What is you most embarrassing moment? So many, I think I repressed most of them. But one of my most blushing teaching moments was when I told a student to, “Either spit or swallow!” when I caught him chewing gum.
What is one of your favorite quotes? Again, so many. But my current mantra is, “Silence is the voice of complicity.” It keeps me speaking out against the mistreatment of children.
What is your favorite season, and why? Autumn, without a doubt. The colors of the leaves, the crisp air, apples, pumpkins, the sunsets, Halloween, harvest.. I could go on and on.
If you could learn anything, what would it be? Jazz piano!!! I sign jazz standards, and I always wanted to accompany myself.
What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done? I’m doing it right now: Being a good mother, wife, teacher and writer… while having a balanced lifestyle and staying sober. So far, so good, praise God!
What is something you learned in the last week/month/or year? Right now, I’m learning how to use social media to promote my book, “One Million Kisses: The Promise of 153” that’s due out later this month. It’s a HUGE learning curve, from publisher to shelf, to into people’s homes!
The best part of waking up is…? Knowing you have one more chance to do something great!
What is your favorite outdoor activity? Running! Unfortunately, the weather’s been stubborn, and my energy’s been down… but I’m hopeful both will improve soon!
What chore do you absolutely hate? I’m not crazy about ANY of them… I’d love to be in a position to afford a cleaning service one day… but I’d have to say laundry; it just never seems to end.
If you could paint any scenery you’ve seen before, what would you paint? Paris! I’ve been there 4 or 5 times, but the last time I was there was a loooong time ago. I’d love to be able to go back and have the luxury of time to paint all day and have that as a memory to take back home.
Hope that didn’t bore you too much!
Without further ado, here are MY nominations, in no particular order:
Please read the highlights of my most recent phone conversations with my publisher here in my Writer’s Journal.
There’s no way I’d be getting so much attention from a larger publishing house. We brainstorm, he challenges me, and I’m leaning a lot from him.
While I still dream about one day signing with a larger company, having an agent, a publicist, and all the other trappings of a famous author, I can honestly say that I don’t know if I know enough about the industry yet. I’m enjoying learning all of the aspects of what it takes to create a book, promote it and get it into the hands of the public.
Hopefully, you’re learning something right along with me, too! : )
You know the saying that if you put something out there into the universe, it will come back to you??? Well, I spoke on the phone to my publisher again last night. I know, right??? (I will update the results of the conversation in tomorrow’s post.)