Saturday 6 April 2013

The story behind the story...

A Chinese hanzi is often made up of multiple characters to create a unique meaning. The hanzi above is constructed of different characters that individually represent ears, eyes, undivided attention and heart. A beautiful alternative definition of the verb to listen is created... to listen means to hear with your heart; to be totally engaged and focused on understanding deeper meanings behind what we hear.

Every day I am reminded how important it is to listen to student`s stories. I am fortunate to have time during the school day to hear with my heart as I listen to the real reasons why kids end up in the office talking to me. Like the young man in this clip, sometimes kids just need an opportunity to be honest and real so we can understand their struggles better.

In our school we don`t think of a trip to the office as a punitive thing. We think of it as a resiliency building thing. An office referral is one of four resiliency pathways (as we call them) within our school that kids travel down depending on the nature of their challenge on any given day. An office visit more often than not means some adverse behavior would have been displayed.

When kids arrive in the office to speak with us, we've already heard about the behavior story that got them there; what we need to know is the story behind that story, and there always is one. We need to hear this story so we can begin to re-frame the student's challenge. What has happened has already happened, but more often than not, we don't want it to happen again. If we can find out the story behind the story, we can begin supporting the student by focusing forward and working on 'bounce back' strategies that build a more resilient child who will know how to handle a similar challenge differently and more effectively in the future.

For kids to truly feel a sense of belonging at school, we absolutely must be empathetic to the story that lies under the surface of what we think we know about their problematic behavior. Sometimes kids behave in ways that really confuse and upset those around them. I believe in many cases of adverse behavior, what kids are really doing is giving us a test; a test to see if we'll still be available for them the day after they've given us their best (which is actually their worst) behavioral routine. 

I don't believe that kids come to school with intent to make others miserable, or to make their day more difficult, but when it appears to be the case, I do believe they are simply choosing us on that particular day to see if we'll be able to take it, and if we'll be available the next day to perhaps take it again until a trusting relationship evolves and all of a sudden it's not necessary anymore. Being chosen for this test is a backhanded compliment. We are ultimately hardest on those we're closest to in life because we know their love and care for us in unconditional; we know they'll stick with us in the difficult times. If you are chosen for the test, what it really means is that a child has some reason to believe you've got what it takes to love and care for them despite the stress and pain they will share with you that makes it so difficult for them to function effectively in school.

Will you be ready when a child chooses you? 

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