Saturday, August 24, 2013

Goal Accomplished

I clearly remember the first day of school last year. As I stood in the hall, trying to cheerfully greet the students, I met a lot of downturned eyes, avoidance, and emotional barriers.

I stood and walked the school halls for about an hour, and fully realized just how deep and pervasive a situation I was in. For you see, so many of those who live in abject poverty, stacked on top of generational poverty, there is a component of danger there. My kiddies had learned by living, two things that I now understand more. The first is that sometimes it is not good to be noticed. Sometimes you walk quickly with your head down because there is a very thin line between your life and getting caught up in some dangerous and scary situations. The second was, being too cheerful and open could be a sign of weakness. And in some neighborhoods, that sign of weakness could bring real trouble.

You might be thinking, these are just kids Sabrina, how can they possibly know these things. But, what I know is that the life lessons my kids have learned and the life rules that they live by are a strong code. And it takes vision, and help and strength to see that there are other ways of living.

At the end of the first day, I knew that I had a goal I wanted to accomplish. I wanted to work to help create a safe and caring environment at my school. I didn't care if I was the one saying Good Morning everyday. I didn't care if I had to stop a student and make sure I at least got eye contact. I was prepared to make the effort, because these were just children. And I didn't want to add any more weight to the unfairness that life had put on them. And as the days started going, and tentative smiles turned into hugs, I started to feel like a better person. It started to make me feel like the effort was worthwhile.

All of this comes flooding back to me, as I think about dismissal this Friday. I was sitting on the edge of the stage with a pounding headache. All my energy gone. And as the classes started to pass me to head outside, I noticed something. The script had been flipped. I was on the receiving end of sweet and sunny smiles. Hands came out to me for high-fives, and the hugs were literally demanded from me:) 

This life is so interesting! Always changing, and requiring more of us. There was a time of desperate prayer a few months ago. Where I was just so sad and dejected by not getting what I wanted. And I asked and kinda demanded that God show me why he kept me here, because I just could not understand and my weary spirit wanted to give up. So, already I have seen positive changes, and I get it a bit. There is so much more to learn, but it is kinda like an adventure now, and helping build something good for these children makes my life feel fulfilled.*

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Some quick blurbs

* The rain has been keeping us cool here in Athens.

* The first 8 days of this school year have been so much better than last year. And that is the power of prayer right there.

*I'm proud of myself for adjusting to a smaller space! I have made compromises in small ways. And that is what I needed so that I would not get stuck in a rut.

*Bridesmaid dress is purchased. Bridal shower gifts are ordered. The wedding is in a little less than 4 months!!!

* I have been thinking ahead about my budget, not just spending, spending, spending.

* I'm looking forward to seeing my dear friend Stacey for Labor Day weekend:)

* My most favorite season of the year is coming....Fall!

* I am seeing and experiencing ways in which God is helping me grow up. And I am thankful.

* I look great in my contacts. I think I was hiding behind the comfort of my glasses, and a little afraid and maybe just uncomfortable with my looks. Anyway, it has been nice, and my friends at work are especially encouraging. They can see that I am making an effort.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

What I do as an elementary School Counselor

There are SO many people who care for me, and by doing that, also care for my school. And I got to thinking, that many of them don't even have a clear picture of what I do. So, I thought it might be interesting to share what a day in the life of Ms. Stewart consists of. It might make it as clear as mud, but I will give it a go!

5:30am- Wake up and prepare for the day. This is so much more than just getting dressed. I try to thank God as soon as I wake, for being alive and capable of living a brand new day.

6:30am- I get to work and enjoy the silent peace of a school that is still "sleeping". Answering emails, getting tidy, making sure the "plan" is at least written down.

7:40am- By this time, school has officially started. I've welcomed many of the staff and students with a wide smile and excitement for a new day. I've checked in with my Safety Patrols, and made the first set of rounds, to some of the emotional/behavioral "hot spots". An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure for sure! Sometimes you have issues that follow my kiddies from home. They can come in hungry, frazzled, and angry. And I can read it all over their faces. There are also issues that arise at school, personality conflicts, stress, etc.

11:30am- During the morning, I try to get my classroom guidance lessons done. Because sometimes the afternoons get off the chain:) So, you might find me teaching 5th graders about Conflict vs. Bullying, or 1st graders about Self-Control and identifying the feelings of others. Mixed in with this of course are the everyday crisis situations, that occur often, at a low-performing Title 1 school. Each crisis changes me a bit, and it is my faith in God that is my foundation and it brings me back to what matters. Many times I work with students, and I end up apologizing for the things that adults have done, told or promised them. My heart hurts for the "throwaway children" of this world. I also run small groups.

2:00pm- Usually by now, I am hustling all around the halls trying to help get the school day wrapped up. If I have "lunch" it is with the students, and they end up with most of my lunch. It's hard for me to eat during the day. I usually really eat, once school is over. There are parent meetings sometimes. Meetings with the Social Worker. Getting ready for all of the end of the day procedures. Usually there are a million transportation changes, announcements and such. There are emergency phone calls to process, and sometimes the end of the day tantrums. It almost always is hectic.

4:30pm- Usually I decompress with shared ridiculous stories with the Behavior Specialist. The stuff we deal with each day. It literally boggles the mind, and so we often share and laugh til my stomach hurts. I make sure I answer emails, meet with teachers about a variety of student needs. Why are they sleeping through class? Why are they chronically hungry? Is the outburst of anger developmentally appropriate? I often have post-crisis meetings, to develop new plans to try to establish better days in the future.

*Yeah, so that is kinda how a typical day unfolds. There are days that are far better and days that are far worse. I just take them as they arrive and working with the children makes everything worth it.*

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Year 2 Day 1

I'm one smiling, and tired School Counselor!

It was a good day at work. Not being completely surprised by "things", is helping me find my footing. Of course, I don't know from day to day, what will happen. But I have normal expectations this year. Growing up and wisdom, have helped me find the balance I needed.

It was wonderful to see the kiddies. They were sweet, excited, and fresh.
The weather threw us a curve-ball. But we marched ahead.

This 2013-2014 school year has the possibility to be absolutely anything. And I have this idea that it will be better than the past, yet not "there yet". It will be a year of growth, and increased focus on learning, student achievement, and positive school environment.

The combination of staff. We are a big school (600+ students and 70+ staff).
The combination of community. Our families are diverse in every single possible way that you can imagine. And then in every single way that you cannot imagine.
The combination of the "unknown" factors.
All of these things make up my work. It is a worthwhile endevour, this time spent at my school.
As long as God provides, which he will, then I will trust his will. It does not always "feel" good, but there is something deeper there, when we try to be obedient in spite of self and pride.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

End of Summer Enjoyment

I head back to school this week. The summer is officially over for me! But, how thankful am I to have a profession, where I get time off in the summer. Summer time for us educators is a time to recharge, plan and work on the upcoming year, and so much more.

This summer I went up to my school quite a bit. I helped interview new staff, consulted with my administration, and set up a new office.My co-counselor moved districts, and so now I will be the sole counselor. Interesting, oh yeah I am sure it will be!

This summer I spent lazy days, napping, catching up on DVR favorites, and carefully packing and cleaning up my old apartment.

This summer I downsized (not so easy for me, but beneficial I think) and moved in with 2 roommates and 1 cat. Yeah me, living with a cat. Who knew!

This summer I traveled to Florida. At home I enjoyed the Florida life that I am so very blessed with! Family and friends abound, and the summer sun (and rain) where great for my spirit.

This summer is over now. We are back to school, and the kiddies come back on Wednesday:)

To celebrate this summer, I spent time in one of my favorite places, Atlanta.
Family time, amazing food, shopping, and one wonderful, live concert!!! Matchbox Twenty and The Goo Goo Dolls were so good live. And the weather was just right, as day faded into evening. This outdoor amphitheater concert was a new experience for me. I am trying to embrace new experiences lately:)

Listening to some of the music of my youth, was a really wonderful way to spend an evening. When we first arrived, Melanie and I were literally the only black people I could see. But we pressed on, because music calls out the diversity in many of us. No matter though, we had ourselves a rocking time! 

Fall time is approaching. Back to school here we are. Life continues to roll on. 2013 has been quite the journey!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Almost Friday Tunes- Fast & the Furious 6

I have always enjoyed music for the beat, many times for the lyrics.
And so, some people are surprised that I like some rap. Nothing hardcore or even trendy.
But this song from Fast and the Furious 6, hooked me right away:)

The weekend is upon us!! It's the end of the summer for this school counselor!