Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Woo! Training out the window!

WOOSAH even!

Today we took the students on a field the way, if you're in the DC area, the Spy Museum is free on the last Wednesday of every month.

Anyway, a field trip is always an interesting experience, sometimes good, sometimes bad, but always unpredictable. We met the students outside of their school to make it easier for us to get there, since the bus stop is just across the street from school. We always provide them with a snack when program begins for the day, so I had the snack bag and was ready. I made sure they signed into program, gave them a snack, told them to make sure they stayed near us, do not throw your wrappers on the ground, etc. Of course, we were right where all of the other students could come and heckle and haggle, including a few former students of our program. One of them decided she wanted to cuss up a storm in front of us, and slap some of our students, since she is no longer in our program and technically, we can't do anything to her. Then she commences stealing my favorite pen (which we used at sign in...the students know its my favorite pen, and have a fit when I don't know who has it)...I ask "who has my purple pen, who has my purple pen?"...Former student speaks up about a minute later..."________ has it", and I look over and see _____picking it up off the ground to give to me. I ask her if she had had the pen all along, she tells me no, and I told her I believed her. _____is the quiet and shy type, and isn't one to throw a pen on the ground, much less keep the pen. Ugh. Anyway, former student was obviously trying to find some attention from the staff, since she wasn't getting it from the students (except the ones she slapped...I had to go calm down one of my girls who went after her). Moving on.

We take the bus downtown, and for the most part, that was nice, easy, uneventful, and complaint free. Just the way I like things.

We get off the bus and have to walk from 7th and Pennsylvania to 9th and H...not a far walk at all...but the complaints begin. "I didn't know we would be walking forever. I wanna stop at Starbucks, why can't we stop at Starbucks? (Do YOU have Starbucks money?) Why do we always take field trips to museums? Why can't yall ever take us to Kings Dominion?" After about...5 to 10 minutes of this, I asked aloud "Does anyone plan to continue complaining? I'd like to know right now who I need to tune out for the rest of the day". I mean REALLY. This is a FREE program. We feed you. We pay your bus fare. We make sure you get into these things. We make sure we have permission slips. We provide everything you need. You are not required to do anything but get your permission slip signed, bring it back, show up on time and participate. How hard is that?

To certain 6th, 7th and 8th graders, it seems to be the end of the world.

We get to the spy museum, and realize that 95.5 WPGC is there for the day, so of course, the girls get excited. They listen to this radio station, and know the DJ who is making the appearance. They take pictures, and are given goodie bags full of candy.

We then begin making our way through the museum. We let them know that it is now 4:10, we need to meet in the gift shop at 5. True, we don't have alot of time (now that your complaining behinds have taken 15 minutes to walk what should have been 5 minutes), so lets make the best of the time we do have. And for the most part, they did enjoy what they saw. At 5, we congregated in the gift shop, and people were looking around. We were then ushered into the cafe, where WPGC bought the girls (doggit, not the staff) lunches. A mini turkey sandwich, a cookie and some chips, pre-packaged, with a bottle of water to go with.


They complained halfway down the street. Some of them didn't get a water bottle, and were complaining that they were thirsty (they were so busy complaining, that they didn't see the table with the waters on it).

Then, they asked "Miz Rayawwwwna, wha's wrong witchu?"

"I cannot believe how yall just acted in there. I am embarrassed and cannot believe how ingrateful you all just showed yourselves to be. Just for future reference, if you all do not like the kinds of trips we go on, or the services we provide, you don't have to come or participate."

Yeah. I said it. I let loose my personal feelings on them. I even told one girl that if my kids would have acted like that, they would have gotten a public beating.

That was me. At about 5:30 this afternoon.

I am not at all proud of my attitude with them. And when I see them again on Monday (we dont have program tomorrow or Friday) I will have to give a public apology, for being upset and taking it out on them.

Except for a few that I truly was tuning out (for constant complaining) the bus ride back to the recreation center was pleasant. But my attitude had not changed.

I never said I was perfect. I am human. I try to do my best to do what is well and good, and what is expected of a person in my position, but I foul up just like the next person. Had we have been in our classroom, I would have been able to "take a moment" (excusing myself from the classroom to get my feelings together) but in this case, I could not. I took it out on them instead.

I am not infallible. I am a work in progress...I need a hard hat and caution tape. Bear with me, please.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

For some clarification...

I just realized that my readers are not stupid, but they may not understand the terms I'm here is a brief tutorial so you can understand where I'm comin' from.

AYD, or Advanced Youth Development/Developer
: That's me. This is what I do by trade. I didn't realize it, but its my dream job. The National Department of Labor is JUST NOW starting to recognize Youth Development as a career path here in America.

Youth Development
: (The What)A process by which ALL young people seek ways to meet thei basic physical and social needs and to build knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in adolescence and adulthood. (The How) An approach to working with young people that defines goals/outcomes based on capacities, strengths and developmental needs of youth.

: all those behaviors and attitudes which flow fromt he assumption that adults are better than young people, and entitled to act upon young people in myriad ways without their agreement. (note: this is me. Has been; its how I was raised. Most of you may agree.)

Common statements from adultists include
: "When are you going to grow up?", "You're being childish", "What do you know, you haven't experienced anything!"

Adultists also include those who "just don't do (or do well with) kids", those who give up on youth because "they just don't (want to) act right", or "don't deserve help because they don't help themselves".

So now that we have that established, do me a favor, and participate in the poll I have here to the right of my page. Be honest please (its anonymous); I'd really like to know how aware people are. I will admit that I have been an active adultist for years now, but am learning my way out of it. It was how I wad treated as a child/youth, it was how I was taught ("Children should be seen, not heard"), and its what I used on my own children...still do in alot of instances. But as I said, I am LEARNING my way out of it.

I want to thank You for being willing to take this journey with me.

Thanks to The National Training Institute for Community Youth Work for the materials; DC Trust and DC Best for the AYD training; Interstages, Inc. for sponsoring my training; Thandor and Syreeta of DC trust for training me; Q, J, and Bean for allowing me to use it at home, and my 18 babies for giving me practice everyday.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Un-Punishments

This week, I have been dealing with E and his school issues. He settled the thing with the girl already, and had a doctor's appointment on Friday, so of course, there were no advancements on that front. My boy...he got his H1N1 shot, and smiled through it. I even took a picture.

Anyway, back to the point...

I got an email from one of his teachers. Brother-man is doing great on his tests...scores couldn't be more perfect. However, he isn't doing (or turning in, one of those) classwork and homework. He's skating by with great grades because his assessments make up so much of his them...but it IS NOT okay (with momma) that you're being lazy and not doing the side dishes, because the meat and potatoes have already been taken care of.

So...I decided to take away what he loves most. Grounded him from the Wii, and the computer (unless he has to do homework...oh yeah...he doesn't DO that). I also suspended his private drum lessons that he loves so much.

But then I had to realize...the drum lessons are his enrichment. taking away his artistic release is exactly the opposite of what I do for a living. I would be putting him in the same position I'm trying to take my students out of. So...drum lessons were given back.

I talked to the drum instructor, because we have alot of the same views on things, and found out what he thought. He thinks that I need to try to work on the character flaw in him, and in this case, its laziness. So I ask the boy about this, and its true. So I ask him what I can do to help him out...what can I do to help motivate him. He says that the things he looks forward to usually motivate him. So we work out a few 'motivational spurs' that we both agree on. We're gonna try these for a few days, to find out if they work. If he comes home and gets his homework done, he can go outside and hang with his friends (something that was taken away previously), and he can read those flippin' manga books that I said weren't proper reading material for his reading logs (I still believe that...but these are his release, and I am secretly happy he has taken an interest in reading so much that he was hurt to lose this privilege). If we can get through the week with all homework done and turned in, then he will get his Wii and computer privileges back. Let's see how this goes.

Now, in AYD terms, this is giving the child safety and structure, but its also creating an awareness of self worth. Safety and structure because he knows exactly what he is to do afterschool everyday, and it creates a routine, which is what kids need to be comfortable. Also, self worth, because he was able to help me make this decision, and understands that I do trust him, until he gives me a reason not to. He feels like he really made the decision, and therefore, invests himself into the outcome. What we are looking for is a positive outcome, and our full intention is to work until we get one. My job in this case is to be supportive, and guide him. If he falters, I will be there to try to get him back on track, but I must let him do this on his own. This is HIS learning moment, I am just along for the ride.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Double duty

So today, I was challenged to use my AYD training in my home life.

woo. hard work.

So I get to work today, and am setting up my classroom, preparing for the girls to come in, when I get a call from Q's guidance counselor. She explains that she has my 8th grader in her office. There was a girl that he's been bothering for about a week; pulling her hair, throwing things at her, and finally hitting her in the face. I instantly thought "This boy likes her...sheesh"...anyway, the counselor asked him why he did it, and he says "I was just irritating her" (and then I KNEW for a fact that he likes her).

The counselor explains that the girl hasn't said anything to anyone until today, because he hit her in the she came crying to the counselor. Counselor calls Q out of class, describes the details the girl gave her, and does not deny one bit of it. She then calls me.

Explains the situation to me...and of course, I am already slightly heated that I got this phone call, at work, no less. I ask her repeatedly "Is he going to be disciplined?", and she keeps saying that the administration doesn't know about this (umm...why not? Aren't you a counselor? Isn't that administration?) She felt like she should call me on it before all else. So I let her know Yes, I will speak to him on the matter, but should this girl go home and tell her parents, my son will be disciplined in school. Don't get me wrong, I full well believe that he SHOULD be disciplined. He has no right to harass this child like this, like her or not. I ask the counselor to let him know that he should come straight home today, missing his beloved drum lesson, and I will speak to him then.

My co-workers overheard the call, and saw my reaction. The mom in me was upset, and felt one way. So they asked the AYD trained youth development worker to think about what to do. COME ON, MAN! I didn't feel like using AYD! This is my child!

yeah. HELLO!

Earth to Yonna. My kids are the reason why I know AYD works. After my first day of training, I began using it at home. They proved to me what the big deal was. I will admit, I didn't want to hear the harsh dose of reality they were trying to open my eyes to...I wanted to be the upset mom. I had my chance.

And then I taught my program. All of this went out the window for a few hours.

So I came home, and spoke to my son. I explained that yes, I am disappointed, but no, I'm not mad. He would not be punished (by me at least...if the school does anything I won't fight it). I explained that I know that he 'likes' her (and he grinned in embarrassment), but now that he is in middle school, this elementary routine is not the way to go about it. We have talked about him respecting women and girls, but maybe he thinks that only applies to his mother and sister. We discussed other ways to get a girls attention, how to let her know that you 'like' her without pulling hair, throwing things, or other things that his sister's 3rd grade peers are doing.

What he really needed was someone to let him know they understand what its like, and show him the right way to go about doing it. He has come to the decision that it may be too late with this girl, that he may never get on her good side again, but he wants to write her an apology card. I agreed, this may be a good thing to do, and I will help him.

Its funny how much this AYD really does leak into my home life. It has completely changed the way I think about kids, as well as myself. I will admit that I have been raised to be an adultist, but I am learning my way out of it as well. Its a long road, but I am working toward the end of it.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Not only a teacher...

So...when people ask me what I do, I have to admit...I have a hard time explaining it to them. Yes, I teach. But no, I didn't go to school to be a teacher. Well...not in the sense that other 'teachers' did. I never took curriculum, I'm not certified and have never taken any state administered exam. I cannot and do not work for any school board/administration/school system. I did, however, go to school to teach children. Middle and high schoolers, in particular.

I DO teach my students...don't get me wrong. They have learned more about theatre and stage design within the past 7 months than they ever thought they would want to. However, I am more satisfied with the fact that I teach them that I care. Ms. Rayona (or as they say it, Mizz Rayawwwwna...that Souf-eas' DC accent makes a difference!) actually cares about them. I ask them "Hey girl, how you be?" (excuse the language, while it isn't proper, it is perfect to their dialect), and I stand and wait for the response. Those who choose to, converse with me, until the next friend comes in with something else to keep their minds on. Those who decide not to know that I am here, and will be when they decide to open up.

The thing these students...girls...want most from us is attention. Period. That is what they seek at this age. Whether it be in good ways or not, they are all seeking to have their needs met. And in most cases, my students are not getting this at home, and most definitely not at school. So, it is my job to give it to them, even if it is only for 2 minutes a day. I have to remind myself to greet them each by name, and speak to them about something personal. "Ooh girl, those earrings are too cute...when you gon' let me borrow 'em?" "So...I see you smiling...did you see your boo today?" Whatever it may be, I need to meet this need for this specific child, otherwise, she is going to slip through the cracks, and will seek her attention somewhere else, more than likely, in a not so positive place.

Sometimes, with only 3 staff members and 18 students, they do slip through, and we don't get a chance to greet them all. We end up paying for it later though, when they decide to act out. They choose to do whatever it is that is going to get our attention, as well as everyone else in the classroom. True, it may get them sent out of the room, but isn't that what they want? We tell them to go 'take a moment', which means 'go out into the hallway, calm down for a few, and I will be out there to speak to you shortly'. Of course, the rest of their peers see this, and are watching intently to see what will happen...trying to find out what buttons can be pushed, how far the staff will go before getting upset, etc. Anyway, out in the hallway, we ask them why they think they were sent out, what did they do wrong if anything, and how can the problem be solved in the future.

This one on one time is what they crave, no matter how much eye rolling they do, or how much attitude they give. I am learning to be sensitive to this, no matter how disrespected I felt (the reason I send students out, mostly). I let them know that I will not and cannot stand to be disrespected, especially when I go out of my way to treat everyone fairly, and give them respect. I let them know that I appreciate them as a person, I think they are important, and I know they had a bad moment/day/time; that I can forgive, and that we can move forward. This is what they need to hear, and that is what I am here to let them know. If they are comfortable, I offer a hug to honestly show that I am harboring no hard feelings...and usually a closer connection is born from there.

So I wear many hats. Not only am I a teacher, but truly a nurturer, an attention giver, a forgiver and a mentor. I am a youth development worker, plain and simple.

Now...if I can remember that as much as they do.

Well, hello you!

Hey there!

So, I decided that I missed the blogging world, and since I didn't wanna traipse back over to the world of DramaSpace, I chose to begin life again here. And yay for you finding me!

I am...the mother of 3 beautiful and challenging Kiddios...Q, the 13 year old 8th grader who's barely taller than me, but still quite respectful (for the time being); J, 11 and insecure, a 6th grader who deals with alot of issues internally; and Bean, the 8 year old wonder, who is in 3rd grade, and is the worlds greatest social butterfly.

I also work for a non-profit org her in the DC Metro region, where I teach drama/stage design/basic life skills to 6th, 7th and 8th grade girls in a low income area, who go to a school that really should be shut down. Not only because of the structure of the building, but because of the structure of their education. They are just barely making the cut, but its not their fault. They dont understand this, because it is all they know. Honestly, this is my dream job, and while it is challenging, I couldn't be happier with what I do.

Also, in my personal life, I am learning to deal with depression. I have had alot of huge changes within my life this past year, from graduating college and moving far away, to losing my beloved father this past June.

So...put all of that together, and you get me. Yonna. A momma, AYD (advanced youth development) worker, and overall crazy lady. This should be fun, seeing how the 3 cross paths (as they do, on the daily, BELIEVE ME!) Glad to see that you're willing to take the ride with me!