"I didn’t get invited to Craig's party . . . I'm such a loser."
"I missed the bus . . . nothing ever goes my way."
"My math teacher wants to see me . . . I must be in trouble."
These are the thoughts of a high school student named Jeremy. You wouldn't know it from his thoughts, but Jeremy is actually pretty popular and gets decent grades. Unfortunately, in the face of adversity, Jeremy makes a common error; he falls into "thought holes." Thought holes, or cognitive distortions, are skewed perceptions of reality. They are negative interpretations of a situation based on poor assumptions. For Jeremy, thought holes cause intense emotional distress.
I was born with a cleft palate and lip. Due to the scars and constant surgeries, school was very difficult. Children seemed to really enjoy hurting me. Whether it was verbal, physical or emotional didn't seem to matter as long as they each got a turn at picking on the "flat nose."
I grew up loving basketball, and Alan Seiden was the best high school basketball player I've ever seen. He was also my neighbor and a classmate at Jamaica High School in New York City. One of the most indelible memories from my youth is watching Alan hit one beautiful jump shot after another at Madison Square Garden as he helped lead our team to the city championship. The New York Times compared him favorably to the basketball legend Bob Cousy. He went on to St. John's, became one of the greatest stars in the history of that university's basketball team, and was a two time All-American. He also played briefly in the pros.
This morning I sat in two inner city middle school classrooms in Indianapolis as I do most weeks. But something struck me deeply in the center of my chest as I was observing the boredom and apathy in the detached, sleepy and seemingly sad faces of many of these seventh grade students. The teachers were cheerfully present, the standards were posted, the paperwork was almost completed, there were no overt disruptions, and compliance was at hand.
The procedures, rules and transitions were hard-wired into the brains of these middle school students and adults, but an "inner" inspiration and deep subconscious yearning for something else attached to the notion of the "purpose of school" were nowhere to be found.
It's February and love is all around us. You might be thinking, "Really? Where?" That's because it's so easy to get down in the dumps during the winter months and only focus on all of the problems you face in the classroom. Just remember that Valentine's Day is when we're supposed to show our love to family and friends.
It's been a long time since I was in elementary school. But I can remember it like it was yesterday.
I wasn't the cutest, skinniest or best-dressed girl. I wasn't even a popular girl, but I had an advantage; I could sing like "nobody's business," and my teachers loved that about me. As a result, I think I was spared the bullying that could've come from classmates due to my lack of the aforementioned qualities.
When I was school age, I never told a lie, but I bet many of you readers have lied in your youth. Okay, so maybe I did lie a few times . . . All of us have encountered students who've told us lies during our professional careers. One of the best I heard recently was when a teacher confronted a student for copying, word for word, from Wikipedia. The student responded, "I can't help it if Wikipedia copied my paper!"
At a statewide forum on school safety sponsored by the NJ School Boards Association on January 18, 2013, more than 700 educational leaders discussed the issue of school safety and security in light of the unfathomable deaths in Sandy Hook Elementary School. Why it takes a tragedy to force us to think about things that were no less important the day before that tragedy, we can lament. But now, we must act, and act wisely.