Wednesday, July 22, 2015

See through another's eyes

I love me some Pinterest!  I usually scroll through it at night before bed.  It's my go to for new recipes and projects.  But the other night a Pin popped up in my feed/suggested for you that made my stomach upset.


I'm going to be honest, before this past school year I would have thought these pins were super cute.  I probably thought they were excellent classroom resources.  But this past year changed everything.

I share openly about my son B, who is autistic.  He has changed my thinking on so many things.  He's autistic and very verbal.  Sometimes he's very self aware.  Always he's extremely literal.  Let me tell you a story...

In December, B's class had a Polar Express party scheduled.  Kids were going to wear their pajamas, drink hot chocolate, eat snacks and watch the movie.  The movie came on TV a few days before the party.  B was sitting at the kitchen table playing.   
I said "B, Polar Express is on TV. You're having a Polar Express party Friday.  Want to watch the movie with me?" 
"No Momma.  I'm not going to the party. I don't want to watch." 
"What do you mean you're not going to the party?" 
"My teacher says only hard workers are going to the party.  I'm not going." 
"What were you doing when she said that?" 
"I wasn't working hard.  I'm not a hard worker. I'm not going." 
I reached out to the teacher.  She assured me that B was going to the party.  I explained to her that he had taken her words VERY literally. After the conversation, I reflected on how many times I've said something similar to my students.  About a million! 

When I saw these posters, I immediately thought of B and other kids who take things literally.  And it broke my heart.  I can't imagine sitting in a classroom, knowing that I do some of those things.  Believing that my behavior makes me bad.  Makes me a peacebreaker or a bucket dripper.  Additionally, some of the things on both negative sides of the posters describe things that B does mid-meltdown.  Things he has very little control over.

Kids on the Autism spectrum have enough trouble handling super busy, highly decorated classrooms and making friends.  Can we PLEASE not give them negative labels?  Can we PLEASE not give other students names to call them? Can we PLEASE see through another's eyes?

Prior to writing this post, I was familiar with the No David! books that the Peacemakers/Peacebreakers poster is based on.  But I wasn't familiar with Bucket Fillers/Drippers.  I researched it and found this interesting article.  Here's my favorite part of the article.

Did you catch that? We can not add to ourselves by taking away from another.  Let's model this for kids.

To be clear, I have no problem with the positive sides of these posters.  I think being Peacemakers and Bucket Fillers are awesome things.  We need to teach kids how to do these things.  We just do NOT need to teach kids that some kids are bad.  Let's seek to teach compassion. Please stop shaming kids into behaving.

Along those lines, I have not linked to the original posts nor the pins.  I have no interest in shaming anyone for their use of these posters.  I am simply asking teachers to see through another's eyes, to empathize with how these posters can be perceived by kids.   I am attempting to reach out to the creators privately to ask them to consider another point of view.

Update: I received a very quick response from one creator.  She was extremely gracious.  She shared that she takes each year's specific class into consideration when determining her classroom management.  The peacemaker approached worked for the group of kids she had that year.  In the years since, she's adjusted based on the kids in her class.  That's all anyone can ask for! I appreciate her heartfelt response and her willingness to listen! 

Monday, July 13, 2015


Howdy! I'm Aimee.  I have dysthymia.

Dysthymia is a chronic, persistent mild depression.  It's just a part of who I am.  Something I deal with everyday.  However, I refuse to say that I suffer from depression.  Just like I don't say that my son suffers from Autism.  He has autism. It's a part of him.  My depression is a part of me.

I made a decision years ago to try to minimize the hold dysthymia has on me.  I have worked closely with my doctor to determine a combination of drugs that help me to live my best life.  It hasn't been easy.  I had to get over the pride admitting I needed medication, then admitting I needed to add another medication.  I had to be honest with my doctor about side effects so we could try new things.  Some meds I tried left me feeling sluggish, boring and not at all creative.  My doctor listened to my concerns and never gave up on trying combos until I felt like I wanted to feel.

You might be thinking TMI Aimee, T.M.I.  That's the point.  I am joining with a community of educators who want to be upfront and honest about mental illness.

The #semicolonedu movement started with Nicholas Provenzano.  Last summer, Nick shared about his battle with depression.  I was inspired to write this post at that time.

"The Semicolon Project is a faith-based non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and love to those who are struggling with depression, suicide, addiction and self-injury.  Project Semicolon exists to encourage, love and inspire. A semicolon is used when an author could've chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to.  The author is you and the sentence is your life.  On April 16, 2013 thousands of people joined us to raise public awareness against depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide."

This summer Nick writes
I would love to see pictures across the Internet from all of my PLN on Tuesday July 14th with a Semicolon drawn (or tattooed if you are up to it) on your body to show support for all of the educators dealing with mental health issues. Use the tag #semicolonEDU to show your support on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Let's show the world that we can come together and fight mental health stigmas by showing our support for one another. I know we can do it. 

I don't have a semicolon tattoo.  I have a custom bracelet tattoo.  On the top of my wrist is a cross, underneath the word serve.  Service is my why.  I had it tattooed on my wrist for reasons similar to the semicolon project.  To remind me of who I am, what I do and why.

What can you do?  Be kind.  Everyone is dealing with something.  It doesn't do anyone any good to pile up their sorrows to see who's is largest.  Just be kind to everyone.  Accept the fact that people are different and handle things differently.  Try to see through another's eyes. 

Part of the power of depression is feeling alone, feeling as if you are in a constant shadow.  When we discuss depression it loses a bit of it's power.  When we listen without judgement we bring others out of the shadow in to the light.  Everyone deserves to live in the light.  

If you are struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury or thoughts of suicide, please know that you can discuss it. Please seek help immediately.  Project Semicolon lists some excellent resources here. The world needs your contribution.  You don't have to be in that shadow any longer.  There are lots of people who will support and help you.  Throw back the shades and join us in the light. 

Listen. Love. Support.