The End of a Season #SOL19

Today is the day. The last day of basketball games for this season. My son’s Special Olympics team has played well this year and earned their spot on the state bracket.  Whether they win today’s games or not, just getting here is quite an achievement.

So here we are, traveling toward the state’s capital city on a bright, hopeful Saturday morning. Each of us quiet, lost in our own thoughts while gazing out the window at the scenery as we pass by.  If my son is nervous, he doesn’t show it.

I will miss basketball season.  The games, the people, and the celebration of achievements great and small.  My son has been involved with Special Olympics for 29 years.  Each year I learn and grow from experiencing the commitment, determination, work ethic, sportsmanship, and joyful attitude the athletes, coaches, and family members bring to the sport.  Yes, I will definitely miss Saturdays in this supportive and caring community and definitely look forward to next season when we get to do it all over again.

A Bright and Hopeful Future #SOL19

The excited hum of voices carried down the hallway from the cafeteria.  Fifth graders excitedly set up their posters, tri-fold boards, slideshows, and brochures and waited.  Nervous energy coursed through the room as they stood by their displays and looked for the first classes to enter the cafeteria.  They did not have to wait long.

Their first grade friends filed in, eyes wide as they looked around at all of the colorful items situated around the room.  As they approached the various exhibits, the fifth graders flew into action, answering questions and explaining their choices about careers and colleges.

Over the next hour, kindergartners through fourth graders visited.  They couldn’t wait to hear everything the older students had to say.  They left as wide-eyed as they entered, chattering about the time when they will be old enough to do this, too.

The fifth graders finished strong and returned to their classrooms.  They were exhausted but happy.  This process began with a visit to a local college two weeks ago and culminated in a presentation for the entire school.  The learning that occurred for them goes much deeper, though.  They have started seriously considering their options for the future and the skills they’ll need to be successful in whatever they choose to do.  They inspire me and give me hope for the future.

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Mastodons, Fifth Graders, and the Dining Hall #SOL19

What happens when you put 72 fifth graders on a college campus, add some mastodon bones, two snakes, an iguana, a mummy, and of course, the dining hall? A group of incredibly happy (and full) kiddos who all now have dreams of attending “such a cool college!”

Our school has created exemplars for grades K-12 that require a visit each year to a college campus.  My grade level decided to attend a local private college that also houses a natural history museum.

Throughout the day, there were lots of “oooohs” and “aaaaahs” as we toured the campus.  Eyes grew wide when we entered the specific academic buildings that appealed to their interests.  My aspiring artists eagerly peeked into classroom windows in hopes that they would see art in creation, future scientists loved the hallway displays of the artifacts of the various schools of science, and my mathematicians chattered excitedly when they realized they had entered the building where numbers reign supreme.

The museum, campus library, and the dining hall rounded out our trip.  Old dinosaur bones, a mummy, and the reptile room sparked curiosity, and the dining hall was naturally a huge hit.  The students were in awe of the incredible number of choices, and they ate without reserve.  They walked back to the buses with grand smiles on their faces and words of sincere thanks to our awesome tour guides.  It was a successful field trip!

 

Stepping Into Another World #SOL19

“Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

The inspiring quote above is the motto for Special Olympics, a sports organization for children and adults with intellectual and physical disabilities. You can learn more about this wonderful program here.

Yesterday I was blessed to attend the Take It to the Hoops Basketball Tourney at Taylor University in Indiana.  My son actively participates in Special Olympics, so throughout the years I have attended many basketball games, track meets, and bowling competitions.  Throughout all of these events, one thing remains constant: the athletes’ efforts toward fulfilling the Special Olympics motto.

Attending a Special Olympics event is like stepping into another world.  It is a world where the athletes compete to win, of course, but they do so with the mindset that everyone is doing their best and that is what counts.  They look for ways to encourage their fellow teammates and their opponents.  They help each other up when they fall and make sure that they are truly okay.  When someone gets caught up in the moment and accidentally gets too rough, etc., they are quick to seek out the victim and apologize.  Yesterday, I watched as an athlete got a little rough trying to get the basketball.  He knocked the other player down.  The referee called a foul.  The athlete helped the other player up, genuinely apologized, and then gave him a quick handshake and a hug before returning to his position so the game could start again.  There were no ill feelings.  Everyone realizes that no one is perfect.  It is the spirit and effort that you bring to the game.  When the game is over, they cheer for each other and celebrate what they have accomplished.  The folks in the bleachers keep it under control, too.  We cheer and coach from our perches, but there are no angry words, threats, or actions.  I believe that the spirit of positive sportsmanship that permeates each event affects each and every person who attends.

I leave each event feeling lucky to know these athletes, their caregivers, and their wonderful coaches.  I am grateful to be invited to step into their world and see life through a different perspective.  It has made me a better person.

 

Perspective Matters

 

Today was one of those days when I am reminded that many children frequently experience more negativity and hurt in their young lives than I will ever be able to fathom.  The resiliency of the young is an amazing thing.  It is a gift that helps them survive.

It is difficult to expect students to get along with one another or act in socially appropriate ways when they have little idea what those things look and feel like.  Although school adults model appropriate behavior and coping skills, it is often so far removed from the norm they have experienced for most of their lives that they truly do not understand it.  So what is an educator to do?

I have come to the conclusion that the best way to help is to simply approach the behaviors with an attitude of love.  Their behavior is not a personal attack on me or anyone else.  It is usually a shout out for someone to care.  I try to remember these things when dealing with student behaviors.  Admittedly, though, it can feel like an impossible goal at times.  I also want to point out that this does not mean a free pass for the student’s behavior.  There still must be a resolution agreed upon by all for the issue at hand.  However, when I do try to see the issues with an open heart, I find that I can view the problem and possible solutions with greater perspective and a more positive mindset.

I think this would be a good practice for life in general.  What would happen if all problems were viewed through a lens of love?