Friday, September 2, 2011

The New Crew...and What They've Taught Me Already!

So, it's been a week!  In the past 10 days, we've survived an earthquake, a hurricane, and the first week of the new school year...which was far more formidable than either of those natural disasters, trust me!  There's a whole new crop of 10 year olds in my classroom these days...and while I'm sure that I'll eventually love them just as much as the 11 year olds I sent to middle school last June, these new friends are really pushing me toward greatness!  Why do I say that?  Because if I'm not great...they'll eat me alive!  They've got that potential.  I can sense it...and working to harness that power they possess and use it for good is going to be a challenge for quite some time.  If you know me, though, you'll know that it's an opportunity that I relish.  Why be good when greatness is within your reach?  Seems silly to settle for less!

One little guy in particular already knows how to push just about every button I possess!  (And not letting that show is taking all the emotional reserve I have at my disposal, trust me!)  Today he got frustrated with a group activity.  He doesn't take well to not having his own way, and the group wouldn't yield to him this afternoon.  To their credit, these students have been very patient with him all week long and he's had the opportunity to "get his way" much of the week.  But this afternoon, it wasn't gonna happen.  So he became frustrated to the point of shut down - refusing to engage with the group, roaming the room like a caged animal, not complying with requests to make better choices about his behavior.  Since I have an intern who was teaching, I used the opportunity to remove him from the room so we could process his actions together rather than let it continue to escalate.While we were talking, what we determined is that sometimes we ALL feel frustrated, but it's not OK to just shut down and make bad choices, because those bad choices will have consequences that must be paid.  We chose a signal that just he and I know that he will use from now on to excuse himself from the situation when he gets to that point of frustration and pull himself together BEFORE he makes the kinds of choices that are going to get him in trouble.

As I sat and worked that out with this little guy, it suddenly made so much sense to me.  What if we all did that?  What if when we were in the midst of our most frustrating moments, we gave ourselves permission to take a time out and breathe before we made choices that will negatively impact us for some time to come? Don't you believe that we'd make better choices if we stopped first and collected our wits about us?  I'm sure we would. 

When I am at my most stressed and frustrated, I often can't see past the moment.  The problem with that is that I can make decisions that might feel good at the time...might relieve the immediate source of my stress and frustration...but in the end will not have the kind of consequences I really want to endure.  Take this situation for example... 

Suppose I've got family stress going on (who doesn't?!) that gets me to the point of screaming and yelling at my spouse and/or children.  Once I'm done engaging in that "conversation" with them, I realize that I'm famished.  I've been so stressed that I haven't eaten, even though it's past lunch time.  I go to the pantry and throw open the door.  What do you think the likelihood is that I'm going to take the time needed to prepare a healthy, low calorie lunch?  Especially when I notice that there's a bag of Doritos right there staring me down?  Can you say slim to none?!?!  So, after I grab the Doritos and down half the bag, I put them away and now feel guilty that I've eaten emotionally (yet again) and messed up my weight loss plan for the addition to the anger I'm still feeling at my family because the issue really never was resolved.  Now what do you think the chances are of me preparing a healthy dinner in a few hours feeling the guilt and anger I'm still feeling?

Can you see how making decisions in the heat of the frustration is going to bear consequences for a long longer than the frustration itself is going to be around? Not only can I see that...I've LIVED that! Those extra, empty calories from the Doritos aren't going to go away when your frustration does.  They're going to take a lot of hard work to get off your thighs.  Trust me on this!

But what if we took a breather like I suggested to my little guy today?  What if when we knew we were frustrated, we gave ourselves a time-out signal...gave ourselves permission to chill out before we made decisions?  Wouldn't we be able to make better, more healthy decisions with just a little bit of time to calm down and think through our choices rationally?  We're all smart people around here...I KNOW we would!

So, if it's good for my new little crew of 10 year's certainly good for the rest of us!  I've been very, very emotional lately...both positively and negatively, actually.  I feel a lot like a yo-yo...swinging up and down by a string some days.  These are NOT the times to make decisions about whether I'm going to the gym to work out or not.  Or whether to make grilled chicken or pizza for dinner.  Or whether to drink a soda or a bottle of water with my lunch.  Those decisions are going to cost me dearly if I make the wrong ones.  And to make them while I'm feeling overly emotional or vulnerable isn't a good thing for me to do.  Those consequences will be paid for weeks while I try to work off those extra pounds!

Instead, I need to buy myself some time.  I need to have some healthy "go to" decisions until the frustration passes and my head is clear again so that I can make wise choices.  For me, that "go to" decision lately has been filling up my water bottle and drinking it slowly.  When I know that I'm not in a good frame of mind to make healthy decisions, I try not to.  I'll chill out with the water, a decidedly healthy choice no matter HOW I'm feeling, let the emotions fade, and then consider the choices carefully before deciding what I'm going to do.

I'm encouraging you to try this strategy, too.  And pray for me!  Dealing with this one particular 10 year old may be causing me to drink an awful lot of water while I let my emotions settle down this school year!  Goodness...has it really only been 4 days with him so far?!?!  Hahaha!!!

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