Sunday, October 20, 2013

How I Create Awesome

Yesterday, I wrote a post about my new internet craze: Kid President.  I've been using his videos in my classroom this week to inspire my kids, and help them think about how they can "create awesome" in their everyday lives.

And his videos have also made me stop and think about how I'm creating awesome.  What do I do every day to help make the world a better place?

The obvious answer would be that I'm a teacher.  In my classroom, I try and make the world a better place by instilling dreams in to them believe in and nurture their fire for greatness.  Whether that comes from learning how to read, figuring out how to multiply, or writing a short story..  if it helps a child believe in themselves.  It also goes much deeper.  Helping kids understand that it doesn't matter what their current life is like, if they believe in their abilities they can do AWESOME things today, tomorrow, and several years from now.

I feel like I really devote myself to ensuring that my students create awesome. Sometimes I get a little too passionate about it, but I don't see anything wrong with that.  My dream is that 15, 20 years from now I'll start hearing from kids who tell me that something I did, something I said, or something I showed them on YouTube had a major impact on their lives, and they are reaping in the benefits of believing in themselves.

But, life is much deeper than my classroom.

What do I do to create awesome outside of my classroom?

I have three children.  I am a mother.  So, when I saw the above video this morning from Kid President, it got me thinking.  How do I impact their lives in the way that I try and do for my students?

I am there for my kids, that part I do know.  I encourage them and support them in their interests...sports, music, stuff like that.  My kids feel comfortable talking to me about their problems.  They share everything with me.  I am a person they can trust, rely on, and open up to.  And that in itself is AWESOME.  I know lots of kids who don't communicate with their parents either out of fear of rejection, or not knowing how to, or just thinking that there is stuff parents are better off not knowing.

Those are situations that don't work for me.  It was my main priority as a parent to make sure my kids were always comfortable talking to me, sharing with me...keeping me informed of what they are doing, where they are doing it, and who they are doing it with.  Without feeling like I'm an overprotective mother.  

Right now, that type of relationship is mostly focused on Peanut.  She's a teenager, now, and getting in to that stage where she wants to hang out with friends, have boyfriends, and do stuff with her free time outside the realm of school and sports.  It's that tough age where they start to recluse away...have secrets, want to spend time alone, thinking it's totally uncool for a Mom to be within a 100ft radius of them while out in public.

I knew the minute my children were born that I would never allow it to get to that stage.  I would never foster a relationship where my child didn't want me around....even though I knew it would probably be inevitable.

Until I remembered how my own mom..and dad..had treated me when I was that age.

One thing I remember about my early teen years was the fact that my friends didn't mind spending time with my parents.  My parents were always those kind that preferred I be at home with my friends than out somewhere wandering around, with them having no idea what I was up to.  

That was something I wanted to instill in my own children.

But how?  Without coming off as untrusting or like they were being held on a leash?

And this year, it came to me.  

Peanut has ALWAYS been very open with me.  She tells me about her troubles, her daily goings on, her life in general - both good and bad.  We talk.  A lot.  On our rides to and from school, she fills me in on her day...the drama, the gossip, the crushes, and the demands of being a kid.  

I listen.  I take mental notes.  I give advice if she asks for it, or just nod if she doesn't.  We have an amazing relationship...and that makes me happy.

But something I quickly realized is that there's more to being an AWESOME mom than just being a good listener.  Knowing what's going on in her life is great, but what about the people she hangs out with?  What kind of lives do they have?  Are they the kinds of kids that I want spending time with my child?  What kind of influences are they having on her life?

Asking Peanut those questions was a start, but she honestly didn't know much about them other than what she sees in school everyday.  Kids have a gift when it comes to dividing their school life with their private life.  They don't let anyone in, unless they feel comfortable doing so.

Which gave me an idea.  

I foster a nurturing, caring, honest and AWESOME mentality with my students..why couldn't I do the same for my child's friends?  But, in a way that didn't come across as me being a nosy "old person".  I had to set up a situation that made them feel comfortable coming to me...getting to know them without coming off as weird or crazy or embarrassing for Peanut.

And Kid President hit the nail on the head when he advises moms to HAVE FUN.  

That's what I do, and I'm good at it.  I'm funny.  I'm quirky.  I enjoy going places, creating adventures, and sacrificing my time for the sake of my kids.

It all really started during Summer School.  When faced with the challenge of teaching children both Peanut and Butter's age... I wanted to do it so they could all have fun.  If they were being made to go to school during their summer break, the least I could do was make it enjoyable for them.  

And that's what I did.  

I joked around with the kids.  I played games with them.  I talked to them.  I found out their interests.  I danced to their music.  Literally.  I showed them that adults can have fun, too.  And on the last day of summer school I had SEVERAL kids thank me for doing what I did.  

Those relationships I started during summer school then spun over in to the beginning of school.  Peanut is friends with several of the kids I taught in summer school.  And whenever I saw any of those kids in the hallways during the first couple of weeks of school, I was met with many hugs, high fives, and "Miss, do you remember..." statements.  And it was important for me to keep up the persona I had in summer school.  I had to show them that wasn't an act, me trying to be "cool"...that what they got in summer school was the real deal.  Yes, I really act that way.

Since that time, I have become somewhat of a jr. high chauffeur.  I've volunteered to take a few kids to ball games and stuff.  I take a few kids home after school every now and then.  And what I've found out is Peanut and her friends don't mind me being there.  They don't mind me being a part of what they're doing.  Is it because they know that I will drive them around and take them places?  Maybe.  But, it's more than that.

I've started building relationships with these kids that are on a much deeper level.  They talk to me.  They share their problems.  They ask for my advice.  Sometimes they just need a shoulder to cry on or to get a pat on the back.  

And it's not because they don't have parents to do that for them.  They do.  Great parents, actually.  I've met most of them, and they are all very nice, extremely hard working people.

But, unfortunately, walls have been put up around their kids.  The kids don't feel comfortable sharing certain things with their parents...nothing bad, just general life in jr. high stuff.  They don't think it's "cool" to talk to their own parents... even though they totally miss the part that they're talking to me about stuff.

And it hit me.

I'm creating awesome by being another grown up in these kids' lives that they can count on.  Someone they can talk to.  Someone that will gladly let them tag along to stuff I'm doing with my own kids - as long as it's OK with their parents.

There has been some resistance, though.  Some people think that what I'm doing isn't right.  Not professional.  Weird.

Why on earth would a grown woman enjoy spending time with teenagers?

Let's see...

One child I have built a strong bond with this year got in to some pretty bad stuff last year.  He associated with kids that were "experimenting" far too early.  Kids that, I'm quite sure, would end up getting him suspended or expelled...or maybe even arrested.

This year, that kid has had NO association with any kids from that previous crowd or any of the "activities" he previously did.  He has become best friends with Peanut.  He had a hard time talking to his parents and there were some trust issues there, which are now slowly working themselves out.  He is involved with school clubs, is making good grades, and has become a model student and a great friend.   

Another child I've built a strong bond with was a very socially awkward kid last year.  He rarely spoke to his peers or involved himself in group activities.  At the school dance last year, he spent the entire night sitting on the sidelines watching everyone else have a good time.
This year?  You can't shut him up.  He is a strong member in Peanut's social crowd.  He has built good friendships, and everyone has discovered that he's hilarious and witty and fun to be around.

Another child had a very rough year last year with personal matters.  She was desperate for someone to notice her, talk to her, listen.  She didn't know how to communicate any of her worries to her mother.  

This year?  Every single day she gives me a hug.  She smiles all the time.  She tells me her home life is so much better, and she's talking to her mom about what's going on in her life...and they are closer now than they've ever been.

That same story applies to another girl, also.

And last one, a girl that was friends with Peanut last year, but I didn't get to know very well.  Getting to know her this year has led me to discover that her mom is my personality double.  We are two of a kind.  She has the same relationship with her mother as I have with Peanut.  And that has led to me getting to know her mom a little better, and starting a good friendship.  We now text and talk (her mother and I) and I would never have got to know her mom had it not been OK with her me driving her daughter around, keeping an eye on the group, and her trusting me to take care of her daughter when she's not there.

I think those stories are all pretty darned AWESOME.

I shared a while back about how my relationship with some of Peanut's friends was getting some weird looks and snide remarks.  Certain people don't approve of what I'm doing.  They don't think it's right.  I should not be taking kids out.  I should not be talking to them about their problems.  I should not let them have my phone number.  I should maintain a professional relationship, and keep my interactions to the confinements of the school building.  

I say to those people:  **Insert me sticking my tongue out and blowing so that spit bubbles and fart noises come out of my mouth**

I have been made to doubt what I'm doing.  Start to be convinced that I'm not acting appropriately...not professionally.  And then I realized, I don't care what others think.  I know my intentions.  I know my motivations.  If it's not professional for me to stop them from getting in to the wrong crowd, breaking them out of their shell, or helping them communicate with their parents...then, I don't want to be professional.

I want to be a mom.

A good mom.


And I truly believe that I don't have to give birth to a child for me to do that.  Yes, I gave birth to my children, and I do that for them each and every day... but I also do it for their friends.  And if their own mothers are OK with it - then SO AM I!!

I am being an awesome mom by not letting what other people think or say about me affect me.  Doing what I believe is right.  And...


OK, have a great Sunday, everyone!!


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