Category Archives: The Classroom


bullies 1“Who is this student’s mother? Where is she?” A large man with a deep voice yelled. “I need to speak with her now.”

Claire knew that no matter what  that man was angry about, her son, Roger,  was the target of his rage, and that his mother; ME, was the person he was searching for. She would have loved to run away and hide but her sweet, fair-haired son, Roger, was approaching and the red-faced, enraged father was grasping him by his collar. Claire breathed deeply, aware that other mothers were holding their children’s hands, relieved that their little darlings were not the culprits. “I’m his mother,”  Claire managed to say before the tirade began. “What’s wrong with your son?” the father yelled. “I was walking  along, holding my daughter’s hand and chatting to her when your aggressive son came out of nowhere and hit her without provocation. What’s the matter with him? Do you and your husband or boyfriend beat him up?” Claire glanced at her son who was wearing that now familiar expression of sheepishness and defiance while the angry father was probably waiting for me, his mother, to get my Roger to apologize. BUT,  I knew that it was not  going to happen. I blurted out ”I’m so sorry. I will talk to my child,” and looked into my son’s eyes wondering for the 100th time what was wrong with him and what made him hit other students?” I was angry too, because I was no longer an ordinary mother. I was the mother of The Bully, a title I’ve lived with for years. When my toddler  was barely three years old, my girlfriend’s husband said that my darling child had intimidated their son and was too rough. Then I was asked  to remove him from the playgroup because he’d boxed a child there and was no longer welcome. After that, angry mothers, raging fathers and tearful schoolchildren came to complain. I sought the help of a therapist and did my best to implement what I’d learned there. To no avail. As Roger grew older, there were less complaints.

One day, soon after my younger son had started  school, he came home sobbing. “What happened?” I asked. “He, he, he took my lollipop.” “Who did?” “The big boy.” “Did you simply give it to him?” “Yes.”  “Why?” “He said I had to.” And Claire felt  more relieved than she had felt her whole life. Her younger son, the Bully’s brother, was now the victim. She and her husband had one son who was a bully and the other, a victim.

Both boys came from the same parents and lived in the same house so, how could they have produced two sons so different?

Can anyone explain this phenomena?





A teacher worth remembering

Engineers want their children to become engineers while doctors want their children to follow in their footsteps and study medicine. The businessman dreams of his child becoming a CEO but teachers don’t necessarily want their children to teach. “The sad truth is that teaching is not a favored profession,” said the youngest woman present. Then she continued. “I say this as I am a teacher and know what a difference a good teacher can make in the life of a child.”

The CEO asked; “What’s a kid going to learn from someone who feels that his/her best option in life to to become a teacher?” To stress his point, he asked the teacher what kind of a salary she brings home every month. She paused for a second then continued without giving him a direct reply.

“I make students work harder than they thought they could. I make a weak student feel like a Medal of Honor winner. I get my students to sit through forty minutes of class time while their parents can’t make them sit still for five minutes without their eyes being glued to an iPod, an iPad, an iPhone or television. And you want to know how much I make?” She paused again, turned to look at the other people sitting aroun the table, then continued. “I make my students wonder. I make them question. I make them apologize and mean it. I teach them to have respect and to take responsibility for their actions. I teach them how to write and then I make them write. Keyboarding isn’t everything. I make them read and read and read. I work with them until they all understand math. I teach them to use their brains instead of calculators. When I teach English as a second language, I teach the children what they need to know about it while preserving their unique cultural identities. I make my classroom a place where all my students feel safe. And finally, I make them understand that if they use the gifts they were given, work hard, and follow their hearts, they will succeed in life.” This young teacher paused one last time then added; “When people judge me by how much money I make each month, I hold my head high and pay no attention because I feel that those who ask that question are ignorant. I make a difference in your children’s lives by educating them and preparing them to become CEO’S, doctors and engineers. How much do you make every month Mr. CEO?” His jaw dropped and he was silent. 


dinner table guests





Friendships Count

stigma1A new anti-stigma campaign aims to teach youths about mental illness. Written by Diane Smith in the

Fort Worth – Layne Lynch sat at her piano inspired by an unusual  feeling. A tune soon emerged. It was followed by lyrics. Click to watch this clip:

This song, Dear Friend of Mine, is asking teens to be understanding to classmates, friends and siblings struggling with mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and bipolar disorder. It was inspired by a family member’s experience with a mood disorder. “It’s so cool to see people realize that it is OK to get help,” Lynch said.

The song is part of Friendships Count, a new anti-stigma campaign produced by the Mental Health Connection and Community Solutions of Fort Worth. Mental Health Connection is a collaboration of area mental health professionals, consumers (the name people with a mental illness prefer to be called) and other advocates who want to improve their mental health delivery system.

Their campaign takes the message of empathy to teens via a website and a music clip posted on YouTube. It also includes bookmarks and posters that will be distributed at schools.

Defining mental disorders and how they affect teens, can help reduce the stigma associated with illnesses.

Even though people are more comfortable discussing mental disorders today, many people still don’t understand why they shouldn’t label others as unstable or crazy; rather, a chronic disease just like diabetes. Once a teen is diagnosed, therapies and treatments can work.

We all know that peer pressure and hormones make the teen years difficult, and adults may have a hard time understanding why their kids feel sad or too scared to go to school. BUT, friends and relatives can make a difference. Parents learn that ‘It’s not bad parenting that caused this.

Share a little act of kindness

People's handsWally Lamb wrote: “It’s the most breathtakingly ironic thing about living: the fact that we are all alone. Singular. And yet, what we seek, what saves us, is our connection to others.”

Share a smile or friendly greeting with someone on the street

It’ll bring a ray of sunshine to a person you might meet.

Share a little act of kindness that could brighten up their day

It could bring a spark of courage to one who’s lost his way.

You’ll feel much better for it and it won’t cost a single dime.

It could make a world of difference to share a minute of your time.


Don’t label them. They’ll find their own labels

In our world, we tend to label everything but the worst is labeling people, especially children. This video brings it home far better than any explanation I could give.

Click on the link below and see for yourselves:

When sadness becomes a daily occurrence

depressed childHow do parents know if their child’s sadness is a part of regular growing up or a sign of something more serious? I think we all know what it is like to feel down sometimes. Well teenagers have their ups and downs too and every parent thinks that it could be a problem at school, a boyfriend or girlfriend issue, a family problem or even the death of a grandparent, which is acceptable. But if it continues for over two weeks, most parents realize that it needs to be looked into.

I only heard about this when we were in the ‘mental illness’ cycle. Apparently, many young people experience real depression and anxiety disorders at some time or another. If they are simply going through a difficult time, it will no doubt pass but if this period does not pass, it should not be neglected. By listening to parents speaking, we learned about some warning signs.

If a teenager becomes aggressive suddenly and provokes fights; if he has such bad anxiety attacks that he has difficulty breathing; if he/she is unable to make simple decisions and there is a change in his/her concentration levels, it needs to be checked out. If there is a change in his/her eating habits; complaints of stomach pains and headaches; a sudden weight loss or complaints of being worthless, he/she needs help. If that teenager’s sleeping patterns change and he/she withdraws from a previously active social life, it is advisable to seek help.

I was told that if the problem is dealt with as soon as possible, it is not too late to be of help. Of course that teenager could be taking drugs which is a different issue altogether that needs to be checked out.

From my experience of running a support group, depression can make one feel pretty desperate.

Different attitudes to life

The Taj Mahal I asked a group of students to list the Seven Wonders of the World and this is what most of them wrote: The Pyramids of Egypt, the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China, the Grand Canyon, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Panama Canal and the Empire State Building. Only one student was still busy writing when the rest of the group had completed their lists so I asked her whether she needed assistance. “Not really,” she replied. “I couldn’t quite make up my mind because there are so many.” “Tell us what you came up with,” I prodded.  She hesitated for a moment then started reading. “I think that the Seven Wonders of the World are:

To see    to hear     to taste     to touch     to feel     to love and to laugh


What it means to be a teacher

teacher in a classroomAn engineer wants his child to become an engineer, while a doctor would like to see his child study medicine. A businessman wants his child to become a CEO, while most teachers would like their children to follow in their footsteps but are not sure whether they will be able to support a family on their salaries. I say this because I am a teacher and know what a difference a good teacher can make to the life of a child.

Dinner guests sitting around the dining room table were discussing life and professions. A CEO said; ‘What’s a kid going to learn from someone who decides that his best option in life is to become a teacher?’ To stress his point, he turned to me saying; ‘You’re a teacher. Be honest and tell us how much money you take home every month.’  Now I have a reputation for honesty and would never tell even a white lie in my husband’s company, so I paused for a second and then continued without giving him a direct reply. ‘I make students work harder than they ever thought they could. I try to make a weak student feel like a winner. I get my students to sit through 45 minutes of class while their parents are unable to get them to sit still for even 5 minutes without an iPod, an iPad, an iPhone, a computer or a tv in front of them. And you want to know how much I make?’ I looked at every guest sitting around that table then said rather too loudly, I think. ‘I make children wonder. I make them question. I make them apologize and mean it. I teach them to have respect and to take responsibility for their actions. I teach them how to write and then I get them to write. Typing on a keyboard isn’t everything. I make them read and read and read even more. It teaches them to use their brains instead of using calculators. When I teach ESL (English as a second language) I teach them what they need to know about the English language while preserving their unique cultural identities. My classroom is a place where all my students feel safe. And finally, I make them understand that if they use the gifts they were given, work hard and follow their hearts, they will succeed in life.’ I paused, quite out of breath then said; ‘When people judge me by how much money I make a month, I hold my head up high and pay no attention because I feel sort of insulted because I don’t think you have any idea what it means to be a dedicated teacher. I make a difference to your lives by educating your children and preparing them to become CEO’S, doctors and engineers.’

‘Now tell us what do you make a month, Mr. CEO,‘ I said. His jaw dropped and he remained silent.

What happened to Papa’s brain ?

I had a problem explaining Alzheimer’s disease to our young grandchildren. After agonizing about how to go about this, I came up with the following. I sat them down with me and said:

“Your Papa has an illness called Alzheimer’s disease that makes him act the way he does. It’s like having a broken leg, but with Papa, a little piece of his brain is broken and it doesn’t work the way it should. Because of this, he can’t remember what you told him yesterday. Because of this, he forgets how to use the television remote. Because of this, he falls asleep sometimes when you are telling him something important. Because of this, he forgets things and people’s names. BUT, the part of Papa’s brain that is for loving, is still working well and I know that he loves you all very much.

I have reblogged this after getting so many requests to do so and still get tears in my eyes when I remember the look on their faces.

A brain gone wrong 

Follow the link above and then read on.  A friend told me that she finds it difficult to imagine what schizophrenia is really like and could I give her an idea of how my son must have felt during the time he was fighting his demons, when he had no peace of mind at all. The clip above shows a lot and I will add a bit more.

David often cradled his head in his hands with a look of pain on his face and asked,’Why did you and Dad plant microphones in this house? What kind of parents are you? Why would parents want to broadcast their son’s every word to The Establishment,’ he wanted to know.

‘The Establishment is out to get me, so STOP. Please stop!’

‘Nobody wants me to get well, even my parents. What kind of monsters are you and Dad? Help me to stop the voices. All I want now is peace of mind.’

Why are you trying to poison me, Mom? I know that you slipped poison into my coke.’

‘Why do people come in during the night and move my things? Someone even tore out pages from my new surfing magazines, you know!’

‘During the night, a man came in and stole my favorite disk.’

It took us a long time to realize that the voices were real and that at times there could have been more than one voice  at the same time effectively blocking out part of what we were saying to him. Consequently, conversations as we know them were difficult to conduct. About one year after the strange symptoms began, my late husband managed to persuade David to check himself into a psychiatric hospital, voluntarily, telling him that he would be entering ill, but that in time, he would exit healthy. And strange as this might sound, we both believed it. We had faith in the system. His diagnosis was paranoid schizophrenia and David spent years trapped in the nightmare of entering and exiting psychiatric hospitals, trying various medications, experiencing pain and despair.

Hearing voicesPsychosis: is the experience of losing contact with reality and is not part of the person’s cultural group belief system or experience. The best way I can describe a psychotic experience is being in a nightmare while awake; wide awake. When I dream and strange and frightening things occur, I know that they are happening while I am asleep, and I am aware that I am dreaming. A psychotic experience is close to a waking dream, I think, and the feelings are very real and intense. Our son had trouble concentrating, was suspicious. We noticed a decline in his personal hygiene too. He spent more time alone and did a lot more sleeping.

David also lacked insight into his own state of mind. He made strange connections between words and ideas. The voices not only distressed him; they did not allow him to hear what his friends and other people were saying. I don’t think that David heard the actual words we were saying. Instead, he seemed to hear different things coming out of people’s mouths. He was also unable to distinguish between what was real and what was not. A psychosis generally involves delusions and hallucinations.

Delusions – a delusion is a belief that we would consider unfounded. Our son had delusions of grandeur and really believed that one day he was going to be a millionaire with a beautiful home, swimming pool and a luxury yacht. In other words, a delusion is a fixed, false belief which remains that way even when the person is presented with contradictory information.

He was sure that a military unit was out to get him as he was being spied on and monitored by microphones that he said my husband and I had ‘planted’ in our house. As a result, when he had the need to talk to us, he preferred to do so out of doors, whether it was daytime or even after midnight. The voices often assured him that he was a loser.

Hallucinations.  Our son saw, heard or even smelled things that were not there. David saw things that we did not/could not see. Later I learned that even faces could become distorted while he was looking at them which explained the anxious or even fearful expression on his face at those times.

Psychosis does not have to be a life sentence. Please remember that. Today there are new medications and the earlier one visits a psychiatrist, the more hope one has of being helped.