“Laken Frese is currently a high school teacher at Chaddock School and primarily works with students on life skills. Outside of school, she is involved with the Lady Raiders softball program at QND. She is the head coach for junior high softball, and an assistant for the high school team. Ms. Frese is the head coach of a new traveling softball organization for young girls aged 8-14. She resides in Quincy with her golden retriever, Raleigh.”
I hadn’t been in a public library since college. I worked in schools, so sure, that meant I’d been in “school libraries” but not a public library. At the school in which I last taught, my planning period was in the library. I found myself glancing around at all of the books, computers, students…and, “stillness.” Forty-eight minutes of productivity, right? Wrong.
Without anyone saying a word to me, I was overwhelmed in those moments by the environment and all of the “stuff” that surrounded me.
I walked into the Quincy Public Library on December 29th 2021 to check out a book for my class’s novel study I was planning to teach second semester. I can do this, I thought. Straight to the kiosk, search, find book (Bridge to Terabithia), and out the door. Wait, where’s the kiosk? Wait, how do I get a library card?! I found myself wandering in the adult section and spotted “NEW,” front and center on an end cap. One title jumped out at me, “What happened to you?” Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing.” Written by Bruce D. Perry and Oprah Winfrey. I picked it up without hesitation. The moment felt right.
I encountered a friendly worker under the blatant “HELP HERE” sign. A human to help this so called “teacher.” I covered the title of the book I was holding and whispered to her that I needed a book for my class. “Bridge To…” Without hesitation the worker smirked, “You’ll need to go to the children’s section for that. Here’s the shelf mark.” Humiliated, I got the book and the library card. I walked out of Quincy Public Library not feeling much like a confident bookworm.
In the short amount of time I have taught at Chaddock, I have learned how important the idea of “what happened to you,” is, and how unimportant “what’s wrong with you” is in contrast. Moreover, I’ve learned that moments with my students can either provide them safety, assurance, and a sense of worthiness or they can hurt and humiliate (much like my experience at the public library). What has happened to them varies, but what they are worth does not. There is nothing “wrong” with them, they are each unique in their own way, shaped by their experiences.
Moments with my students remind me why I wanted to become a teacher. It wasn’t because I was a known bookworm, or could navigate a library. Clearly that is not true. It is because I believe every child deserves a chance, and every child is worthy of positive, caring and interactive moments. Though I have found these moments to be brief, I have enjoyed many of them.
Chaddock has shown me the power and impact one moment can truly have on a student.
We have all had moment when things have “happened” to us. What has happened can articulate our feelings in a different light than being asked what is “wrong” with us.
I wrote this post because Chaddock has truly pushed me outside my comfort zone as a young teacher and human. It has challenged me, pushed me, encouraged me, and above all; each day, Chaddock has taught to enjoy the moments with students. I hope these moments will only keep on giving. After all, I did pick up a book on trauma, resilience, and healing. Chaddock and my students made me feel that this moment was ok too.
One of the comments we hear a lot from caregivers, clinicians and educators is that the approaches they are trying with children don’t seem to be working. That their children can have a really great day and then have days of discouragement and struggle. Our response is always to stay consistent, predictable and responsive, even if you feel like “things aren’t working”. This post highlights the exact reason why we remain steadfast in our approach, despite sometimes wondering if we are really making a difference; because there isn’t a magic solution that can change everything at once but there are many, tiny, seemingly insignificant moments that can make the biggest difference in our children’s lives. It is this unwavering, reliable, way of being, that over time, rewires the child’s brain and teaches them that the world is safe, adults can be trusted and they are worthy of love, care and respect.