Life Happens Despite Our Plans

So I’m hanging out at Childrens’ Hospital in Buffalo these days and even here I’m learning something that affects how I view G-Town.  On Tuesday night, our 14 year old son was sparring and took a thrust kick to precisely the right spot to lacerate his spleen. For any parents who have experienced the agonizing wait of a helicopter, followed by the decision to send a pediatric stat unit to move him via ambulance, you know the “nothing else matters in this world but getting my child the care he needs to come home to us whole” panic. As it turns out, he has a grade three laceration which means total in hospital bed rest for at least three more days and tons of restrictions for the next several weeks, if not months. There goes wrestling, and hockey, and kickboxing, but that seems inconsequential, because our kid is going to be okay. 

My coworkers have been outstanding and Tallon’s friends are texting him constantly. The communication link that’s helping to alleviate some boredom for my bed bound boy is worth any amount of money. And after going home last night for a Board meeting, I’ve made the decision to stay here (we’re about 45 minutes from home) for as long as he is here. I rushed home yesterday so that I could take care of my work responsibilities and then came back to spend the night. Did it matter that I attended that meeting? Absolutely didn’t seem to and it certainly added a tremendous amount of stress to an already stressful day.  So what does this teach me as a principal? As a leader and a manager, my employees need to know that family ALWAYS comes first. At the end of the day, I’ll know I did right by my son and he’ll know I chose him over my career. In the long run, school will have functioned well without me and my kid will remember that his mom was there for him. 

I’ve also thought about the amount of work we give kids to “make up” when out for an extended illness, particularly one of our students who’s out for more than my son’s week. Our teachers shouldn’t expect a child to do all of the work, every assignment given, during the absence. That’s definitely what I always did as a teacher. And I figured giving the student extra time was helpful. Instead, it’s so much harder because the student has to complete all of the work without the benefit of instruction, while coping with an illness, missing out on all the good parts of school, and while worrying about maintaining grades. I wish I could go back and do it again, because I’d say to those students “this is the learning that’s most important from your week or two hospital stay. Take care of these two assignments and I’ll help you with the rest.” Instead, I worried that every missing assignment in my gradebook was filled in. How ridiculous that was considering the magnitude of what the child and family may have been facing.  Every now and then life seems to get in the way of our best laid plans. This is exactly when I’m going to pay  attention to what life’s trying to teach me.

  1. I’m reading your bolg two years after your son’s accident and it is right on the mark. Family comes first and teachers can leave a blank in their gradebook with the education system crashing down on them.

  2. I absolutely agree on the make up work! I’ve always communicated to my parents that the child is more important than the student. I’ll never forget that when my children’s father died, my daughter’s 9th grade teachers made her make up everything while she was out grieving. She then was asked to participate fully in her classes upon her return. I find it hard to forgive people who aren’t merciful to children under certain circumstances.

  3. I’m glad to hear that your son will be okay, and hope that he continues on a good path to health.

    Thanks too for sharing your positive and compassionate outlook on homework. Sometimes we get caught up in the daily, and can’t see the larger picture.

    Too often homework can become a family battleground, as well, or the source of stress at home. There has to be some sort of balance we can find that is good for learning, good for children, and good for the family.

    Thanks for the reflective way you are sharing this experience.

  4. I had a 5 year old student recently suffer a horrible accident. The accident almost cost him his life. This incident made me really rethink the whole homebound process. I’ve been his homebound teacher and I’ve sent him very litle work, and what work I have sent, I’ve told his family to only have him do if he feels up to it. Instead, when I go out to do his homebound visits I really “teach” and go over the important concepts we covered in class, instead of having him do a bunch of worksheets. I really think it is more important for the family to regroup and come together as a unit during this time and support each other than it is for him to complete a few assignments for my gradebook. His family has been through a lot and it’s difficult for them to focus on school right now. They need to recover so that when he returns to school, he will be ready to give it his all then.

    I’m so glad your son is recovering and doing okay, Kim and I commend you for seeing a “lesson” out of this circumstance.

  5. Wishing your son a speedy recovery, Kim. And you make an excellent point about the make-up work. Often in schools, and especially in High Schools, doing “the” work is such a fixed variable, and our teachers and administrators have no real desire to climb the last rungs of Kohlberg’s moral ladder — to understand that fairness isn’t always equal.

  6. I’m sorry to hear that you and your son are going through this, but it’s wonderful to hear he’s going to be o.k.

    And what an amazing thing for you to be able to reflect on how an incident like this can and should instruct your practice. I’m going to remember this entry the next time we have a sick student and we collect her assignments.” I’ll ask each teacher, “How can you boil the work down to the essential pieces so that our student can work, but also can get better quickly.”


  7. Tallon is an amazing kid and he’ll have a great story to bring back to school – thank goodness. Be there for him, and heck… if you get bored you can always do some of that schoolwork (I’m sure you wouldn’t be the first mother to do that 🙂

    Tell him to take care of himself and you do the same!

  8. I am so glad to hear that Tallon is going to be ok. you had my heart racing there for a minute.

    Our kids are what it is all about and for me, my daughter trumps everything. Some days I feel like I let her down but I am really trying. She turns 6 on Saturday so I am going to volunteer at Kindergarten in the morning on Friday and then we have an afternoon for “the girls.” On Saturday Bill and I are doing to do whatever she wants. Right now she wants to sled but the absence of snow may pose a few problems so her back-up plan is bowling . . . .yikes.

    Take good care of your son Kim.

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