Working with people is difficult. Very difficult. In fact, working with adults may be the hardest part of a school day. So, when you are lucky enough to work with someone who just gets you, you hold on to them...tightly. I was so fortunate to work with my "lobster." For anyone that did not watch the TV show, "Friends," the term lobster refers to the person of whom another is meant to be with forever. The term originated due to the fact that lobsters mate for life. (At least, according to Phoebe.) So for all practical purposes, Kelsey was my work lobster.
For five years, Kelsey and I worked in the trenches at middle school with kids that frustrated us one minute and brought tears to our eyes the next. She left at the close of the school year as her husband got a wonderful job in a district across the state. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't miss her and all that she did for so many middle school students...and for me. Here are just a few of my favorite things that I took from her.
1. Donuts fix bad things. When you have a bad day or you must announce something bad, donuts are a must. Before I dropped carbs from my eating, we had donut Fridays, and sometimes donut Wednesdays, and Thursdays, etc. A good donut or cup of coffee or any treat fix most things. When Kelsey announced she would be moving I saw the Daylight box on my desk. Dead giveaway. It was bad, but for a moment when I was lost in carby glaze, it was okish.
2. Find the good in everyone. Every class has that kid. The one that drives you up all walls. For some reason they get under your skin and drive you batty. Kelsey developed the #complimenttrifecta: Three genuine compliments each class period. She said that by doing so you look for good and don’t have as much opportunity to focus on negative. You know what, it worked. At first I would have to hold back a smirk while I dished out, “Hey John, thanks for hanging up your jacket. You rocked it.” But then something magical happened. I actually started noticing all of these ok things and less of the nails on the chalkboard variety. Genius.
3. Get a theme. Classrooms are sleepers, hospital grade, boooring. If I am going to spend all day somewhere, it had better be fun. Kelsey taught me to get a theme. So I did. Everywhere. All over. So much so, it looks like a zebra threw up purple glitter. Everything matches. The kids love it and it is so much more cohesive and fun to “live” in each day. My room is the posterchild for comfortable and I could not imagine it any other way.
4. Find common ground. Whether it is a book (Harry Potter), a TV show (Bachelor), a movie (Avengers), or hair and nails, Kelsey would find something in common with the students. She would use that to grow connections with the kids daily. Those connections is how she bonded with kids. Every kid shares something with you, but you have to find that common ground with them. And when in doubt, share with them things you like and maybe, just maybe they will love it as much as you. I will never forget my most challenging class of 22 years watching Les Mis and crying as hard as we did…and asking to watch it again.
5. When in doubt…read. Kelsey was great at thinking on the fly. Many times I would get held up in the office by another teacher (Fingo haha), a behavior situation, or the faculty bathroom (teachers take an obscenely long time in there), so I would leave her hanging. I could always count on the students reading if they were waiting on me. A great skill and practice to develop. So much so, when a student would get in trouble they would use their book to calm down. On more than one occasion a student would stomp out of the room furious with me and would rush back in grab their book to take with them to go cool down.
6. Have faith. Kelsey has the greatest faith of anyone I know, but she is one of those people that does not impose it on you. She has encountered obstacles her life, but her faith shines through. When many people would complain or give up, she speaks about faith.
7. Speak highly of your significant other. When her husband was offered an (amazing) position in a new city requiring her to move too, she never spoke negatively. Ever. She raved on and on about what a talented educator he is (which he is) and how this new position was everything he has ever wanted. When the students and I blamed him for everything (roof leaks, bad weather, gas prices, etc.) because his new position took her from us, she didn’t falter. It was a great testament on how a relationships should be and a great opportunity for kids to see how respectful relationships should operate.
8. Glitter makes everything better. See #3.
9. Sometimes a look is all you need. Kelsey is the best at shooting kids a look. From across the room. And no words need spoken. Sometimes words get in the way. Sometimes words cause arguments. Many times a look will end any foolishness that is going on. Looks mean business.
10. Let me be me. I have a steel trap for a memory. On some things. 80s movies, yes. Obscure trivia, yes. Locating my keys or spelling or many other things, no. Kelsey was my fact checker, my proofreader, and so many other things. She was the best at fending off an irate library media assistant when a student had a day late library book, a parent that needed to vent about a random problem that happened two months ago, or another teacher that wanted to complain that Jenny didn’t have a pencil with her in class. She did all those things so I could be me, so I could run my crazy world, my mixed up classroom. She didn’t question my filing system or when I would completely change up the lesson because I wanted to see if something else was a better fit. She just did it. We all just want to be us. She not only let me, she supported me.
Everyone should be lucky enough to have a work lobster.
|Embrace the Whole YouA classroom dedicated to growth||
Embrace the Whole You