Believe and Prepare

I wrote about paradoxes in coaching a few weeks ago and now we’re living an extreme one. As we get ready to go home after close to six weeks in the hospital, I put all my energy into believing that my son will regain feeling and function again. I also prepare for the possibility that he may not. It’s the oxymoron of optimistic realists. So I encourage him in his visualization exercises to experience what it will feel like to move a toe again or lift a knee and with the help of our amazing community we’ve remodeled the house to make it wheelchair accessible. We simultaneously believe he’ll recover sensation entirely and we prepare his environment for what is. And what is is not a negative reality, it’s just our current challenge.

Quality educators I work with do this too. They sit alongside a child, listen to them read and discuss the text. Noticing all the things the child is doing well, they find one thing to nudge them forward. They believe the child will become a stronger reader and will grow an academic year or more. Or they sit by a writer who can barely crank out a few words and say, “Look at how much you already know how to do, now I’m going to teach you…” They believe the children will grow and they prepare for them right where they are at. There’s a sense of patient urgency in you wonderful people.

It’s not a simple paradox to live though. It requires courage. People will tempt us with quick fixes. We’ve already been offered nutritional milkshakes to help our son regenerate nerves–the first one is free. While that may work for some, we’ll stay the path with our team’s approach. In teaching we’ll be offered computer programs that will engage and boost our students’ learning. And while that can work for specific interventions, we know what a child needs most is time and attention with the best teacher possible.

Underneath quality improvement plans (not the compliant ones) we write for individual students, schools and districts, I see this “believe and prepare” paradox present. When we believe, we have far-reaching vision for what can be. When we prepare, we ground ourselves with what is. The space between “what is” and “what can be” is the work.

Enjoy your winter breaks. Home for the holidays has never meant quite so much for our family.


Some New Perspective


Three weeks ago my son collapsed at home while we were getting ready for bed and said, “Mom, I can’t feel my legs.” We’ve been in the hospital for 22 days as of today, first in acute care and now in rehab. He’s currently paralyzed and diagnosed with a condition known as Transverse Myelitis. Transverse Myelitis is rare and the onset with a healthy young man of eighteen is even more strange. I’ve always thought my children were “one in a million,” but this isn’t exactly what I meant. There are a lot of things I thought I knew or believed pre-Tranverse Myelitis that I have a whole different perspective about now. There are other beliefs that have only been strengthened through this experience.

My first major shifts have come in understanding what kind of support I want to offer in the future for families in crises. I used to think that if I stopped by the hospital I’d only be “in the way.” I now understand that if I can bring positive energy into a hospital room for even five minutes, that’s a gift. I will trust people to tell me to come back another time if needed. I won’t stay away next time. I also thought I had to know people really well to show up for them. Where did that idea even come from? People who haven’t seen us in years or barely know us are materializing from everywhere–and helping. It was hard to receive the help at first, but several people have told me these wise things:

*Receive with grace and just say “thank you.”
*Don’t do things other people can do for you right now.
*Tell people what they can do.
*People want to feel a part of things. Allow it.
*Know that you will be able to pay it forward in the future.
*Sometimes ask for needs, but wants are OK too.

I have been making connections between the medical world and the educational world constantly. Here was what an occupational therapist said to Jamin during her first visit. “Our job is to meet you wherever you are at. If you wake up with pain one day, we’ll do less. If you are having a strong day, I’m going to push you hard. Each day, we’ll just build on what you can do based on where you are at.” Does that sound like a great coach? It does to me. While we aren’t dealing with physical paralysis in the classroom, there is some emotional paralysis that has to do with change. Meeting people where they are at each day and building on strengths is the way everyone gets better.

Another therapist explained, “I’m going to teach you one way to transfer to your wheelchair. I never use a slide board with patients as young and athletic as you. But my colleagues will teach you other ways and you’ll experiment with your own and you are going to figure out what works for you. No one else can tell you that.” I wanted to hug her and tell her that’s what great coaches do. Now that I think about it, a lot of those early days are a blur, so I may have hugged her. I probably did.

Finally, the opening image for the post has me doing some thinking about RTI. Almost as soon as we reached the rehab floor we started hearing this buzz about the discharge date. The OTs, PTs, nursing staff and doctors got together to determine goals that my son needed to reach with independence before he could leave the hospital. Then they estimated how long it would take him to meet those goals. That date was published on the white board for us all to see. Each individual and team refers to it as they work with him. It is the day he transitions back to his “core” life. I wonder what that would be like for young readers who are getting an intervention with a different program or approach. If the intervention teachers, counselor, classroom teachers and the administrator all focused on a date, say February 2nd, and their goal was to get that student to independence and back into the core by the time, what would that mean for our reader and the collaborative support he receives?

I don’t know what this latest life event means for the blog and the cool thing is–I don’t have to. I like this quote by Gilda Radner:

“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity.”