Tuesday, January 13, 2009

TP Therapy

At the gym this morning I spent 40 long minutes on the elliptical machine. I had some definite aggression, anger, frustration, stress to work through so I grabbed onto those handles and I went to work. The music from my Ipod further helped to pump me up. I soon was lost in the zone. My mind started to wander and my blood stopped boiling. I took a few deep cleansing breaths.

I thought about strategies I have learned through the years for dealing with anger and negativity. I recalled a memory from when I was teaching first grade. It was the end of a rather long school year and I had planned a field trip to our local airport since we were studying transportation. After our tour of the airport we were going to the restaurant with the golden arches for lunch.

One afternoon I was sitting at 'circle' time with my class and we were discussing the upcoming trip. I handed each child a permission slip and a letter explaining all of the particulars of the trip for their parents. I explained to the students that I needed to know before the trip what their choice for lunch was: hamburger happy meal or chicken nugget happy meal. I also informed them that we would all be drinking milk - no soda. Since we had recently finished a nutrition unit I didn't see this to be an issue. Wrong. Billy Bob stands up and shouts, "That is a stupid rule. I am drinking soda. My mother says I can drink soda anytime I want." He was probably correct. His mother probably allowed him to drink soda anytime he wanted. Just as she allowed him to bring a knife to school. Just as she allowed him to draw very graphic, often disturbing pictures of the human anatomy - girls and boys - anytime he wanted, just as she allowed him to decide if he needed to meet with our school guidance counselor...he usually refused...the list goes on. This was the child who had whacked me in the head with his metal lunchbox. This was the child who, at show and tell time, shared pictures of his mom on her vacation. How cute - except she was nude. It had been a very long year and when Billy Bob stood up and shouted at me that he would drink soda I made a decision. The only way Billy Bob was going on this field trip was if one of his parents came with us. I had no support paraprofessional in my room and I decided that it would not be wise for me to take all of this responsibility for this child. I was confident that the administration would support my decision.

I called mom that evening and explained my decision. She went back and forth for a while but I stood my ground. She finally saw things my way and told me that she thought it might be good if Billy Bob's father be the parent to accompany us on this adventure. I had no issue with that. As a matter of fact I felt that it would be a positive for Billy Bob to have his dad there. Sure enough, for the next few days Billy Bob floated around the classroom so excited that his dad was going on the field trip with him. His father was frequently not in the picture and the few times I had conversations with him I felt that he was always trying to 'sell' me, never truly listening to the serious concerns I had about his son.

Finally the big day arrived. I was relieved to see that Billy Bob's behavior was golden. He was SO proud that his dad was sitting next to him on the bus. I was glad that I had stood my ground.

We met our tour guide and she explained the rules. We were actually going to walk out onto the tarmac to see some of the smaller planes up close and personal. She stressed the importance of staying within the ropes. I did a quick head count. Where was Billy Bob's dad? Oh, there he was, over in the corner talking on his cell phone. Great. Where was Billy Bob? Oh, there he was. Over at the soda vending machine, kicking it and pushing all of the buttons. I got Billy Bob away from the machine and convinced him to get in line so we could go see the plane. I went over to his father and motioned, frantically, that I needed him to get in line with his son - now.

We walked out onto the tarmac and I was on alert that everyone stayed behind the ropes. The last thing I needed was for one of my little guys to get hit by an airplane. There was a lot of activity - planes landing, taking off, propellers propelling, a little boy running recklessly towards a moving plane...WHAT! Sure enough, there was Billy Bob running out of control, on the wrong side of the ropes. I took off after him, trying hard not to panic. I finally caught up to him and corralled him. With his hand firmly in mine, I marched to his father who had his cell phone stuck in his ear.

I put my Irish temper on the back burner and acted as the professional educator that I was. "Mr. Billy Bob, it means the world to your son to have you here as a chaperone. I need you to focus on him for the rest of this trip. It might be wise to shut your cell phone off so you can focus on Billy Bob. We need to insure that he is safe."

I then turned my attention to the rest of my class. We went back into the airport and continued our tour. Billy Bob and dad were lagging behind but it appeared that the cell phone was put away. We prepared to get on the bus so we could drive to the golden arches. I did a head count and realized that I was missing two people. Of course, it was Billy Bob Jr. and Billy Bob Sr. ~ incredible. I went back into the terminal to search for them. My head was starting to throb. When I found them, my blood began to bubble as it reached the boiling point. I reached the vending machine just as Billy Bob Sr. put the last of his coins in.
"What are you doing?" I asked, not so calm.
"Well, um, you see, I have to leave. My friend is coming here to meet me. I have business to take care of and I need to get going. So I told Billy Bob he could have a soda if he promised to behave."
"You have got to be kidding me. This is not fair to Billy Bob, it isn't fair to me and it certainly isn't the plan that I set up with your wife. Plus, he is not having that soda while on a field trip with me."
"Aw, c'mon, "....and he continued to schmooze me, sweet talk me, sell me.
I took his son's hand and said "Come on, Billy Bob let's go have lunch with the rest of your classmates."
We walked away from his father.
"Wait, Mrs. Kelley, you forgot this." I turned to shoot him the evil eye. He stood there, holding the can of soda. I resisted the temptation to tell him where to stick it.
Billy Bob and I got on the bus together. He held my hand for the rest of the day and never again mentioned the can of soda.

When we got back to the school we were met by the school's guidance counselor. He was anxious to hear about how our day had gone. With no kids in sight I started to vent. I started to cry. My heart ached for my young student. I now had a much better understanding for why he behaved the way he did. I told the guidance counselor that I wanted to meet up with this poor excuse of a man -alone -one on one.

The guidance counselor then left, telling me he knew exactly what I needed. Hmm...as far as I knew alcohol wasn't allowed on school property. I was curious as to what he had up his sleeve.

He soon came back with a bucket, a large piece of white paper, and a roll of toilet paper. Great, now I was going to probably be a guinea pig to some new therapy treatment he had just read about. He filled the bucket up with water as he told me to draw a life size picture of Billy Bob's dad on the large piece of white paper. I did as directed and he then hung my drawing up on the wall.

"Now, take a wad of the toilet paper, soak it in the water and then throw it hard at the picture of Billy Bob's father. As you throw it, yell out why you are angry at him."

Now the students had all left for the day so let me tell you, I let things fly. Wad after wad of toilet paper stuck to my paper drawing. I laughed as one wad hit him right between the eyes. I screamed about how he repeatedly hurt his little boy. I yelled about how he thought a can of soda could make it okay. I used the whole roll of toilet paper and by the end I was emotionally wiped out.

So if the elliptical machine, treadmill or stairmaster don't remove the stress from your body, grab a roll of toilet paper and start throwing - hard.

25 comments:

Willow said...

What a good idea! I have some extra TP handy. I may need it this week! And boy do I relate to that teacher/student/parent story, way too many times over.

Beverly said...

Deb, this was fantastic. I have a vision of you splattering Mr. Billy Bob. And, he deserved anything you gave him.

Work it out. I hope things are looking brighter soon.

david mcmahon said...

TP therapy - that's brilliant, Deb.

(A starring roll!!)

Elaine said...

There's no hope for some families, is there? How very sad.

I've used a few techniques over the years...writing letters and burning them without re-reading them. Going to the middle of the woods to SCREEEEEEEEEEAM as loud as I can.

I love this idea. I'll add it to my list!

Daryl said...

Wonderful post, Deb. I am going to stock up paper towels and let go next time I feel as if my head will explode.

Frankofile said...

Just happened across from FrenchFancy. Your anger is well-aimed. What a powerful piece of writing - thank you.

French Fancy said...

What an interesting story and glad you are trying to work out your aggression. We don't have those sort of gyms in our bit of the French countryside and it is such a shame; I really used to enjoy going and working out on the resistance machines. Treasure your gym :)

In the meantime I'd better find the nearest toilet roll.

The Muse said...

I used to vent that way...I can't exercise as much as I would like.. :)

But based on Mr. BB s actions...You surely are lucky you can....

Oh he's baaaaaad LOL

PEA said...

When a child doesn't want to listen and misbehaves in class, usually the root of it all is the parents. I know how frustrating it can be to the teacher and trying to talk to the parents is sometimes useless. It's good to know that you were taught a way to relieve the stress...I'd better make sure I always have an extra roll of toilet paper! hehe xoxo

Louise said...

You are much more dignified than me... much. I'm glad that worked. Maybe I should try it.

Sandi McBride said...

You know and I know that you just taught us all a valuable lesson. A really valuable lesson...and I'm going to take it all in as soon as I stop laughing...
hugs to you our sweet teaching machine
Sandi

Tessa said...

Sad, sad story. How wonderful to have a teacher like you, though.

Good idea re. wodged-up and wet toilet paper missiles! My father used to suggest that my sister and I bash pillows when any sign of squabble start-up between us was spotted. It really worked!

Rapunzel said...

What a great story, and fabulous idea! Now..where's my toilet paper...

Sandi McBride said...

Congratulations on the POst of the Day mention, and you earned it!
Sandi

imbeingheldhostage said...

Wow, I LOVED THIS POST. I need a roll of toilet paper.

Chapati said...

An awesome idea! :)
It must be so fustrating as a teacher dealing with parents who seem less interested than you are in their own child's welfare.

Well done for your mention on POTD!

Oh, and I like your blog layout. It is easy to read, personalised, and doesn't take a long time to load! :o)

Mama Zen said...

Oh, wow! I wish that I had known about this when I was teaching!

Aggie said...

How sad - but I am not surprised. I know of a Dad who recentl dumped his wife of 16 yrs with 2 children under 10 to go off with another woman. He then got the other woman pregnant and told his wife and 2 (young) children to get out of his life altogether. Off with the old and on with the new.
If you want to stuff up people's lives, why have kids in the first place is what I ask myself. Like you I work in a school and this is just the tip of the iceberg. It's a sad, sad world.
TP Therapy should be mandatory for all school workers. Lol!

Maggie May said...

That was one incredibly silly man! Enough to make anyone's blood boil.
That poor kid..... what an example to set him.
I will try & remember your toilet paper therapy.... but I do live in a highly populated area and I might get taken away by the men in white coats!

RiverPoet said...

Oh my gosh, Deb...it must be incredibly difficult to deal with dolts like that all the time. Most of us only have transient encounters with them. Teachers really do deserve medals for what you all go through.

But yes, the TP therapy sounds like it was very helpful. Once I had such a rough time with my daughter that I pummeled a pillow so thoroughly that I punched myself into a bad bout of bursitis. My doctor asked me, "Are you okay? Do you need me to prescribe you some anti-anxiety meds?" I just laughed and said, "Nope. I've got more pillows!" And then I went home to ice my shoulder!

Peace - D

Shadow said...

i take my hat off to you. i don't think i'd have been able to keep my cool the way you did. and generally, kids act the way they do, 'cause it's sanctioned by their parents. love you toilet paper therapy though. excellent!!!

Contest Chris said...

Great Post! Some guys just don't get parenting. It's pretty sad.

Mean Mom said...

That was such a beautiful post - so sad that I had to reach for a tissue, but funny in the end. What more could we ask for?

Poor Billy Bob. You were patience itself. His father just didn't have a clue, did he?

Deb said...

Hi Willow ~ I believe that some people don't realize the emotional stress that teachers are under every day. Thanks for what you do for the children. They need you!

Hi Beverly ~ Life is good!

Hi David ~ I love how you love wordplay! Thanks. :)

Hi Elaine ~ The letter writing strategy is a good one and sometimes I scream into a pillow! Whatever works!

Hi Daryl ~ I hope it works for you!

Hi Frankofile~ Welcome!

Hi FrenchFancy ~ Okay ~ the next time I go to the gym I will do some extra reps for you! :)

Hi Muse ~ Exercise is a positive way for me to vent!

Hi PEA ~ As a teacher dealing with the parents can be the hardest part of the job. I always have extra TP on hand - you never know! :)

Hi Louise ~ Hmmm...I have never been called dignified before - thanks!

Hi Sandi ~ Thank you! :)

Hi Tessa ~ Welcome. Your dad sounds like a wise man!

Hi Rapunzel ~ Extra TP is always a good idea :)

Hi IMBHH ~ You have had so many transitions and so much stress lately you might need a case of TP and throw it hard! :)

Hi Chapati ~ That would be frustrating with a capital 'F'! Thanks!

Hi Mama Zen ~ It comes in handy as a mama too! And children love this strategy! I have seen it work wonders when a temper tantrum is brewing!

Hi Aggie ~ Stories like that make me so sad. And I agree ~ all educators should be given a case of TP on the first day of school. Sad but true!

Hi Maggie ~ I certainly wouldn't want them to take you away! :)

Hi RiverPoet ~ I have also used the pillow technique. Is life supposed to be this stressful for us? Hope all is well now! :)

Hi Shadow ~ Thank you.

Hi Contest Chris ~ Some gals don't get it either. I have often wondered how to develop a parenting test to take before you have children!

Hi Mean Mom ~ Both parents were totally clueless! Sad situation at best.

Poutalicious said...

This is precious.

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