Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Being An Elementary Principal the Day After

"Hillary is a moron!" "Hillary is a baby killer!" These words rang out through the halls this morning as I was greeting students before the bell rang. Several staff members over heard the pronouncement at the same time and looked at me with a sense of dread written all over their faces as the students filed into their classrooms. Their body language pleaded for me to do something. Anything.

It was time for the morning announcements. I stuck with the regular routine. "Today is wonderful Wednesday...our lunch choices are...Celebrating a birthday today is...tomorrow for United Way we are...Boys and girls, let me remind you of our school expectations. Be nice. Be safe. And work hard. Today in the halls I overheard some remarks that were not very nice about the the election. This is not ok and if you choose to not be nice, you will do a think sheet. Now please stand for the pledge of allegiance."

I continued my morning by conducting some observations as well as helping with a couple of students who were struggling with good behavior in their classrooms. I then went back to my office to try to catch up on some email. I received a message from a parent that was very concerned because their student was told on the bus (the day before) "I hope Trump gets elected because then you will have to go back to Mexico." Really? Really.

When I talked to the child who had experienced this, she was in tears. She related the story back to me through her tears and said, "Dr. Casey, my family is just trying to work. We are here legally. This boy does not always talk to me like this. He goes back and forth. Sometimes he is nice and sometimes he is not." I assured her that she was not going anywhere and that I appreciated her hard work and the work of her family. I told her I loved her and gave her a hug. She looked up at me with tears in her eyes and proclaimed, "you are the best principal."

Not thirty minutes later, as I was getting ready for a post observation conference, I got a call in the office. Could I please come down to 5th grade? Several students were crying and upset about the election. The teacher reported to me that some students were just having a hard time in general, some were afraid they would wake up and be deported, some were saying hateful things...the teacher wondered if they should have a class much could she say? But the look in her eye was pleading with me to conduct a class meeting. I had ten minutes.

I asked the students to come to the gathering area on the floor. I noticed there were several swollen eyes and sad faces. I looked around. Such a beautifully diverse group. Some with families from Mexico, Sudan, South America, South Korea...They had written beautiful poetry together. They had shared intimate facts about their lives together. I bowed my head for a moment and prayed that I would have the right words that these frightened children needed to hear.

"Boys and girls, today on the announcements I reminded us of our school expectations. Be nice. Be safe. Work hard. And safe means more than new sidewalks, so we don't trip and fall and break something. It means more than keeping our hands to ourselves and solving our problems with our words, not our hands. It means our feelings should be safe, too. You have all been friends for a long time. You have shared about the world you hope for and the kind of humans you want to be. You have shared about the world you dream of. Remind me of that again."

Students shared that they wanted to be respectful, compassionate, caring and kind.  I then went on to explain, "One of the greatest things about America is that we can all have our own opinions. Yes, we have freedom of speech. But that freedom of speech does not mean that you can hurt others. As a matter of fact, we practice this all the time. How many times during number talks have you said, 'I respectfully disagree?' You are all so good at this! There is a way for us to disagree with one another, in a respectful manner."

I went on to share, "Some of you are worried that as a result of the election, you won't be able to stay here. Well you are here legally and you have nothing to worry about. As a matter of fact, nothing here at our school is different than it was yesterday. I still expect you to be nice, be safe and work hard. I expect you to treat one another with respect and kindness and I expect us to be compassionate humans."

I saw the corners of mouths begin to turn up and eyes betrayed a sense of relief. I gave them the heart sign from the bottom of my heart and they laughed as they took solace in my words. I then promptly told them to get to work...and I loved them.

Today my heart is broken, but as I look at these children, my heart is full of hope. And even when a few parents came in the office spouting off their politics as if everyone would be in perfect agreement with them, I remain in that hope. "Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them." No, we will not hinder them. We are their champions. And I still believe in a world where kindness, compassion and love win out.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

European Adventure Day 5 (July 5th, 2016)

This was an incredible day! We spent most of the day at the Tower of London right by the River Thames! It was built by William the Conqueror in 1078 and was used as a royal residence as well as a prison. Even though it was besieged several times, controlling the tower has been important to controlling the country. And while it is often known as a place of death and torture, most executions were held on Tower Hill. Perhaps the saddest story was that of the disappearance of the little princes, Edward and Richard. It is said that they were locked away in the Tower of London by Richard III as he took the throne for himself and the boys disappeared. It is assumed that the boys were murdered so he could take the throne.

It is just so hard to explain the feeling of standing in something so incredibly old! I was so grateful that we had our history professor, Diane Boldt! What she could not tell us about the Tower, the Beefeaters were able to. The beefeaters are ceremonial guards who are responsible for ensuring the safety of the Crown Jewels... Which are incredibly amazing and it feels like you have stepped right into a fairy tale when you finally make it through the long wait to see them!

The beefeaters actually live in the Tower of London and they have a curfew! We discussed this with a couple of the beefeaters. In order to assume this post, a person must have at least 22 years of service in the armed forces. They also must have earned the "Long Service and Good Conduct" medal during their time of service in the armed forces.

Many wonder why they are called beefeaters and the story is that they were allowed to eat as much beef as they liked from the King's table. Beefeater is actually a term used to differentiate the Body Guard at the Tower of London and other Royal bodyguards working at various locations.

The Beefeaters have been in service at the Tower of London since 1485 when they were formed by King Henry the VII. The beefeaters are traditionally men, however, Moira Cameron of Argyll, Scotland became the first female Warder in 2007 and remains the only female Beefeater!

Looking at the Tower Bridge from the Tower of London!

We spent the entire day exploring the wonders of this tower! If you go, you must devote the whole day! 

Trying on the armor!

There is a legend that if the Ravens leave the castle, the tower will crumble and the monarchy will fall.

This is the Traitor's Gate entry off the Thames River into the Tower of London complex. Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, and other famous condemned got their last glimpse of freedom here.
White Tower Port-A-Potty. The hole leads directly outside to a 20-foot drop onto the castle grounds. The grass is always greener…?

The armory is impressive and much belonged to King Henry VIII. It was easy to observe how he gained weight throughout the years as his armor grew with him. 

Dragon Sculpture

Being Silly

Just a few extra photos from the day. The first one is a view of our apartment from the street and the second one is of Shawn, Bill and me in front of the National Gallery at Trafalgar Square.

We completed this beautiful day by sitting in the grass, taking in the sights in the park by Westminster Abbey and then enjoying a spectacular cruise down the River Thames. The only thing that could have made this day better would have been to NOT take the Hop on Hop Off bus. LOL! 

Friday, July 29, 2016

European Adventure Day 4 (July 4th, 2016)

What an interesting way to spend the 4th of July. This day was a scheduled travel day to London, but it ended up being a long and costly day! We thought that the train system was such that we could just buy tickets at any time. WRONG! When we looked at the Sail and Rail prices before leaving for Europe, they were around 40 Euros a piece. When we got on the internet to book our trip once here, they were MUCH more! However, after digging around, we finally found tickets for just a little more than what we were expecting.

COMPLETE SIDEBAR - I forgot to tell you that I had a huge mishap with my blow dryer in Dublin before we left. Shawn bought this really cool electricity converter with all the adapters for each European country. We were set with our electronics! He spent about $60 on the thing. SO I plug my hairdryer in and put it on low, like I am supposed to. I am blowing my hair and then the thing starts sparking and smoke is billowing out! I promptly turn it off, but the converter thing is toast! :( I felt HORRIBLE. Moral of the story is don't do that! Suffice it to say, my hair was pretty crazy for most of the trip. However - my dumb $19.99 hairdryer still works! Below are a couple of pictures of our view from our flat and the beautiful neighborhood we stayed in while enjoying Dublin!

Back to day four…We had a very sociable and delightful taxi driver that took us to the port for the ferry ride to Wales. The ferry was lovely and was like a large cruise ship. We snatched seats with windows and enjoyed the lovely views! I also enjoyed reading the book I brought along, while Bill and Shawn took in the sights from the deck above.

Once we arrived at the train station in Wales, we tried to get on the train only to find out that our tickets were only good for the FERRY! The ladies apologized that the website had messed up, but…oh well…did we need a train ticket or not? And that will be another 125 Euros a piece. Grrr…really? Yes, really. So off we finally went.

I really romanticized about how lovely a train ride would be traveling through the English countryside! I hardly got to see it because most of the time I was looking at a wall or a hedgerow! And where was the dining car?! Oh, we are in the budget seats. Good thing we gathered the tidbits of cheese and fruit we had leftover in our Dublin flat! The landscape did finally open up a a bit and Wales was quite beautiful! I was grateful when we arrived in London, and a sympathetic London taxi driver saw us lugging our bags around. He motioned us in and it was like a clown car as we tumbled in! We were practically sitting on one another's laps! He spoke of Brexit and Trump! He likes Americans! He went on to share with us that he doesn't live in London - he commutes. But then no one really lives in London anymore. It is full of tourists…like us. Ha! :)

After grabbing a few groceries and enjoying an inexpensive dinner in our lively neighborhood, we settled into our new flat that boasts 52 steps to our rooms! I was feeling out of my exercise routine and there was a gym right across the street. So at 8:45 pm, I made my way across the street to enjoy a vigorous workout after my sedentary day of travel. Our flat is wonderful with lots of room and a washer right in the kitchen. Our host has thought of everything! Including a hair dryer! I am exceedingly grateful for my travel companions, the Boldts. Mr. Casey has been a joy! Can't believe we are experiencing this together! :)

Saturday, July 23, 2016

European Adventure Day 3 (July 3rd, 2016)

This day was one of my absolute favorites! We went on a guided tour to County Wicklow. Several movies and TV shows have been filmed here, including Braveheart, Saving Private Ryan, P.S. I Love You and Vikings. Our tour guide was very cheerful but a little lackluster. This tour took the entire day and I was in awe of the beauty of Ireland. It is so GREEN. I know people are aware of this already, but I mean, it is really green! During the tour we were able to see the Mountains and bogs. We visited a beautiful stream and the spent time at the bridge from P.S. I love you. Diane and I touched the water. This is really her thing when traveling - she likes to dip her hand in the waters, and I adopted this practice myself!

We were also able to visit Guinness Lake. It was a spectacular view! The water looks black because of the run off from the bogs which have a high iron content.  The lake is near an estate that belongs to the Guinness family. They imported some white sand on the edge of the dark, peaty water and as a result, the lake looks like a pint of Guinness! The lake's actual name is Lough Tay and is fed by the Cloghoge River. 

Next we visited Glendalough (Valley with two lakes). There is an upper lake and a lower lake in this glacial valley. Glendalough is home to ancient medieval, monastic ruins and is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. It has several trails that run from the ruins to the lakes. Diane and I especially loved walking through the forested areas on our way back from visiting the lower lake. We touched the water here, as well.

As we were waiting for our tour bus to pick us up for the last leg of the tour, I felt compelled to take my shoes off and walk barefoot through the Irish clover here. I was completely charmed by the abounding loveliness of Glendalough and I will return again in this lifetime.

We ended our tour in the little village of Avoca (Below is a photo of a lovely church in the village). We had a scrumptious late lunch at Fitzgerald's Pub that included lovely desserts (Diane really loved her apple tart with fresh cream, warm custard and raspberry coulis).

On the way back, we caught a glimpse of the Irish Sea where scenes from Saving Private Ryan were filmed, but we were unable to snap a picture.  We leave bright and early in the morning for London! We will take a ferry to Wales and catch a train for London. I am looking forward to seeing the countryside!

(Side note - I was freezing most of the time in Dublin/Ireland as it was typically 62 degrees and drizzly. The lovely green scarf I am wearing was a bargain I snatched at the Jameson Distillery. I think it is the perfect Irish souvenir! I shall always think of Ireland as I am wearing it.)