Millions believe in miracles. And millions have experienced it too. Six weeks ago, I was the lucky one. My miracle appeared the 20th of April, when my son was born. It is still so strange to have a son. One week after he was born, his eye was infected and I had to get a remedy in the pharmacy. When she asked me if it was for myself or someone else, I proudly announced it was for my son. It hit me then. I am now a mother, with all that it entails. First and foremost, that means being there for him, making him secure. He has already got a little personality, and so far he has been a very kind and calm baby. These last days he has also become more social and engaged with the world. Every little development is a miracle, just him being here is. How lucky am I ?
One year ago, I moved to Bergen to work with children with learning disabilities. This was quite different from what I had been working on until then: Treating patients. I had to work with children for one year to finish my requirements to become a clinical psychologist, and now I am finally here. 6 years has already passed since I started working, and I almost can`t believe it. I still remember my months as a psychologist: Feeling nervous, not ready to help people. I was after all, just one woman. I had my training, like all psychologist, but had never actually worked clinically. Now I had real people sitting in a chair, telling me things they had not told anyone. And how on earth was I supposed to help them? After some time, I was not nervous anymore. Hearing people talk about their fears, opening up when they felt there was so much to loose, felt like a privilege. I understood that my fear was nothing compared to what some of my patients had gone through. It was impossible to think about myself while I listened to their stories. I discovered that I had the best job in the world. Sitting there, talking about what really matters with truly magnificent people, made every day meaningful.
The last year has not been the same. Instead of clinical work, I have written reports where I have to figure out of the children get what they need at school. I have observed teachers, talked with worried parents, and tested children with the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children. I have written referrals to psychologist so that the children can be diagnosed with AD/HD or anxiety. I have given advice on how teacher can help children with autism or different disabilities. Although I have learnt a lot, I have often felt that I am out of my depth. Writing reports has not been my forte either. It has been difficult to judge if one child needs special education or not. My knowledge about teaching, has not been sufficient. I have sat in meetings, not being able to contribute much.
There has also been interesting cases where I got the chance to be a psychologist again. When I had the chance to talk about traumatized children, and what adults should do, I have loved my work. Me and a woman I work with also had the chance to guide school personell on how to help a child with oppositional defiant disorder. We talked about how important it is to realize that all children would chose to follow the rules if they could. That some children never have the chance to learn how to regulate their emotions, that they try their best but sometimes need help from grown-ups to calm down.
I have also met a lot of wonderful people where I work now. They are kind and dedicated to helping children. I have talked with teachers who walks the extra mile, seen special educators help children with dyslexia and talked with parents who does everything for their children. But I still have not found my place. I have learnt a lot and know I have done important work, but I have also missed my previous work.
In March I will start in my new job. I will work with adults again. I will be a therapist. And hopefully, I will continue doing clinical work for the rest of my life.
To find what you love to do, is important. We can get interested in different things, but usually we need to devote our lives to something that really engages us.
The following proverbs were collected by a first grade teacher over the years. She gave her classes part of an old proverb and let them fill in the rest. As You Shall Make Your Bed So Shall You........ Mess It Up. Better Be Safe Than........ Punch A 5th Grader. Strike While The........ Bug Is Close. It's Always Darkest Before........ Daylight Savings Time. Never Under Estimate The Power Of........ Termites. You Can Lead A Horse To Water But....... How? Don't Bite The Hand That........Looks Dirty. No News Is........Impossible. A Miss Is As Good As A........ Mr. You Can't Teach An Old Dog New........ Math. If You Lie Down With The Dogs, You'll........Stink In The Morning. Love All, Trust........Me The Pen Is Mightier Than The........Pigs. An Idle Mind Is........ The Best Way To Relax. Where There's Smoke, There's........ Pollution. Happy The Bride Who........ Gets All The Presents! A Penny Saved Is........ Not Much. Two's Company, Three's........The Musketeers. Don't Put Off Tomorrow What........You Put On To Go To Bed. Laugh And The Whole World Laughs With You, Cry And......You Have To Blow Your Nose. None Are So Blind As........ Helen Keller. Children Should Be Seen And Not........ Spanked Or Grounded. If At First You Don't Succeed........ Get New Batteries. You Get Out Of Something What You........ See Pictured On The Box. When The Blind Leadeth The Blind........Get Out Of The Way. There Is No Fool Like........Aunt Eddie.
We all know how important teachers are. We have met many of them, and some have managed to stay in our hearts. Some have broadened our minds, while others might have made us feel inferior. Since February I have been around in classrooms, having the honor to see how far teachers in Norway have come since I was a little girl, eager to learn. School today is not about rote repetition, it is about so much more: Learning life skills. It is also about learning HOW to learn, and awakening curiosity in eager minds. It is about helping children be kind towards each other and giving them positive feedback while also challenging them to think more deeply about issues. I have seen small tricks, like getting the children to clap their hands when the teacher does so, to make them stop and listen. I have seen teachers managing to remember who got to say something, and who did not. I have heard them talk about their worries, for example when a child keeps to himself. And their pride when somebody just learnt to read after trying for a long time. Teachers are amazing. They must be in the middle of thousand tasks, always caring and giving. They must engage the students, and encourage those who struggle to make sense of what they are supposed to learn. I only have respect for teachers. They really try their best to educate our future. And I know many of them go home, remembering the faces of children lighting up when they had yet another moment of mastery.
Kiran Bir Sethi shows how her groundbreaking Riverside School in India teaches kids life’s most valuable lesson: “I can.” Watch her students take local issues into their own hands, lead other young People and even educate their parents.
I am sitting in the sun, waiting for the teacher to let the children in. They are standing in a neat line, talking and laughing. In front of me, two boys are interacting while a third girl is holding what must be her brother in a tight grip. They are happy, not stressed by the no-show of their pregnant teacher. I have been observing two children in different classes today, and this is my third observation of the day. I try to observe without any pre-judgement, preferring to not ‘know’ what I should be looking for. What constantly amazes me, is how children interact. There is just so much going on. Emotions flying through the air like ping-pong balls.
The sun and their happiness is warming me while I wait. There is no hurry, life is just as it should be.
It has been a while since I have had time to look at my other blog (forfreepsychology), but as I`m working on a book based on what I and others have written, I found an article from Judee about children`s mental health. Since I am working with children now, I read the article with interest. I hope you all like it as much as me!
I used to work in a mental health hospital that was a 19-bed unit for children and adolescents that required temporary hospitalization. Many times, we saw the effects of acting out due to anger issues. And on many occasions, there were absolute mental health issues that included behaviors with depression, bipolar disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder.
During the time I worked there, I had the honor of meeting a real gem of a child psychiatrist who not only involved himself with the medication component of these children’s care, but also who helped us to become better therapists and counselors as well, having a positive impact on this aspect of their therapy while they were with us, as well.
One of the children admitted to our care during my time there, came face to face with this amazing man, regarding a major blow-up he had with another patient. He showed his true colors and caused a huge disruption on the floor after something happened, that angered him severely. The issue required more than just a brief sit-down and involved this man, who was in charge of the ward.
I recall the incident as if it were yesterday, although it is many years later. But the part I recall the most, involved this Doctor talking with the young, angry boy afterward in which he explained to him that there were really only two different scenarios that could play out for the remainder of the young man’s life. He began by telling him that he could promise him there would be many more times that this young man was going to come face to face with situations that angered him. Sometimes he would become exactly as angry as he had just become. Other times, he wouldn’t be nearly as angry and more than likely, there would be other times when he would become even angrier than he was here. Doctor Z. stated clearly, three or four times, that he could guarantee this young man of this.
He emphasized that this young man had absolutely no choice in this. There was nothing that any of us could do, no matter who we were and how much we may want to help him, that could prevent the situations from happening in the future and then he surprised this young boy by telling him that he wasn’t going to do anything to try and prevent the young boy from getting angry in the future over these things. He told him that if anybody expected to be able to prevent their anger was a fool.
I had never heard of this type of a technique when it came to dealing with anger or any emotion for that matter. I was young and fairly wet behind the ears and I though my job was to help these children from becoming too angry or too anxious or too sad. But I learned from Doctor Z. that if I intended to prevent such things, I not only was foolish, but I would fail miserably.
The Winner Is…
That day, Doctor Z. taught me and that young man that there is indeed a choice, but that the choice is about whether that feeling rules us or whether we rule that feeling. It isn’t about having the feeling or about how strong the feeling is. It is about who ends up in control – us, or our feelings?
A friend of mine has been at the hospital for three weeks now. She has lupus and is always at the risk of getting different sorts of infections that make her really sick. Today the doctor told her that if she gets sick like this again, she might not get children. And she can not try to get pregnant for at least six months. And she really wanted a child. Having that possibility wiped away from her, made her realize that she is sicker than she wants.
Life can be really unfair, and right now my friend is feeling disappointed and tired of the problems piling up in front of her. I can’t quite imagine how she manages, but one of the things that I’m impressed by is that she’s able to feel her pain. That she allow herself to feel grief. I know life has been meaningless for her, but she is one of the bravest and most wonderful people I know. So I will think about her, and hope that she can get out of the hospital soon and feel good enough to do something that will give her time to heal and rest.