Many Ways To Grow

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I am so excited! I have had a request! Someone from asked me: how can the youth show such significant growth in the standardized test I give them? The answer is multifaceted. First I need to explain the testing we do, and the circumstances with which I work with.

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The group home teachers are instructed to give each youth a standardized test, called a WRAT (Writing, Reading, Aptitude Test) when they first arrive and when they leave, in order to show their growth or lack of growth.  A 4 part test in spelling, math, word reading and sentence comprehension.  It  helps to give us a basic sense of where their brain is academically. This is also a good time to talk a little and get a sense of the child’s personality and attitude. I try to wait to give this test with in the first month of their arrival. This gives the youth time to adjust to the group home. They go through a few days to a week of almost denial that they are there. Some seem angry, some accept the situation. So, I give them time.

You Are only confined by walls you make

When the youth arrive, they come in from all sorts of situations. Some arrive with families. Others arrive in handcuffs and shackles from detention centers. This may be the first time they have seen their family in a month or more.  Some of the youth that arrive come with academic information such as report cards and a few we are able to get their IEP.  Two or three times a year we get youth that have very low IQ levels of <70. In the 5 + years I have worked here, I have observed that if a child has an IQ less than 65 they won’t get much from our program.  However, with the tests, we have seen growth even with these low IQ youth. The fact of the matter is, even with all the stress these youth go through, about 85% of them leave showing huge growth.  I will give you a few examples.

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Most of these children come from single parent or grandparent homes.  I remember 8th grader who’s home was not good. His mother never came to see him. She would make promises right up to Friday morning when he earned his visit home and would call and say she couldn’t come and he couldn’t come home…..It broke our hearts. I gave him his first WRAT test 3 weeks after he arrived and he scored very low. 1.7 wr, 1.0 sc, 2.1 sp., 3.5 math. These are grade equivalency numbers.  3 months later he scored 2.4, 1.7, 2.0 and 3.8. Not bad for just 3 months. We found him a foster home and I had the privilege to go with him when the FSS at the time took him. I think he felt much better when I gave it all my blessing.

Another young man who was in 7th grade, seemed to always need to be near me. Every morning when I was trying to get things ready, or at break, there he was…..and I heard he always was ready for church, when he went home but his mom could not get him there. That didn’t discourage him. He kept reading his bible and keeping the faith. He increased his grade levels on those tests incredibly. Wr., 5.4 to 10.3, Sc. 9.9 to 12.9, Sp, 12.7 to 12.9 and math 5.1 to 5.9

God has plans for U

We have had some older youth who have come in with psychological and neurological disorders. I expect the same hard work from all youth. I teach them not to use their abilities as disabilities or excuses. One 9th grade female youth suffered from Axiety and it seemed everything triggered it. Other kids laughing or seemed like they were laughing at her, not doing a chore right, getting corrected by staff in firm tones, and she never volunteered to give answers in class or speak in front of the group.  “WRATwise” she increased her math from 8.7 to a 12.9, she was a 12.9 in the other areas. She raised her hand to answer questions in my class. She did her project for health and presented it in front of the class. At our annual graduation, the youth are asked if anyone wants to speak and she raised her hand first. I thought her Court counselor was going to fall over. I was proud of her.

One last example is a youth who probably should have never come but I’m glad she did. We were not told of her disability, but when talking to her you could tell, something was not right. After begging with the school for her information we found out that she had an IQ of 63. By the time I found out she was half way through the program. Here’s her results from the test:                     word reading:         3.5    to           7.4                       Sentence comprehension  : 6.5    to    8.2         spelling:  5.1 to   6.8                  and    Math         Kindergarten (k.0)     to        10.1                      Pretty cool!!!!! yet, her mother still worked at night and they lived in a motel.  Her perception of the world was quite ……different.  

Im still working on you-God

These are just a few examples of the growth. Some did not show growth at all and others only grew in one area.  But for all of these youth, growth happens on many different levels and you can’t test all that.  The only way to know if they grew as people is to find out how successful they are in life.  Every spring there is always a visit or a call from some former youth.  The girl with the Anxiety is finishing her GED and has a job that doesn’t cause too much anxiety.  The young man who was at my hip, he called and said he is finishing middle school and doing fine.  I even had a visit from a youth from my first group, back in 2010, letting us know he’s getting married and is doing well.

I may only have them for 4-6 months now, and maybe, others just think I’m a “glorified babysitter” or just a mild mannered teacher, 20151213_153053

but I know that I am a certified NC teacher who chose to work for God and teach the children that others find challenging.  I create the transcripts and the IEP’s (in a single bound) . I teach 5 subjects, created a working/growing curriculum,   plug in several skills into the lessons, and teach 6 core values everyday to children who don’t want to be there or who view all adults as the “enemy”.  (It’s a bird, no it’s super-teacher)Super_Teacher2

If anything,  Methodist Home For Children’s group homes show that with a smaller class size, hard work, structure, and a lot of patience and love,  most adjudicated youth can be taught and become successful in life.

Keep the requests coming and God bless you all!!!

Connections

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It feels like my whole life I have been “the connector”, “the hinge”, or the “bridge” between everyone. When I was little it was between my grandfather and my brothers or my paternal family and my maternal family.  I have been a “link” as long as I can remember. There was a time I didn’t want to do it. I was tired and scared to be the one to keep people talking to each other.  At one point my brothers were at odds with each other but a wise person told me, “remember, it said in the bible, a child shall lead them.” So, I started to accept my position as the “bridge” to bring people together.  Part of me still wanted to fight it. After all I’m not that special.  Yet, last summer I was still trying to make re connections with my cousins and Aunt on the paternal side of my family and I succeeded.    20151128_120606

I found my cousin, Vicki, living in Idaho, married and happy. Her brother, Scott, successful and married in NJ. My Aunt was suffering from dementia. I gave information and connected my brothers to our cousins again. My  cousin decided that since she was retired she had more time to take care of my Aunt in Idaho. My aunt loved the re-connection. She wrote to me and they even had a chocolate cake in my honor on my birthday. Pretty cool that 2000 miles away I could make her smile.  Sadly,  right after this Easter, Aunt Carolyn had a stroke and a week later she died. I was very upset. I tried calling but the connection was very bad. We are texting and emailing as much as we can.  God must have thought that since I did such a good job connecting my family, he would give me a larger challenge. Connecting strangers.

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Even though the original orphanage in Raleigh, NC was started by the United Methodist Church, time and community needs have changed that part of the relationship. Now we are separated from the church itself because we work with state programs. However, it is the kindness of the members of the churches that keeps us going.

April 3rd,  I was invited by our volunteer who teaches art at my group home, to come to her church because the members had bought bibles for my youth! She wanted me there for the blessing and to thank the church for their involvement with MHFC. It was a very touching and fun service at Camden United Methodist Church.

See, I believe that God put me into these different positions to make more or deeper connections between the people and MHFC. I am a teacher for MHFC, a member of the Ahoskie United Methodist Church, and the United Methodist Women’s District officer for Membership and Nurturing.umw

The more people I talk to the more people find out about MHFC and all the different programs there are. We do serve 1500+ youth and their families. We are also adding new programs such as private adoption, an assessment center in Butner, NC, and one in Winston-Salem.

One kind act or word will change a life

It’s time for the people to make connections. Take a chance.  We need people to give their time, their hearts, their talents,  and their gifts. I work for God and am blessed enough to  get paid, monetarily and spiritually. I am even more blessed to work with people who  go through the volunteer paperwork and  come to our group home to work with our youth for no pay at all.  Our art teaching volunteer says that having the chance to do her favorite hobby with the youth and watching the growth of some youth is her paycheck.  The “paycheck” that God has is one that pays on Earth as it does in heaven. It is priceless and not bound by this world. Take a chance on something that will pay you the rest of your life. Make the connection and find out what you can do for MHFC.

(Click on the “Being Proactive” menu at top of page)

Part 4: It Just Takes One: Book

It only takes one book to change the way you see things. For me, it was a book by Harper Lee.  “You have to step on another person’s shoes and walk around in them”

Anne-Frank-Book   From then on I would stop and think before I judged. the Human comedy covertokillamockingbird

Many teachers have taken the classics out of the classroom like “To Kill a Mockingbird” or “The Diary of Anne Frank”. This is why I love teaching in a non public school. I get to choose what they read based on the lessons they will hopefully walk away with. I make sure there are questions through out the book, weekly quizzes, a final test and an essay to write at the end. I create the quizzes, the syllabus and the vocabulary sheets.

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The class just finished a book called, “I Am Malala”.  It’s about that young girl from Pakistan who was advocating for education for girls and got shot in the head. I remember how it seemed the world was amazed by this young girl and her plight. Then the world watched as news came that Binazir Bhutto, the female prime minister of Pakistan, had gotten killed after returning from a 9 year exile. The final blow was when Malala had gotten shot. A child of 16 who just finished her final exams of the year and was on her way home.

The book had some great themes such as the desire for an education when the world around you is falling apart. The practice of Islam from the people’s point of view and from Malala’s family’s practice. Evil versus true faith. How man built up laws around the Qua ran the same way they built up laws around God’s 10 laws.  The way women saw themselves and how they were persecuted and targeted by the “new Islamic order”.  Also how familiar this all sounds to those who have read “Anne Frank: the Diary of a young girl”.  Which is why that is the next book we are reading currently.

 

You may ask why I bother to teach these books to a room full of youth who have made some poor decisions in their lives, such as stealing, not going to school, breaking and entering, or even possession charges. They need to be exposed to other children who have had it worse than them. Many American kids are spoiled. They have never had to learn how to duck under a desk when they hear bombs. They have never had to live in fear that someone may come and shoot them. They have never had to dig in a rubbish bin for food. They have never had to hide for years because of a dictator who practiced pogrom.

Most of the children that I work with have a parent or a relative that cares for them, clothes them, and feeds them, to the best of their abilities. If we see a chance to help and improve their way of living then we do all we can. We send social service people to help the parents or guardians organize themselves and maybe be stronger in parenting. Many youth that I come across seem have control of adults. They tell me they were taught, ” you give me respect then I’ll give you respect” .  They have little respect for authority figures because the adults in their lives are more their friends than their parents. We teach them they are children and we are the adults and there really is a difference.  However, as long as parents/guardians don’t enforce rules,  and teach them that they can do adult things, there will always be a JSS court system and juvenile multipurpose group homes.

 

If the parents/guardians make the change, the youth have a much better chance at staying on the right path. However, if the adults fail, we try to teach the youth what they need to do for themselves.

I do what ever I can to show the youth how other families handle hard lives. I pray that something from one of the books may affect a child enough to have them want to change the way they look at life. To always do the right thing. To have faith and education. To treat others with respect first in order to get that respect in return.

It just takes one book to help someone change their view of things. Maybe, it will be one of these books for the youth that come through our group home.

 

Blogging For God

I have always said that even though I seem to be a mild mannered teacher,  I really work for God. So, I guess you could say I also blog for God because he wants people to know about these children and this organization I am blessed to work in. He also wants to bring  people together when they connect through this organization. There are many opportunities that God has placed here.

God placed me in a multipurpose residential home for juveniles who have made some bad decisions and a judge has made one good decision for them by sending them to us. We are

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We teach skills that we all know but we have broken them down into specific actions. We teach using the “Model of Care”…. it’s like the “catch ’em when their good” but tell them what they’ve done wrong so they can learn how to improve themselves. It’s a more positive and caring way then just locking kids up in a cell.

The organization serves over 1500 youth from age 3 to 23. MHFC helps the families too by in-home services before children grow into troubled teens. This organization matches families with foster children. There is so much more, yet, I personally know only the group home.

Each multipurpose home has a program manager, a Family social service person, a teacher, 6 residential counselors and 2 overnight/away staff. The residential counselors stay with the youth at all times. They are rotated through out the 7 days working 15 hours a day which works out to about 2.5 to 3 days for each team of 2 RC’s. They are my back up and I am theirs. It is a great team effort to work with the youth that come here.

I am the teacher. I work Monday – friday 8:30am until 4 or 5 or 6pm, often hearing the words, “Ms. Pasek, you still here?”  When I first started I didn’t know what to expect. I had great training and a terrific Program Manager who really helped me a lot. I learned from other teachers in the other group homes how they teach and deal with the youth.  I took what I knew from 20+ years of teaching and ideas from  them and created my own curriculum that would be in line with the public school curriculum. I teach grades 6-10th, yet some youth have come to us at much lower academic levels and some very low IQ levels. My curriculum levels the playing field, sort to speak.

I teach 5 subjects, counsel 8 youth, create my own Individual Education Plan (IEP) for each youth, type up transcripts for each youth, make monthly progress reports for each student, and reinforce the skills and values taught in the home.

I tell my youth that  what I do is try to help the public school teachers by teaching them how to behave in class and how to succeed in school so it will be easier for the teachers to teach them.

I have had some successes and some not so successful experiences. I could tell you all about the various stories that come through our home. In the 5+ years I have been teaching I think 100 youth have come through. Out of those, I have heard good things of about 6 – 10. maybe 5 of those have come back to say hi and speak to the new youth.

So, keep your eye out for stories from me and others who work on the “front line”.  If you want to hear about specific things, just ask and I’ll see if I can oblige. Please let me know what you think. Share comments, reblog, or just say hi. Until next time, pray for all our youth and staff.  God Bless!

 

Part 1: It Only Takes One Person

It only takes one person, one moment, one word/sentence/phrase, one thought,  one action or reaction.  It only takes one to make a difference, good or bad. I have plenty of examples of these in my life so, I will be doing a series of this topic : “It Only Takes One”.  I pray that I can convey how just one person can do one thing or say one thing that can influence others, either negatively or positively, and how we can handle that through any faith.

Teaching sign      Remember, that I write from my view, my faith, my experiences and that I only want people to take from my writings what may help them. I am a teacher to the core and just hope that what I can teach outside of academics can be a positive influence to my readers.

I encourage you to also read other influential blogs such as Evan Sanders’ “The Better Man Project”. He is just one person who writes inspiring articles and poetry.  Frankly,  I look like chump change compared to his 18, 600+ followers. He is humble and spiritual in such a universal way…. well, you just have to read him. There are many writers  you can find through here, that I follow, who write very inspirational blogs.  I encourage you to find them and read them also.

Think about all the examples of just one person having an influence on others, either positive or negative. Of course we don’t want to stay on the negative, but it still shows how it just takes one person.  Let’s start with positive examples from the bible.

Daniel who stood for his convictions and did not let a king sway him from his diet or his faith. His actions influenced his companions and they too kept to the diet and their faith. God saw this and protected them when they needed it like when Daniel was put into a Lion’s den or when Meshack, Shadrack, and Abendigo were put into the furnace, God protected them.

How about Ruth? She had great influence on her daughter in law by showing strength. Of course there is Mary, just a girl with a huge amount of faith. Just one person chosen to give birth to one person who would rock the world for thousands of years.

reflection of cross in eye

          Now there’s also the other side of this theory.  It only took one person to betray Jesus. It only took one person to mastermind a plan to put people to death because they were not perfect. It only took one person to pull a trigger to kill great positive influential people like John Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, etc….. It only took one person to say something mean to a child for that child to learn hatred and anger. It only took one person to send a card to another to put a smile on a face. It only took one person to listen while another talked. It only took one person to text, “I love you” to a parent, a child, or a relative they have not spoken to in a long time.

One kind act or word will change a life

In 1978 civil war broke out in, what was a democratic country, Cambodia. A young boy of 9 saw the article in the time magazine and asked his parents about it. They explained how people were fighting for their country and government and yes some innocent people may be killed. The boy innocently looked at his parents and asked ” So, what are we doing about it?” This one boy, influenced his parents to go to their church and ask the same question. In 1980, that church made it possible for a young couple from Cambodia to come to the US.

The world is changed by

There is this idea that one person doesn’t matter but I just showed you a tiny example of how it only takes one person to have an impact, small or large, negative or positive, on others. A mom, a dad, a brother, a sister, an aunt, an uncle, a cousin, a teacher, a stranger, a writer, an agent,  can all make an impression on a person. They all have a chance, every day, to make positive influences on others. They can change lives and not even know it.

Your challenge is to write down for a week or two: Who positively affected you?  What did you do each day to help or positively affect others?     It could be that you disciplined your child for sagging pants or that you showed your child how to volunteer for the food bank….  Then come back and share with us how it only took you to do something positive to affect someone else. 

Here’s an example from my week. I was out sick on Monday and when I got back to work on tuesday there was a hand made card on my desk. One of my 8 students had created it and asked others to sign it. Inside she wrote a very nice free verse poem:

“I feel the pain you go through,  When people disrespect you. It’s hard and tough but just the of pink fluffy bunnies, just like you taught me.  You’re very nice and sweet and you changed my life completely. I appreciate the hard work you’ve done, I missed you and hope you get better soon!”

WOW! I never thought I could affect a child like this. All I aim to do is to teach them how to survive school  so when they leave me and return to the places they had problems in they can succeed.  Most students barely remember me. I must have made an impression.   I  Thank God for guiding my words so I can help children.

I look forward to reading your findings!