So there I was, standing outside by my classroom door between classes, greeting students as they entered.  When all of a sudden a young man (we’ll call him Student #2)  whom I wasn’t supposed to see until my last class at the end of the day, comes up to me, holding out his cell phone and says, “Here Ms. Dolen.  I feel bad that Student #1 got in trouble and you took his cell phone away.  I’m the reason his phone went off.”

I said, “Are you sure?”  He looked at me with hesitation, finally nodded, and walked away, leaving me with his iPhone.  (Brownie points right there!  Go Apple products!  But that’s beside the point.)

Flashback to the beginning of school that day:

It was the first class of the day.  The students were reading and all of a sudden I heard a cell phone go off.  Everyone kind of looked around.  And I asked the class, “Who’s was it?”  Normally I don’t have a problem with a student confessing and giving their cell phone to me.  But for some reason no one wanted to admit it.  I looked at everyone and said, “Well, we have about twenty minutes of class left and we’ll stay until I get that phone.”

All of the students grumbled.

I kid you not… three minutes later we all heard it again!  This time, the student right away took the phone out and handed it to me.  But he made sure to say, “It wasn’t mine the first time.”

Uh huh, suuuure.  I mean I guess it could’ve been someone else’s the first time… even though it was the exact same ring tone.  Haha.  But you know how kids are; he probably just didn’t want to get in trouble more for not owning up to it the first time.

After class, I gave the cell phone to the office, in which case the policy at our school is the parent has to come pick it up.

Now when I confiscated the phone, I saw on the screen a text message, with Student #2’s name on it.  He was the one who had texted my I-Block student.

So a few hours rolled by and I guess it got around that I had taken Student #1’s phone and turned it in.  Which brought us to Student #2 bringing me his cell phone, because he felt bad I took Student #1’s phone away.

Imagine that.  A seventh grader.  A 13 year old boy.  Having that much integrity.

My students surprise me all the time.  Like I’ve said before, I often feel like I learn just as much from them as they do from me.

Now the question that floats around in my mind is I wonder where he learned that integrity from?

His parents?  A teacher?  A coach?  Something he read?  Something he saw?  Whoever or whatever he learned it from, it’s just a reminder that young people are watching us.  And also, integrity still exists in this world.  And when we see it, it’s beautiful.

Conditional Love

At the high school I coach at, all the head coaches are currently doing a book study.   I don’t mind it.  I’m an English teacher.  So reading doesn’t bother me.  We’re reading a book titled InsideOut Coaching by Joe Ehrmann.  I recommend this book for coaches, teachers, and even parents.  It gives great insight.  A lot of what I’ve been reading so far has made me think about and even question my coaching and teaching.  (Which I’m pretty sure is the purpose of the book!)  As I was reading this week from Chapter 4, one thing the author said caught my attention and it has been on my mind the past few days.  Needless to say I must write about it:

Conditional love.

We all hear the phrase “unconditional love” or “loving unconditionally”  tossed around here-and-there throughout our lives.  But in this one paragraph of Chapter 4, Ehrmann says something that has really put my brain in a scramble!  He says:

“We may see our children as extensions of our needs for validation, acceptance, and approval.  Their performance has the power to aggrandize or minimize us.  The social status of the parents of the star players increases; parents can beam; parents can be proud of their genetic product– a part of themselves out there performing well.  What’s worse, I see many parents subconsciously make their displays of love conditional by showing more approval and affirmation if their child performs better on the field and less approval after a bad game.”

This really made me think about my coaching and teaching. Even my life as a friend and as a daughter.   I’ve been guilty of subconsciously showing conditional love to my students and players based on their performance.  When in reality, my love and care for them shouldn’t be conditional.  We all have our days, I know.  But I’ll be the first person to admit that most times it’s by my body language and facial expressions that shows my conditional love.  One thing I’ve learned from this book so far is that these kinds of things have lasting impressions on our youth.  The disapproving looks.   The scoffing.  The cold shoulders and silent treatments.  Teenagers will grow up years from now and remember some of these moments of disapproval or conditional love that might still be burning in the backs of their minds.  Whether it’s from a teacher, coach, or even a parent.

I’m thankful as I grew up playing sports that my mom was never conditional towards me with her love based on how well I performed athletically or even academically.  My mother loved me no matter what.  Whether I had 2 points or 20 points.  Whether I stopped every single goal or got mercy-ruled.  She didn’t base her love for me by conditions.

And when I think about it, I’m reminded of the love My Heavenly Father has for me.  His love is unconditional.  I’m so glad He’s not up there wagging His finger at me, or giving me the silent treatment when I mess up in life.  Nope.  He still hears when I call.  He’s still there when I’m not.  He loves me the same on my worst days AND my best days.  His love does not change.  He’s the ultimate example of what love is and what love should look like.

So, if I’m being open and transparent (like I promised I would be back on my very first blog entry), that’s one thing I’m definitely going to focus on this semester:  I don’t want my students or players (or anyone else at that matter) to think I love and care about them only if they perform well; or that I’m only proud of them when they’re being successful.  I want my displays of body language, facial expressions, words, and reactions to match my heart.