For a small little school in central Maine, this campus sure has a lot going on throughout each day.
Our recent weekly updates have shared weather summaries, extra-curricular activities and the anticipation of our next Family Weekend gathering…this week has had all of that, as usual.
This week, I seemed to noticed the many layered human interactions that go on around our campus and also to family members, back home. I have witnessed several communications between residents, staff and family member(s)…and for each interaction that I’m aware of there are likely hundreds that take place that are “under my radar”. You see, we have over 40 residents in our care, over 50 employees, easily 150 family members, and another 30 or so support personnel that can be circulating on any given day. That’s a lot of communication and therefore, a lot of potential for human impact on other humans, both positive and negative.
Early in the week, I sat in on a group of residents who were annoyed with one another and the air was charged with negativity. The group was asked to rate their day together and they replied that it was a 5 out of 10. We talked about how this 5 had come about and what could be done to move to a higher 7, or 8, perhaps? Their suggestions we brisk and on point. “Avoid comments that are negative”…”cut back on sarcasm, because sarcasm can really hurt some of us”…”be more accepting and respectful of one another”…”be less selfish and try more to make a peer’s day better”…”focus more on what I need to do, instead of what I think someone else should do”. Not bad for a collection of 14-17 year olds!
I then asked, if you are currently in this negative space and you clearly have good ideas on things that can be done to make it better, why are you allowing your day to be a 5? The replies were equally brisk. “Habit”…”I don’t feel confident”…”peer pressure/jealousy”. Wrapping up, it was agreed that it was mostly due to a lack of awareness, that it was a learned fall back behavior, that it was the easier of the two options and most importantly, that the selection of behavior didn’t make any sense at all.
Why are we so quick to judge, to criticize, to undermine, embarrass and humiliate? Why do we do this when we all know how easy it is to offer support, acceptance, understanding and mutual respect? Why do we move away from these powerful tools of connection, when connection is needed now, more than ever?
Later in the week, I was able to revisit with this group who reported their new day to be a “7”. Not by chance, their actions reflected an understanding of their conceptual suggestions that were given two days earlier. They were reporting back on their choices, knowing they were more on course, than before.
This relational contrast has been highly visible at Ironwood this week and I have observed positive and negative actions within each of the groups mentioned above. When a visible transition takes place that move us to 7+ days (or higher), the resident and family impact can be truly awesome. These young people showed me that they have an awareness of what they need to do and I suspect that we are all of similar design and capacity. Perhaps we all just need to try harder to “do it” more (myself included)?
Thank you for putting your trust in Ironwood and we hope you have a wonderful weekend.