Making meaningful connections with my three favorite people.
By Brittany Steen, MA, Ed.S
Everyone wants to experience connection. As a child, I remember feeling very connected to my family, my school, and my friends. I loved Kindergarten and flourished throughout most of elementary school. I wasn’t gifted, but I worked hard, finished my assignments, and respected my teachers. I was shy but made friends easily. As a teenager, however, I struggled to make and keep friends, while also struggling with self-doubt. These struggles interfered with my ability to focus on my learning, and I became an average student at best. I graduated high school with a 2.6 GPA. Based on that alone, no one would consider me among the best and brightest. From an outsider’s perspective, I was just your run of the mill student who got lost among the other average kids my age. Inside, I felt isolated and disconnected.
Luckily, a few great teachers and adults entered my life and helped me see I am more than average. Here is one story I’ll share today.
Mr. Klein entered my life as my 10th grade Chemistry teacher. After nearly failing Biology the previous year, I wasn’t feeling too confident about my ability to achieve in science. Mr. Klein thought differently. He didn’t do anything extraordinary, but what he DID DO was implement some simple, yet highly effective, strategies, which empowered me and other kids alike, to experience success. Mr. Klein never brought up my previous bad grades. He never singled me out or put me on the spot. Instead, he placed me near his chalkboard where he took notes. He made eye contact with me. When I did raise my hand to answer questions and was wrong, he remained calm, honest, and ensured I understood before moving on. He established clear behavioral expectations and followed through with calmness and clarity.
I felt respected, heard, and cared for.
I connected with Mr. Klein. This would be the foundation for my success in his class.
Furthermore, he modeled how to take good notes and apply them to similar problems. He clearly taught how to look for key words and phrases. In public education, when analyzing assessments, we call these ‘question stems.’ Mr. Klein taught us which notes to use and study based on a specified question stem. Mr. Klein also allowed us to use “cheat sheets” on our exams. Our cheat sheet could be only one page, but we could put all the important notes needed for the exam on that sheet. I made and used a cheat sheet for EVERY SINGLE EXAM. I never made an A in Chemistry, and over twenty years later, I don’t remember much of the course’s content. I do remember I learned HOW TO LEARN the content. I also learned I was strongly motivated by my deep need to connect with my teacher. If I connected with the teacher, I could connect to the content and the course.
Everybody wants to experience connection. Is your child is struggling to connect with his teachers or the content? Are you struggling to connect with your child? Here at Grassroots Education @ Elbow Tree, we want to connect with you and your struggling learner. We are passionate about diving directly into the need and meeting you and your family in your pain or struggle. We want to come alongside you and your child, engage with you in the struggle, and offer tools to make the struggle surmountable and help you and your child experience connection and wholeness. Feel free to call or set up an initial consultation so we can get to know you.
You can reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone (904) 559-1944, (757) 287-7382, where you can leave a general message for me.
NOTE: Grassroots launches on April 1st, 2019, but feel free to connect with me anytime before then.
Brittany has worked in public education for fifteen years, and is a certified teacher for Students with Disabilities, English Language Learners, and General Education students. She is currently awaiting license approval in Educational Administration and Supervision. Brittany spends most days playing in the dirt and water with her two-year old, giggling with her 6-month old, and sneaking in a romantic date with her husband every chance she can.
by Hayne Steen, LMHC
One of my wife's favorite guilty pleasures is receiving a "word of the day" email from the Urban Dictionary.
On many mornings since she first discovered it, I will wake up to her giggling next to me. Her all time favorite word is "S-T-Ruggling." (Pronounced Ess-Tee-Ruggling)
Here's an example of how it can be used. "Did hear about Tom's broken arm? He is S-T-ruggling!"
Another friend likes to make ironic comments when things are going amazing in his life. He'll say, "the struggle is real, man. The struggle is real!"
Humor is just one of the many ways we attempt to cover up real pain. Numbing is another. So is avoidance.
We all grew up hearing things like, "no pain, no gain."
One popular 80's jingle for a commercial pain reliever covered Carly Simon's famous, "I haven't got time for the pain." The original song hit #14 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and #2 on Billboard Adult Contemporary chart.
Midway through the original song, we hear Carly sing these words...
Suffering was the only thing that made me feel I was alive
Though that's just how much it cost to survive in this world
'til you showed me how, how to fill my heart with love
There is a reason a song about struggle can rises to the top of the charts. We all struggle. We all experience pain. We all suffer.
We do not have to struggle alone. That's why Elbow Tree exists. We want to meet you in your particular situation and serve as a traveling companion as you face those areas in your life or your family's life where you are S-T-Ruggling.
Do you have a struggling learner in your home?
For young people, the pain of "not getting it" academically can leave them carrying loads of unnecessary toxic shame. We are launching GRASSROOTS EDUCATION to serve as a support structure for your children as they face inevitable challenges in their education journey.
Let's partner together!
If you'd like to set up a 10-15 minute free consultation with Brittany Steen, Ed.S feel free to email her at email@example.com or call (904) 559-1944 to leave a general message for her.
by Hayne Steen, LMHC
I have been a struggling learner my entire life.
In elementary school, I craved affirmation and attention from my teachers and peers. I was talkative, active, and impulsive. Keeping me focused for any length of time had to have been a challenging endeavor for my teachers.
Educators were not seemingly equipped to address underlying issues. Year after year, I squeaked by. I often dreamed of turning in excellent work to please my teachers and my parents. Due dates for assignments would come and go, and I would often miss them. I envied my classmates and wondered how they remembered to do their homework. Hundreds of times, I heard myself repeating a familiar phrase out loud in front of everyone. "I forgot to do my homework...again."
I often felt "different" and carried so much shame. Feelings of defeat and discouragement could consume me. I masked it with attempts at humor or not caring.
In the fifth and sixth grade, I spent a lot of time sitting alone at my desk outside of my classroom in the hallway because I was distracting my classmates. My misbehavior was a cry for help. I was drowning academically and the best solution that my teachers could come up with was to isolate me.
I needed more than that. Surely there could have been more helpful interventions.
In sixth grade, my teacher permanently placed my desk behind an enormous blackboard in the back her classroom. She isolated me from engaging socially, telling the class they were not to acknowledge that I even existed. Most days she turned the lights out in that part of the room so I could not seen. Classmates were threatened with severe punishments for talking to or about me.
I left Woodstock Elementary (K-6) and entered into seventh grade at Kemps Landing. It was overwhelming. All year long, I struggled to make even average grades and often felt lost during lectures and exams.
Toward the end of seventh grade, my social studies teacher, Mr. Taylor, reached out to my parents to schedule a parent/teacher conference. I was so nervous about why he wanted to meet with my parents.
Mr. Taylor was genuinely concerned about my readiness to move on academically. He recommended to my parents that I repeat the 7th grade. He spoke those words to them against the grain of what many other school administrators and teachers were recommending for me.
Mr. Taylor's advocacy for me was one of several necessary interventions that saved my life.
When my parents shared the option of being held back with me , I felt so much relief. Finally! I was being given an option that might allow me to have a second chance. I can only imagine what might have happened without his care for me as a struggling learner. His voice and advocacy in my life help reorient me in a whole new direction.
So we decided that I would repeat the seventh grade. In between those two seventh grade school years, I spent time with a school psychologist and professional counselor. My time with her marked by a mixture of meeting one-on-one along with some testing to explore any underlying learning issues. What we discovered was that I had plenty of intelligence but lacked focus, study skills and organization.
I started meeting weekly with a tutor and learning specialist who helped me get organized. She taught me how to focus, take effective notes, how to organize my notebooks, how to record assignments and due dates, how to prepare for tests, and a host of other necessary skills that I have leaned on ever since.
One teacher's advocacy partnered with my parents commitment opened me up to a world of resources that I had been needing and craving. It has been my longstanding desire to offer this same resource to my community someday.
That's why I am so excited to announce that my sister Brittany Steen is launching an amazing new Elbow Tree initiative called "Grassroots Education" offering targeted education services for struggling learners.
If you have a struggling learner in your home who needs some extra individual attention, I'd like to recommend you reach out to Brittany and explore if there might be some way she can help in your situation.
You can reach Brittany by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone (904) 559-1944 where you can leave a general message for her.
NOTE: Grassroots launches on April 1st, 2019.