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With the approach of Valentine’s Day, a very busy day for counselors due to broken or lonely hearts, I thought it would be worthwhile to consider the importance of practicing reciprocity, the ability to give to and receive from others. The ability to give and take in a balanced manner will pay off large dividends in all types of relationships, be it friendships, parent-child, dating relationships, spouses and even co-workers who share a very small office…right, Eva?
Let’s look at reciprocity using the familiar saying, “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours”. Growing up it was a fairly common practice for my siblings and me to tickle each other’s backs when we were on long road trips in the car. And, you can be sure of one thing, there was an equal amount of giving/taking going on. No one was going to receive a back tickle without giving equally back to the giver. Not if they ever wanted a turn of receiving again! We were even known to use our watches or number of songs played on the radio to be as “fair” as possible. Without a perceived balance, back-tickling would have been abandoned, likely after arguing.
So, what are the possible variations to this quote? Really, there are three:
- You Scratch My Back, I’ll Scratch Yours—two people in a relationship who want to have a mutual, balanced amount of give/take. It may not always be 50/50. In fact, that is unlikely. But there is clear evidence of each person giving and receiving in an equitable way. Typically, both people in this relationship are content with the relationship. This relationship has a good chance of enduring over time and providing both people with happiness and satisfaction.
- You Scratch My Back, I Won’t Scratch Yours—two people in a relationship wherein one is a giver but not a receiver and one is a receiver but not a giver. This relationship is vulnerable because while the receiver typically remains satisfied, the giver may struggle with feeling unappreciated. The relationship may start out okay but gradually becomes problematic as the giver’s needs for nurturance and attention go unmet or met at a very low level.
- You Won’t Scratch My Back, I Won’t Scratch Yours—two people in a relationship where neither gives and both take. But, what is there to take? Neither is giving. So, while this might work in the short-term, this relationship is set up for failure. These relationships tend to be volatile because although each person is not giving, both likely want to receive. Therein lies the tension. Indifference, frustration, anger and resentment brew.
To point out the importance of balancing the act of giving/receiving, whether it be back rubs or sharing a quality conversation or anything, really, I use a great activity that leads to lots of discussion by the participants. This activity is good for intermediate elementary, middle school, high school, and college students. Adults in a group setting would also find it revealing. Click the following link if you are interested in previewing the whole-class or small-group activity: YOU SCRATCH MY BACK, I’LL SCRATCH YOURS: The Give and Take in Relationships
Things have sure changed since I went to school. Some may say for the good, some may say for the worst but either way life is different than I knew it. I was raised in an era where the lunch ladies made home cooked meals, the president’s wife wasn’t worried about how much sodium we had and it was unusual to see an overweight child. We never heard of peanut or tree nut allergies, there didn’t need to be laws allowing student to carry their epi pens and (gasp) we really did walk to school no matter what the weather.
I wouldn’t trade those years for anything.
I was also a student with type 1 diabetes. And as I see what children encounter with their diabetes in schools I am thankful I grew up when I did. I took my insulin at home, in the morning and evenings, watched what I ate and when I did check my blood sugar it was at home. There were no school staff reviewing numbers making me feel “good” or “bad” based on a reading I often couldn’t control. My sister and friends looked out for me, and the one time I drank a regular Pepsi in front of a teacher she called my dad (who also happened to be a principal).
Diabetes care has advanced tremendously since that time, but it’s also made things a bit more challenging for both students and teachers. For students, it has to feel somewhat like being under a microscope. Over the years I have had well-meaning staff do things that would make any child hate to come to school. Checking blood glucose becomes an ordeal as does taking insulin. Counting carbohydrates is a challenge and well-meaning people question what kids are eating. With that, I would just like to offer school staff a few thoughts about children with diabetes from the perspective of someone who has been around the block a bit.
1- Diabetes is always there. Kids do not get a day off. 24/7 children with diabetes are living with this often exasperating condition. Please do all you can to make their routine “normal”. Depending on the age and developmental ability of kids some are fine checking blood glucose in the classroom. Often they know much more about their bodies than anyone else. Give kids as much flexibility as you can in making those decisions.
2- Don’t refer to children as “the diabetic”. Granted, I hear this more in my nursing peers than I do from other school staff. As someone with diabetes I am offended when someone tries to define me with that label. I happened to develop a condition that I didn’t choose but it does not describe who I am. It’s much less offensive to use language like “the child with diabetes” etc. Just be aware of the impact of your words.
3- Learn what to do. The biggest worry in school is low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Know the signs and be prepared to respond. I would hope that everyone has nurses in the schools to help provide training (but as we know this is an area sorely lacking in our prosperous country). If you don’t have someone to train you, talk to parents and access information available for school staff on the American Diabetes Association website.
4- Make sure you have what you need to respond to a low blood sugar reaction. Parents should supply snacks and supplies but unfortunately not every child has parents who do so on a regular basis. Rather than spend your time fighting, ask the nurse or principal to get a tube or two of glucose gel. You can also use cake gel (it must be GEL, not icing, the icing has more fat and takes longer to absorb). That way you have a cheap and quick way to respond and prevent an emergency situation.
5- Know that if he/she has high blood sugar then there will need to be extra trips to the bathroom. I’ve heard lots of staff talk about how kids abuse the system to “take advantage”. There are lots of psychological issues than can come with diabetes that become classroom management issues. That is a topic for another blog! But do know that it is very real for a child to need extra trips to the bathroom when blood sugars are running high.
6- Low or high blood sugar levels can interfere with test-taking abilities. These kind of things should all be addressed in a health plan, and often students with diabetes will also have a 504 plan.
7-Families are taught to count carbohydrates not limit foods. Children with diabetes have the same nutritional needs as any other child. They can eat cupcakes and other treats, it just has to be covered with insulin (either via pump or by an injection)- they should have access to the same treats the other students have.
Over my years in school health I have seen the number of students with type 1 diabetes increase. It’s the rare occasion for schools not to have at least one student with diabetes. Please know they often feel “alone” in their condition. When I was a child my parents packed me off to “Camp Kno-Koma” for two weeks every summer (I am NOT making the name up- that’s what it was called) where for once I was not the weirdo. We all had to do the same thing and I didn’t feel like everyone was staring. Be aware of those feelings in your students. Those thoughts will vary by child but sometimes kids just want to have a “normal” day.
Diabetes care at school is a team effort, and some days are easier than others. The more you know, the more comfortable parents will feel sending their child to school and the more confident you will feel in being able to respond to the needs of the kids in your care!!
IMPORTANT: In order for time out to work, you must first understand the function of the student’s behavior. If his behavior is to avoid work, then time out is giving him what he wants. Make sure he has the skill to perform the task and try to motivate the student.
- The location of your time out should be in an area you can easily supervise and is not in view of other students. Some students are embarrassed and need privacy to recover. Some will enjoy disrupting others and try to create a power and control battle with you. I always made my time out spot with a sturdy shelf (would not turn over) against a wall with room for a beanbag, or file cabinet and beanbag, or 3-sided wall partition and a bean bag. This is NOT an isolated time out room. There are specific laws about isolation rooms and, frankly, I don’t believe they belong in school.
- My rules were:
- I don’t hear you.
- I don’t see you (means student stays in time out spot).
- Time out is 2 minutes.
These rules are unusual in that they are negative and go against the “dead man rule” (if a dead man can do it, it’s not a good rule). However, I did not care if the student was rolling on the floor, hiding under the beanbag (happened often), was trying to stand on his head, or was lying on his back with feet in the air. I did not want to engage in a power struggle on how to sit in time out. I just want him to stay in the time out spot and to be quiet in order to not disrupt the rest of the class. That’s all. The general rule for minutes in time out is 1 minute per age of the child. I found two minutes was usually enough. If a child was calm and compliant in two minutes, why wait another 6 minutes just because he was 8 years old? If a child was not compliant in two minutes, I waited until he was compliant. Sometimes that would take several minutes, but I would check on him every two minutes. It sounds time consuming but it is not. Takes seconds.
- On a desk or shelf outside the time out spot is a basket with Time Out Notes and pencils.
- When the child is ready to follow directions, he steps out to get one Time Out Note and a pencil. He goes back into the time out area to fill out the note. The first line, “I chose time out when,” helps the child understand he had a choice and it was his behavior that led to time out. The next line, “next time I will,” helps him choose a replacement behavior. The next line, “I need to apologize to,” helps the child understand his behavior affected someone else and he needs to correct that. Some adults feel a child should only apologize if the apology is sincere. I think it is good practice to apologize whether it’s sincere or not. When a student is still agitated, he may yell out for help or complain he doesn’t understand the Time Out Note. This is another sign he is not yet compliant. Calmly tell him you will help when he is in time out quietly for 2 minutes.
- The student does not choose when to come out of time out. The teacher invites the student to return by giving the student a request, “Sam, come talk to me, please.” DO NOT ASK “Are you ready to follow directions?” or “Are you ready to come out of time out?” Some of your toughest kids will be ready to come out of time out but are not ready to be compliant. When I request a student to come talk to me, I am observing if he is being resistant or compliant. I often will also give a quick request as he is walking towards me (“Please push in that chair”, “Please bring me that book,” “Please throw that paper in the garbage”). This is to give the student practice following my directions. I can immediately assess if he is going to be complaint by doing that. If he is not compliant, I simply tell him it seems he is not ready and send him back to time out. Sometimes you will have a student who refuses to come out of time out. That’s ok. He’s just trying to get in a power struggle. Don’t play. Just tell him you will check on him in a couple of minutes…then ignore him. He eventually will get tired of being in time out and will be willing to be compliant.
- After you and the child quickly review the Time Out Note together, politely tell the child what he needs to do to get back engaged in class. For example, “Joe, after you apologize to Bob, join the blue group for this science project.” You want to make sure you help the student be successful.
- Some students need time out often. That’s ok. Four 2-minute time outs are better learning experiences than one 20-minute time out. I remember when I sent a student to time out for the fifth time, he yelled, “I’m sick of time out!” I calmly responded, “Then simply follow directions.” That was his last visit to time out.
- There is absolutely no justification for a teacher to be angry when putting a student in time out. Nor should a teacher feel like she “got him”. Time out is not a matter of the teacher winning and the student losing. If you have these feelings, you are misusing time out. Time out is an absence of reinforcement. It is an opportunity for the student to recover and change his behavior. So, when a student returns to the class, he has a clean slate.
- File the Time Out Note. This data can be graphed for analysis.