11/5/21

From Todd:

If you have been a regular reader of my weekly updates, and I do believe this is a shrinking population of readers, you realize that one of my greatest concerns about children today is the amount of anxiety they feel in their lives. I spoke at length about this concern during my New School interview, and I remain as concerned as ever. The speakers who are coming to the island on Tuesday are here because of our continued and general concerns around anxiety.

In my second year at the New School, I received a phone call from the father of a student who I worked with during my last year at my previous school. The student’s father was asking for a secondary school recommendation for his son Grant. I write dozens of recommendations each year, and I actually enjoy doing them, but this one was very different.

I only worked with Grant during his 7th grade year. He was a brilliant student, a great soccer player, and an accomplished musician, but he was crippled by the onset of anxiety early in his 7th grade year. He needed perfection in his work and in his relationships, and if that didn’t happen he was physically unable to get to school. For months we tried all levels of accommodations to make his school day manageable. We tried late morning arrivals, going to every other class, a private break room, and removing homework. For a few weeks Grant was coming to school for half days and then attending the Anxiety Mastery Program at McLean’s Hospital in the afternoons. In the end, Grant withdrew from school in the middle of his 7th grade year and entered an in-treatment program.

I visited him later that winter at the hospital and spoke with one of his counselors. Grant seemed to be in very good spirits and was doing great, but no clear date for a transition back to a school was on the calendar. As spring emerged and the end of year process took hold, I lost track of Grant’s progress.

So two years later when I received the phone call from Grant’s dad, it was great news. He had found the strategies he needed and was ready for the next steps in his social/emotional and academic journey.

Grant’s story is extreme. I do not want to imply that every student dealing with anxiety will face this path, but every child manages in very different ways. I am hopeful that the speakers next week will educate us all on how to best support our students and children as they navigate this complicated world.

I know you are all busy, but the event on Tuesday night could be the opportunity that provides a better lens to see how children of today are growing up and the unique pressures and challenges that have only been enhanced by Covid.

Please join us at 6:00 on Tuesday in the NNS building. Please RSVP here:



Teeth

I would like to consult a dentist on why November has brought a 500 percent increase in teeth falling out during the school day, but that is exactly what is going on around here.

Today, I overheard a very excited Lower School student arrive in Danielle’s office and rapidly explain that he thought he lost a tooth by accident during a soccer game, and he couldn’t find it.  I continued to listen. His friend kicked him in the mouth, but it was an accident. When I heard that statement I joined the conversation. 

He didn’t think he swallowed the tooth, and he thought he heard something fall on the floor later during class and that could have been his tooth, but it might have been missing at breakfast- he just couldn’t remember.  He was speaking pretty quickly at this point. I checked his mouth and it was clear that a “big boy tooth” was ready to fall into place- dental disaster averted.

Now came the key statement from the student in a very real and very concerned voice, “What am I going to leave under my pillow?”

I looked through my tooth necklace storage box, with a sincere thought that there could actually be someone else’s tooth in there. We could then use that as a forgery for the tooth fairy and the financial reward would be left under the pillow. No luck.

The student then suggested that a note from the principal would be a reasonable replacement for the lost tooth. Since the student was bleeding slightly, I thought it was a great idea, and I didn’t feel like I was cheating the system too much. I stuffed a note of explanation and apology into a red tooth necklace, and as the student ran back to class with a wad of paper towel stuffed in his mouth, I felt like a very creative problem solver. 

However, my feeling of success was short-lived. I left my office to grab a cup of coffee, and a different Lower School student approached me. “Todd, I have a problem. I lost my tooth and can’t find it.” 

Have a great weekend.



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