Top 5 Observations of a Traveling School Nurse
I had the privilege and the challenge of going on my 8th grade son’s school trip to Washington DC in the role of a school nurse. I went as the nurse on my oldest son’s trip to DC as well and found both trips to be eye opening from observing kids behaviors and reactions as well as their connections to each other and the world around them. This trip, I noticed not only the behaviors and reactions of students, but the behaviors and reactions and interactions of the adults on the trip. Overall, I was very proud and reaffirmed that this group of kids showed respect, manners, courtesy and self- control. Watching the million other school groups who were also in DC on this busy week gave me, and hopefully the adults and kids in my group, great perspective and appreciation for what they have.
Here are my observations/ perspectives from this trip:
- When first unleased into the world of freedom of choice, kids can often make poor decisions. Given some time, self-reflection and adult led mirror shining and connecting, kids eventually connect to what works for them and what makes them feel better. I am mainly talking about food as we dined at food court upon food court and the trip began with multiple bags of candy, chips, cookies and… well junk! Did I mention it was a 10-hour ride on the bus? Needless to say, bellies were not feeling fabulous and energy levels were waning by the time we reached the hotel. I was glad to see food and drink choices improved as the trip went on, for the most part. (I was offering lots of suggestions!)
- Kids observe adults as much as adults observe them. They spot hypocrisy and double standards from a mile away. Many adults declare rules or tell kids what to do and what not to do, but then turn around and do the very thing they said not to. As I tell my clients, if you do not eat vegetables, or exercise, do not tell your child to. If you tell your kids to get off their cell phone at the table, but you text away or check emails, do you think they respect your words? Kids behavior and attitudes are modeled after adults. Monkey see, monkey do.
- If you show kids respect, they will give back respect. How we speak to kids and interact with them truly does affect our ability to connect and have an impact on them. I was able to witness some adults speaking in a respectful, reflective and non-accusatory tone when speaking to students, particularly when they witness behavior they wanted to stop or bring awareness to. I witnessed adults speaking down to kids, reactively and accusingly. These were not the adults the students wanted to be around or listen to. These were not the adults they showed much respect to. Another observation along this line was how adults spoke to each other. The same saying applied, “you have to give respect to gain respect, “ or “you attract more bees with honey than vinegar”.
- Some kids were truly uncomfortable at some of the more serious and sad museums such as the Holocaust Museum and some of the memorials. I see this in adults as well and often see this in parents trying to keep their children away from sad or uncomfortable things. It is important to observe and connect to things that may make you uncomfortable. One SHOULD be sad watching the atrocity of the Holocaust and famine and people being killed because they were “different”. It is through observation, connection and reflection, and the discomfort that we stop being observers and take action towards change. It is our job as adults, not to shelter and create a Utopia or a blind citizen, but to connect, process and teach the importance of standing up for what’s right and just. Fight for humanity and equality and foster empathy. To avoid discomfort is to ignore other’s pain and suffering.
- If we want to light a spark or fuel the sparks of creativity, humanity, culture and innovation among our youth, we must speak to them at a level not demeaning, lecturing or condescending, but with respect, enthusiasm, playfulness and passion. We need to connect them with reality, situations that speak to them and give them perspective. One of the guides on our tour was young, fresh out of college, yet worldly, deep and passionate. At the Holocaust Museum, she offered a perspective on random killings by talking to a group of kids about the killings in Cambodia where educated, wealthy and “privileged” people were killed. She pointed at kids with glasses, stated, you have glasses, you would be gone. You have a watch, gone. You are a student- gone.” The kids loved her!
Although my role on these trips are to “give out medications and handle medical situations”, I find I enjoy most connecting to the kids. I like watching the interactions, the connections and be there to facilitate connections, mindfulness, and peace of mind. I absolutely adore kids and find them to be my greatest teachers. We just have to put ego aside and receive.