I'm the "Principal" of a day treatment program. We've been implementing Collaborative Problem Solving since I started in this position about three years ago. Despite the many distinct challenges in my work, I wouldn't trade a day of it for any other job! I feel like I am able to witness multiple tiny miracles on a daily basis here. How many people are lucky enough to do THAT and get paid for it? The following is an excerpt from some of my writings on the experience:
Our students come to us having been through an unbelievable amount of hardship in its various forms. Most have been moved around to multiple facility placements in order to get academic services or have their basic needs met. In fact, many of the students at our day treatment program have been told by someone in authority that our facility is their last chance to “make it work” before out of home placement or incarceration in the juvenile justice system occurs. At the extreme risk of sounding “oppositional” (a label carried by many kids who enroll in our program), I don't think the primary responsibility for figuring things out and making things work should fall on the shoulders of our children. After all, the adult caregivers who are charged with helping young people have fully developed frontal lobes (the area of the brain responsible for decision making, problem solving, critical reasoning, emotion regulation, learning from past mistakes, and impulse control; typically developed completely by age 25). The young people in our society are in the midst of developing the brain pathways that will form the frontal lobe. They literally do not possess many of these abilities. It is our responsibility, as adults working to help kids, to teach these skills, remove barriers, and help solve problems. It's our job to accept our young people, exactly as they are, and help them learn the skills they will need to be successful in the world. Our kids do everything they can to help us in that pursuit, but their past injuries at the hands of various well-meaning adults in authority can build a wall that seems insurmountable at times.
Sometimes, in fact, we lose kids. They don't fall through the proverbial cracks as much as they fall through our fingers, my fingers. We get tired and give up. We don't think we're getting anywhere. We allow our measures of success to be influenced by our personal values and set the mark too high. We come to believe that these kids aren't worth our time. As much as I am haunted by the kids that we couldn't seem to reach -- wondering sometimes during those rare sleepless nights if there was one more word I could have said, one more thing we could have done that would have tipped the balance -- I know that our focus needs to rest on the 23 kids currently entrusted to our care for approximately 30 hours every week. They are incredible. And, just in case it has never happened before, I want to declare publicly that I am proud, honored, and humbled to call each of them "our students". I'll put the bumper sticker on my car that says this: OUR students are Phoenixes, super heroes; and if we are paying attention, they teach us every day what it means to be resilient, to rise every time we fall, to keep finding hope and love in a world that has seemed impossibly cruel. Okay, that would make for a pretty LONG bumper sticker, but our kids deserve it. Like many other things in their lives, a "typical" bumper sticker could not define the idiosyncratic characteristics of these amazingly gifted young people!