Friday, October 22, 2010
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Upon returning from our road trip, Cami and I had 10 days to prepare for the Fall semester. In that time the school got a facelift (all at the hands of my husband), we reworked the school schedule and enrolled all our students. Cami spent the majority of the week working on construction projects while I handled most of the administrative tasks. Along with the help of some generous students Cami ripped out desks, painted walls, hung new blinds, updated computers and built new storage compartments. It was a lot of work, but in the end well worth it.
As for the change in school schedule, we now have two groups of students working at different times during the day. From 8am-Noon the residential students are split into a boys and a girls classroom. Then from 1pm-5pm all our non-residential students are in school. There were two main motivations for this:
1. The school was designed for the residential students, to give them a safe environment to focus on their schoolwork without all the distractions and influences of public school. Unfortunately, this wasn’t really happening with our former schedule. Having residents mixed in with non-residents gave them access to money, drugs and a plethora of other temptations the residents are trying to avoid by entering our program. It also made if very difficult to enforce program rules. So although these students had signed-up to be in a residential treatment program, they were given a free pass 8 hours a day – not really an effective path to recovery.
2. Secondly, we are short on staff and this new schedule helps us utilize them most efficiently. Rather than needing teachers for 40 students all day, we simply need them for 20 students twice a day, which reduces the number of classrooms we need running at a time.
Limited staff has always been an issue here at DCA but we are especially low this semester. Technically, we only have 1 part time teacher at the moment. She spends her mornings in the residential girls classroom and then manage our attendance office in the afternoons, as we have lost our secretary as well. Cami runs the other classroom for nine hours a day. He spends the mornings with the residential boys, supervises students during their 30-minute lunch, teaches chapel (the only time all our students are together) and then runs the non-residential classroom in the afternoon. Daily I am impressed with his patience, compassion and consistency as he spends nine hours, without a single break, pouring into angry, unmotivated students. Yet as of this week he has a TA in both of his classes. So he is still in the classroom all day, but at least now he can step out to use the bathroom if he needs.
Although it is an enormous amount of work, Cami has been grateful at the opportunity to return to the classroom with the students and get back to the basics. We spent so many months trying to make the school work with unqualified help that the classrooms were getting out of control. Our enrollment is the smallest it has been (38 students) since we started here 3 years ago, but we believe that we are more effective now than we have been in quite some time.
As for life at home:
Cohen is now 5 months old! I am continually amazed at how he grows and learns so quickly. Just two days ago I was looking at some family pictures we had taken in late July – he looks so different now, much more like a baby and less infant-like. He has been rolling over for about 2 months now, but only rolls from his tummy to his back at will. He scoots around some, and is slowly becoming aware of the fact that he can move himself. He sits up on his own, but much prefers to be standing. And he has started eating more foods. He loves rice cereal! I cannot feed him fast enough; he actually whines a little between each bite because he is so anxious for the next one. Cohen is always full of smiles and really enjoys it when we play with him. He continues to be a happy, laid back baby who already shares his dad’s love of literature. We are so grateful to have him in our lives.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Friday, September 17, 2010
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Six weeks in an RV! Surprisingly, Cami and I loved every minute of it. With 30 feet to share between the three of us, we had plenty of space….but being able to take our home with us as we traveled was the best part. We covered seven states and drove over 5,000 miles on our trip! As you can imagine, there is more to say than should be put in one email. So I have decided to just list the highlights and if anything specific sparks your interest, you can ask and I will tell you more. :)
Some of the best nuggets we came away with are:
- We can and should expect more from the parents/guardians of our students.
- New ways to approach rehabilitating the families alongside the residents.
- Fresh ideas on how to train and equip staff without requiring an excessive amount of time and energy from our already overworked directors.
- Innovative approaches to discipline and handling behavioral issues.
- Some of the latest resource on teaching teens conflict resolution and communication skills.
Things we are most grateful for:
- Becoming a part of a larger community of people working toward the same mission. There are hundreds of people doing what we do around the nation with the same goal in mind: restoring the lives of broken, ‘at-risk’ youth.
- The boundless hospitality and comradery we were met with at each program.
- A chance to take a step back and reassess what we do and why we are here.
Struggles that face us now:
- Funding – every program we visited was 12-15 times more expensive than our program and many of our participants already struggle to cover the tuition.
- Staffing – how do you run a high quality program with qualified personnel when you don’t charge your participants enough to pay them? We need people willing to raise support.
- Where do we go from here? There was much momentum before we left in June, but since returning everyday needs have taken over and the progress has slowed.
A few highlights:
- Many of the programs we visited were close to National Parks, so we visited: the Grand Canyon, Zion, Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons and Coral Reef.
- Camping in the North Cascades with most of the Potter clan.
- Introducing family and friends in Oregon to our handsome baby boy.
- Cohen is a champ and took to life on the road without ever looking back!
I think that is enough for now, but I will post again in another week with news on what life has been like since we returned. Thanks again for all your love and support.