Friday, February 26, 2016


ICE. In Case of Emergency. Its a thing on the cell phone, red font in my contacts. Bixby is my ICE, of course, but so is my father and my sister Bevin. In case of emergency, please call this person. If I'm incapacitated or you don't think I'm going to make it through the night, call them.

I'm Bix's ICE. I'm Brooklyn's ICE. My name and house phone number was for a long time written in permanent marker inside someone's hard hat. I was his ICE. For a while.

In the world of middle school, there is a step down from ICE that we call "trusted adult." When we have class meetings or even sometimes in the middle of class, we will mention things like, "If you're worried about something, talk to a trusted adult." I never assume I am the trusted adult because I'm sure I am for some folks but not for others. I never tell students, "Come talk to ME about it," but instead refer to a trusted adult, to seek out a trusted adult.

Many of my kids last year had the fifth grade teachers as trusted adults. Some of last year's 8th grade boys had me in that place. Many girls in middle school trust, deeply, the Spanish teacher. 

Right now in my homeroom there are a couple of ongoing conflicts. I have some of the details sorted but not all of them. We had a class meeting today and I had four animal archetypes on the walls--sharks, bears, turtles, and owls. We talked about different responses to conflict. 6th graders, remember, still play along sometimes, and I had them split into groups and talk about the archetypes, positives and negatives. Then I had them stand by the animal that best represented them (I'm a bear; most of my class stood by the shark).

After the activity, I had a reflection sheet. Why did you choose your animal? How is your animal good at conflict? How might it make things worse?

On the back of the sheet, I had them reflect on a recent conflict in their lives. This is where I was looking for information on the current problems. All the forms were anonymous.

My last question was "Is there anything you need me to know?"

That question produced mostly "no" but a couple of students had some things to say that it is clear I need to follow up with (even though the form was anonymous, a few wrote their names). There are some problems in my class.

The second last question was "Do you have an adult mediator to go to if you cannot resolve a conflict with a peer? Do you have a trusted adult?"

Everyone answered that question with either "yes" or with an example--parents, coaches, teachers, older siblings. Every child has a connection somewhere, some adult he or she thinks will listen and believe them. Or at the very least, every child knows how to play the game--tell the teacher what she wants to hear.

Except one.

He'd written his name at the top but had erased it. I could still read it. His answers were thoughtful on the front side about the animal activity. On the back side, nothing out of the ordinary, and then that question caught me. Do you have an adult mediator to go to? Do you have a trusted adult?

I don't have one, he wrote out in a full sentence.

He's twelve.

He's twelve years old and he's alone.