The Confrontation - Integrity
Hello, again on these longer and sunnier days. Spring is right around the corner! I do enjoy hearing from you about this blog ASK CASA – Advocate. Seek. Know. about all things CASA just for you – CASA Advocates. Welcome back to those who have been reading the blog, and “Hello!” to the new readers. I’m sure you’ll find a blog or two that really speaks to you. If not, feel free to let me know what you’d like to talk about using the link on this web page to communicate. Thank you to those who have submitted questions and comments. ASK CASA is your space to share your CASA questions and concerns with me, and it’s my space to share my CASA Advocate experiences and stories with you. Read on!
This next blog for ASK CASA will once again focus on you – your mental and emotional health. Past blogs focusing on you have discussed Self Care – Self Aware and Good Fit. Today, we’ll be discussing Integrity. No, wait! The title is “The Confrontation.” Yes, I know. That’s the hook to pull you in. The confrontation is my CASA story in this blog to illustrate the importance of having and practicing integrity. You’ll like it!
Integrity then, is about knowing and understanding who you are. We’ll define integrity, look at features associated with it and how those features apply to you and your work as a CASA Advocate, and then I’ll close my confrontation story.
Actually, I will even start with a story – the story of how I became a CASA Advocate. My CASA journey began in the spring of 2013 at CASABlanca, the annual CASA Presents fundraiser for Brown County. I knew I would be retiring from teaching elementary school that spring, so I was open to learning about volunteer opportunities involving children, and for me especially, young children. I was so moved by the CASA Presents program with stories of advocates being the only consistent adult presence in a child’s life, and stories from the Family Court judges who firmly believe in the power of a CASA to change a child’s life – for the better. If there had been a sign-up sheet that night at CASABlanca, I would have signed on the dotted line. As it was, I returned to the last few months of teaching knowing that I had a new and exciting ‘career’ waiting for me in retirement. Those who know me, know that I would do anything for a child. As a CASA Advocate, I now had a future full of children and families to get to know and support and love.
So, back to the topic. Let’s talk about integrity. What is integrity? I like to think of it as a whole, complete and undivided existence grounded in qualities like honor, truth, responsibility and dependability. I’m sure that many other and just as powerful qualities have popped into your mind, and I’m sure they would fit into the definition. The ones I’ve mentioned are ones that work for me personally.
I wanted to start by introducing you to my teaching life because that was really the beginning of my awareness of knowing and understanding who I am – my integrity. An assignment from an upper level teaching methods course was to develop my personal philosophy of education. This was where I put pen to paper to define who I am, how I would teach, and how I would interact with students, parents, families, administrators, grade-level peers, faculty and staff. I am pleased that my personal philosophy of education has withstood the test of many decades of teaching – and being a CASA Advocate – without editing. Now, I am happy to share it with you.
Deb’s Personal Philosophy of Education:
“Children are not things to be molded; they are people to be unfolded.” Beliefs that support this premise are:
1) All children can learn.
2) Learning is a continuous process.
3) We all have some knowledge or insight we bring to this world.
Therefore, we should be compelled to learn from one another even as we learn about one another.
As I said, this has withstood the test of time over many decades. I would love to hear your thoughts and comments about my grounding statement that allowed me to be an effective teacher and then, a CASA Advocate, along with being a devoted spouse, mother and grandmother by knowing and understanding who I am.
Merriam-Webster defines integrity as: 1) firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values; 2) an unimpaired condition: soundness; 3) the quality or state of being complete or undivided: completeness. Human Resource business models often embrace other words such as balance, fairness, decency, and always doing the right thing – even when nobody is watching.
Components of integrity include generating trust, keeping promises, helping others. Individuals who have and practice true integrity usually exhibit characteristics such as authenticity – no lying or being fake; believing in others that they are authentic; humility and giving credit where credit is due; apologizing first and remaining civil over disagreements; showing kindness and sensing when something is bothering someone; doing good for others and not taking advantage of others.
Your work as a CASA Advocate may put you in areas of your community that you typically wouldn’t be in – different neighborhoods and, perhaps even courtrooms. It may put you in situations that you have never been in before – interacting with people unlike yourself such as LGBTQ or different ethnicities. Or, it may require that you reach out and connect with various agencies like human services, schools, day cares, foster families, and summer programs, just to name a few. So, knowing and understanding yourself – who you are and what you believe – is key to being effective in your work as a CASA Advocate.
If you haven’t already thought about who you are, take a few minutes each day over the course of the next week or so to think and perhaps, journal about the word integrity and the qualities associated with it: dependability, respectability, trust, humility, honesty. Try crafting your own personal life philosophy to practice. I’m sure you are already highly integrated, but we all have something we need to work on. Ask yourself these questions: Are you empathetic? Are you a good listener? Are you open to new ideas? Can you forgive and forget? Is your life balanced? Are you authentic? Do you dependably do the right thing – even when no one is watching?
Then, consider why you became a CASA Advocate in the first place. What it is about you that makes you smile and feel good while helping others, along with what you know others would say about you when you are not present. For example: “Oh, that Colton! He’s always smiling and happy. He greets everyone. Just the other day, Colton asked me how I was doing since my dad died. He really listened. I like being around Colton because he never gossips. I know when he says he’ll do something or be somewhere to help someone, he will. Colton never lets anyone down.” Colton obviously knows who he is and how he can genuinely help others. He is authentic, balanced, fair, and humble. His life is integrated. And, I would guess that everyone enjoys being around Colton because they see him as a sincere person. How are you like Colton?
At last, here is my story. It is from my first CASA case where knowing and understanding who I am helped me to be gracious while protecting the confidentiality of my case.
Toward the end of the first year of the case, I visited my three little CASA boys on Thursday afternoons from 4:30-5:30 at the duplex where they had been living for about six months. To reach their house, I turned off the road onto a long driveway that passed by two other duplexes in the same complex. Since there were always lots of kids playing on the driveway or riding bikes and skateboards, I drove very slowly. After all, I was driving on their ‘playground.’
As I approached the first duplex, a woman walked in front of my car and planted herself, arms crossed, at my car window. Of course, I stopped. She was so close; I didn’t want to run over her toes! She tapped on the glass and signaled for me to put the window down. My doors were locked, so I put the window down.
The woman leaned on my car door and said: “Where you goin’ girl? Whatcha doin’ here – again? I been watching you. Who are you, anyways?”
She wasn’t invading my space nor was she threatening me. So, I looked at her and smiled while I thought through my reply.
(I’m sure you know how a situation can develop in slow motion while your mind can process at lightning speed. That’s what was happening to me! My teaching brain kicked-in and I thought about exchanges with parents who thought their child should have gotten an A rather than a B+ on a project. I recalled cooperating with my grade level team and choosing their teaching ideas that worked – not just my teaching ideas. Phrases from my Philosophy of Education popped into my mind: “Learning is a continuous process. . . . we should be compelled to learn from one another even as we learn about one another.” I knew I had to think about why this neighbor had been watching me and wondering what I was doing there every week. I knew I had to be honest and truthful in explaining why I was in the neighborhood while maintaining the confidentiality of my CASA case. And, I knew I had to be respectful and kind to her. Here was a teaching/learning opportunity.) Those were the thoughts racing through my head as I smiled and looked at this inquisitive woman.
“Hi!” I said. “Those are wonderful questions! I am here to visit my friend. (no names). I come once a week to help with the boys. And I’m glad you are watching out for me each week. Thanks. I’ll wave to you next week. Bye!’” I waved, put the window up and slowly drove forward. As I replied, the woman’s body relaxed, she uncrossed her arms and stood up – away from my car. That’s how I was able to close the window and slowly, but carefully drive forward. I glanced in my rearview mirror and noticed she was waving! I had a new friend who would be watching for me every week.
So, what had transpired here? I’ve often thought about that incident from spring 2014. I truly believe that because my Philosophy of Education is a powerful part of who I am, what I believe, and how I live my life, that subconsciously I was very prepared to answer all those ‘peppery’ questions. Integrity, indeed. I’m always thankful my practiced integrity helped to deescalate that potentially explosive situation.
Did you notice that I didn’t give my name or say who I was visiting or why? (CASA confidentiality.) I didn’t even mention CASA or show the ID badge I was wearing. Even though the woman ‘wanted’ to know all that information she was asking about, I knew she didn’t need to know it. She also didn’t need a sales presentation on CASA at that point either! There is quiet power in knowing, understanding, and practicing who you are.
So, keep yourself integrated. Keep yourself grounded in qualities that enable you to work with and for others. Keep being that dependable, reliable CASA Advocate who is always there for a child, doing what is right – even when no one is watching. Keep making a difference in a child’s life and stay humble.
Before I sign-off, here is the second set of conversation starter questions to get you “Talking with Kids.” Remember, always end with deeply genuine and encouraging words of thanks for sharing.
Friends and School
What kinds of things do you do at recess? (Younger children)
What do you want to do when you graduate? College? Tech School? Job?
Tell me about who is in your family.
Tell me about dinnertime at your house.
I would love your feedback on this new blog feature “Talking with Kids.” What conversation starters have worked (or not) for you? What questions are hard? What questions are easy? What are you doing with the answers?
And, keep your other questions, concerns, and comments coming for ASK CASA – Advocate. Seek. Know. the place where we can connect about all things CASA for CASA Advocates. Let me know what you discovered about your integrity and how knowing and understanding yourself helped you as a CASA Advocate. I’m looking forward to hearing from you about what you want to discuss in this blog that is just for you. Until then, just ASK – Advocate. Seek. Know.
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Hello and welcome to ASK CASA – Ask. Seek. Know. - the blog where your questions and concerns as new or veteran CASAs will be addressed by an experienced CASA Advocate – that’s me, Deb! While I’m here to lead you through discussions to answer your questions and to...