A Very Important Question
Photo taken by Mayur Gala
He began the day angry and frustrated. I didn’t see him in the morning, but knew that he had to be redirected several times. This was not uncommon for him, but we have begun to put some things in place that should make his days more successful.
But his walk to lunch was not pretty. He was angry once again. Kicking the wall and lagging behind his class, it was apparent that something wasn’t right. The wall was not hurt, but he clearly was. On the inside he was struggling just to make it through the day.
I spoke with him briefly, but knew that lunch was enough of an incentive to get him where he needed to be. So I didn’t linger.
About an hour later I was called to his classroom. Once again he was struggling. At this point I knew it was time for something different. Reluctantly he made his way to my office. I had had it! I informed him that he was going to be receiving a consequence that would result in him going home. We have been doing so much to help this young man and yet he still was not fulfilling his end of the bargain!
Mediation after mediation. Discussion after discussion. Time after time. Over the past year I have spent many hours with this young man. And still this! Once he heard that he would be going home he became even more upset. He continued to plead for a second chance. But in my mind it was too late.
As I thought about what to do next I couldn’t help but notice that the young man had something in his hand. It was yellow and tattered by the this point in the day.
It was his birthday ribbon.
Today was his birthday.
I still had to figure out how to calm this young man down and get him to stop taking his frustrations out on the world around him. So I decided to try something unorthodox. I prepared the staff member that was in my office with me. I didn’t want him to be alarmed by what I was about to do. I knew that he wouldn’t. But I wanted to at least give him some warning.
And then I went over to my wall and kicked it. Several times. Then I grabbed a hand full of magnetic letters and threw them. All the while, being very careful to make sure that no thing or person was in any danger. I needed this young man to see what he looks like when he has his fits.
Not to embarrass him. But to allow him to see what it looks like from the other side of anger. I am not sure if it worked, but my colleague did say that the young man was quite surprised when he saw my fake tantrum. Immediately afterwards I made it clear to him that I was not mad. As I mentioned, he and I have spent many hours together and he knows exactly how I feel about him.
Or at least, I hoped he did.
But I wanted to make sure.
So I asked him.
“How do I feel about you?”
He mumbled something unintelligible.
My phone began to ring.
I told him that I was going to answer it. And that when I was done I was going to ask him the question one more time. If he answered it correctly, he could stay in school. If he did not, he was going home.
I put down the phone. Walked over to him. Knelt down in front of him and asked him again.
“How do I feel about you?”
In a quiet, but clear voice, he responded
“You love me.”
“Exactly!” I informed him. “And don’t you ever forget it!”
He finished the day well.
I’m sure he will still have days in which he struggles. But I hope they are fewer and far between.
Did I do the right thing by letting him stay? By throwing a fake tantrum? I don’t know.
Only time will tell.
What I do know is that I work with people everyday that love kids. And they let them know it. We at Sandy Hill Elementary show and tell our students each and every day that we love them. But this doesn’t stop us from reminding them!
Because you can never tell a child too many times how much you care about them.
“If there is any secret to this life I live, this is it; the sound of what cannot be seen sings within everything that can. And there is nothing more to it than that.”