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When children walk past me each morning I give them either get a hug or a high-five.

She wanted neither.

I have learned I know that I should not take it personally. But I can’t help it. Sometimes I do. On this particular day it made a little bit more sense to me. I had recently given her a consequence that made her angry.

That was a couple of days ago though. Today was a brand new day. And I had forgiven her.

I got word from her teacher she had had a good morning. Then something happened outside at recess. Nobody knew exactly what. So she left her classroom. I was called to come talk to her. Before conditions escalated. As they have in the past.

I found her and she reluctantly came with me to a classroom that was empty. So that we could talk. At least that was what I had hoped. Oftentimes she doesn’t though. Oftentimes she just ignores me. No matter how hard I try.

Earlier in the week I had been in her classroom for over forty minutes. I politely attempted to engage her four or five times.


Worse than nothing.

She completely ignored me.

How disrespectful!

On the outside I stayed calm. But on the inside I was furious!

Maybe today would be different. Maybe today she would choose to be respectful. Because I am the assistant principal. And she is just a seven-year old child.

I asked her why she was upset. No response.

I asked her to talk to me. Nothing.

I asked her to sit down across from me. No movement.


“After I talk to you, can I return to my class?”

I agreed.

In this particular instance, the only thing she had done wrong was leave the class without permission. I told her that I only needed a minute.

So she sat down. And she gave me a little insight into why she was upset. I listened. Then I spoke. Just a little. I knew that sometimes she visits a family member who lives down the street from me. I asked her if maybe next summer she would want to go crabbing with my daughter and I. She nodded. I think. I’m not certain.

The minute was up. And I let her walk back into class. By herself.

With about ten minutes left in the day I was paged to the same room in which I had had my one minute chat. I was relieved to see that it wasn’t for her.

It was for a young man who was angry and had made a mess in an empty classroom. I simply informed him that he had to clean it up. So I sat down against the wall and just waited while he began cleaning up. And then. Out of the blue. She left her room again. But this time she had permission. This time …

She had earned a small pack of Star Wars stickers for turning her day around. And she wanted to give me one.


She handed it to me and I immediately stuck it on my shirt. With the pride of a newly appointed four star general. And just like that. She was back in her room.

I couldn’t believe what had just happened. The child who never wanted to talk to me. Who would sometimes pull away from me and other times walk away from me. Gave me a sticker.

What am I, five years old!?

I was so excited. I was so proud of myself for not having given up on this child. But I did not wake up at four am to share my story. I woke up early because I wanted to share hers’.

I am the adult. I am paid to care. I should care. I am not going to give up on a child. That is my job!

But her? What made her decide not to give up on me?

I am not sure. But I am glad she didn’t.

When I was finally done patting myself on the back. And was able to take a step back. I realized something.

Sharing is not always easy. Opening up is not always easy. Especially with those that hold some sort of authority over us. Oftentimes it is easier just to keep our worries to ourselves. To remain safe and guarded.

And yet everyday we expect children to trust us with their innermost thoughts and concerns. Why?

Do we do the same? Or do we keep some of them guarded? I think if we are honest with ourselves, we would all admit that we keep a guard by the door.

As always, the children that I work with have much to teach me.

She could have given up on me. But she didn’t.

Never before has one little sticker meant so much.

6 comments on “One Little Sticker

  1. Our kids come to us with so much emotional baggage, and we’re here to lighten their loads. It’s not easy. It it were, we’d have to turn folks away from the profession. đŸ™‚ Keep learning!

    1. jonharper70 says:

      I couldn’t agree more. Thanks for reading.

  2. Jena Ball says:

    Hi Jon,
    I am struck as always by your insights. This time, this comment grabbed my attention: “…everyday we expect children to trust us with their innermost thoughts and concerns.” AND everyday we put them in situations that teach them that their innermost thoughts and concerns are dangerous to reveal, especially if they are one of the many who do not learn in the ways or at the pace our system demands. Is it any wonder that many if not most of us are guarded; that we compare, judge and compete – do everything to prove that we are better than or more deserving than others? This is what our current education model teaches. That is why I love reading your stories about how you “see” and nurture the children in your care. I have no doubt that your little friend watched, listened, tested and listened to her heart before she gave you that sticker. You earned it. May the force of empathy and compassion continue to be with you. And please keep sharing your stories.

    1. jonharper70 says:

      I promise I will keep sharing. I am hooked and I feel it is something I have to do. Hard to explain, but when I don’t write I go through withdrawal. Thanks for the thoughtful comment.

  3. What perfect timing, thank you! I was thinking about this very topic as I drove home this evening from visiting my family. Often I DON’T share because I feel that my students have enough burden with their own difficult lives. Perhaps this would be a step I could take to deepen the trust with my students.

    1. jonharper70 says:

      I am certain you are a master at building trust. I always enjoy your reflections.

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