Making it all worthwhile…..

…….There are a hundred times a week when I think, “I can’t deal with this crap any more!!!”  After twenty plus years, I am just getting really tired of the social dramas of children.  “He was being mean to me!”  and “She hurt my feelings!” Gah!

It’s at its worst when the children involved are able to clearly articulate what it is that they have done wrong.  Its incredibly frustrating when they tell you, with big eyes and serious faces, “I know it’s not acceptable to call people names just because they like Pokemon, but I did it anyway.”

Sometimes the only logical response seems to be, “Dude, are you SERIOUS?”

But every once in a while, you have that rare moment when you realize just how vital those conversations can be for the kids. Today I had one of those conversations, and the payoff was really sweet.

I have a little boy in my class who is a very good athlete.  He can be a little cocky about his soccer skills, and sometimes this leads to conflict with his peers.  Like when he says, “I could totally school you any time I want.” Or the times when he tries to make up the rules to the game as the game is being played, and has to come to terms with the fact that 20 kids agree that he is out, even though he insists that the ball was “on the line” and that he gets a do-over.

This boy is a confident jock. He is a powerful fifth grader. He is a leader.

But during the course of this school year, I have come to realize that he is also a gentle soul, a beautiful singer, a flirt, a boy who loves his Mom and a very sensitive child who is trying hard to find his place in a big scary world.

I have mediated at least ten conflicts this year in which this boy has been a major player.

So today, when a sixth grade colleague showed up and asked to speak to this student, I cringed a bit and expected him to have been the aggressor.  I let her bring him out into the hall for a conversation.  When he came back into the classroom, I glanced his way, only to find him absolutely ashen, sitting with his head down.

I was surprised and a little worried!  What on earth had happened?

I asked the recess assistant.  ‘What did he do?’, was how I phrased it.

So she told me that another student, a sixth grade big kid, had called my boy a “really inappropriate name” and that mine had reported it to an adult.  Now he was feeling worried about having started trouble.

So I asked him, “Hey, do you need me? Want to talk?”

At first he said no, but after a little while, he came up to me and said, “I might need to talk to you in a while.”   Just as the day was ending, he asked if we could talk.  So of course, we did!

This poor little guy, the child of an upper middle class family, was so horrified by the bad language that he couldn’t even get himself to repeat it to me. He hemmed and hawed but finally admitted (using spelling and gestures) that the other kid had called him a “fucking dick”.   He was so aghast at the profanity that he had gone to an adult.  Now he was having second thoughts. “I’m afraid I’ve made an enemy”, he told me gravely.  “Maybe I should have just stayed quiet.”

“So why did you speak up?”, I asked.   He wasn’t sure, but with a little prompting, he finally murmured “It just isn’t right to talk that way.”  We chatted for about ten minutes.  I asked him what he thought would have happened if he hadn’t spoken up.  With some guidance, he came to the realization that “He would have kept saying those bad things. Maybe to a really little kid, or to someone who’d be more upset than me!” I asked him what message the cursing boy would get if he had remained silent. “I guess he’d think that I like that kind of language.”  I did my best to reassure him, but mostly I just let him talk and come to his own conclusions.

Finally, the day was over, and it was time for me to send the students home.  As he grabbed his backpack and headed out the door, my sensitive little jock hung back from the crowd.  He waited until he was the last one in the classroom.  “Karen?”, he called.  I turned to smile at him. “Karen, thanks.”  He nodded his head toward me and walked out the door.

For the first time in a while, I truly didn’t regret the time I had spent on childhood drama.


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