Second grade is a year of growing independence but there are many times when kids still need to hide under the covers and wait for someone else to take care of things.
I have one little girl who is convinced no one likes her. I sometimes think that she is determined that no one like her. She tells on others for minor rule infractions. She takes requests from classmates to stop talking or tapping her pencil as personal insults. She feels ignored when someone doesn’t hear or understand her (I have several ELLs who simply do not know what she is saying). I’ve tried hard to show patience in the face of her doomsday outlook and to help her see that kids are not usually trying to be mean. So today, when she looked sad sitting alone during Math exploration, I braced myself and went over to see what the problem was. She said someone called her the “n word.” I was shocked, and also dubious. After all, this child has lied before in an effort to get me to understand the depths of her persecution. I asked another student, who she said was a witness, but the claim was unsupported. Then I talked to the alleged offender and he almost immediately broke down in tears. Oh my, I was unprepared for the allegations to be true. We talked it out together, then I talked to the girl and explained our conversation, then the little boy apologized for using a word that hurt her feelings. (Turned out, he said he was going to keep calling her that until she explained to him what it meant. She responded that she couldn’t explain because it was a bad word.) My little Eyore and I had a very good conversation about what was good and what was not at school and how we might work together to bring out more of the good. I hope I connected with her a little more today. I was at least reminded that her feelings do have a basis in fact.
Earlier in that same Math block, another student screamed at the very top of his surprisingly powerful lungs when I asked him to do something. I don’t remember what I asked him to do, or to stop doing, all I remember was that I was calm and that the request was minor and related to the normal work routine. Still, he was pushed to his limits. He threw the supply box for his table group to the floor and walked over to our Peace Desk where kids go to cool off. He tossed out all of the papers that we keep in that desk (reflection sheets and missing homework planner pages) and sat down quietly, his face red, his fists clenched. The other kids at his group quietly picked up the supplies and we all went on with the lesson. After about 10 minutes, I asked him if he was ready to rejoin us. He wasn’t. When the Special Education teacher came over to support him, he was under control enough to move to the work -table with her and explain to her calmly why he was so upset. She helped him work out a plan, and he was able to participate in the remainder of the workday.
As a teacher, I don’t make an immediate connection with every student who walks in the door. Sometimes, it takes an awful lot of work on my part to build that connection. These two students each challenge me in different ways. After 34 days of school together, I feel a stronger bond with the two of them. And all it took was a temper tantrum and a few good conversations.