Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Boy Under the Table

-->"The majority of us lead quiet, unheralded lives as we pass through this world. There will most likely be no ticker-tape parades for us, no monuments created in our honor. But that does not lessen our possible impact, for there are scores of people waiting for someone just like us to come along; people who will appreciate our compassion, our unique talents. Someone who will live a happier life merely because we took the time to share what we had to give. Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have a potential to turn a life around."
 ~ Leo Buscaglia

Educators have amazing opportunities to touch the lives of children. Countless times each day connections are made and relationships are built just because two people come together in ways that often require us to see things through one another's eyes.

I remember a time that could have been a disaster had I not stopped to see things from a child's perspective. It was the beginning of the school year. It's an exciting time for teachers and children. But all the changes can be daunting for our students. Most of them are excited to come back to school but dealing with a new classroom, new teacher, the new routines and new friends can put them on shaky ground.

One day, I was called down to a kindergarten class because a child was not cooperating and being fairly disagreeable. His emotions were out of control and he was highly frustrated and impulsive. My goal was to calm him down and figure out just what led to his state of mind. I knew that finding out what may have led to this situation was so much more important than jumping in and trying to change and control the behavior.
The boy’s class was on its way outdoors to observe a tree for science class. I asked him if he would stay inside to calm down a little and talk with me. He parked himself under a table, arms crossed, and seemed to prepare for a battle.

 It was clear that he had no intention of talking with me or changing the way he felt. There were long moments of silence. He was still too frustrated to be logical or cooperative, but I waited and slowly he began to talk with me. He shared his frustrations and I listened. I wanted to understand what was causing him to act out. I made it apparent that I was very interested in what he had to say.
In a few minutes, he got the idea that I wasn't there to make his day more miserable, but that I was genuinely trying to understand him. We spent the next 15 minutes talking. He stayed under the table as I sat on the floor nearby trying to make eye contact.

 In just a few minutes, I found out what was making him so unhappy and learned about what he liked. But more importantly, we connected.
The class returned from observing a tree outside and went out for a few minutes of recess. I watched him and two other boys play soccer. When the children came inside, they spread out around the classroom with books for a few moments of independent reading. He chose a book about bugs and I sat with him. We looked through it together, and I invited him to come to my office to read with me sometime.

  He seemed calmer and I prepared to leave.

In those last few minutes together, I think he nearly reached for my hand. In our time together, I learned some things about him and he learned some things about me. We could build on the friendship we began that day. 
Throughout the school year, I had more opportunities to spend time with this child. He has some challenges, but he was a most fascinating child. In small ways, I hoped I helped him find his place in our school.

Children will react to change in many ways. Some days are just not easy for them. Their lives are as complicated as our own lives are. Taking the time to make a connection is powerful. Our conversations with students can make all the difference in the world.  There just might be a student out there today who is waiting for someone like us to come along.

I am participating in the 
March Slice of Life Challenge.
Each day we post our thoughts.
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers!

Day 19 - The Boy Under the Table  


  1. Your writing exudes your calm nature and approach to this situation. I also like that you started with a quote. Something I might try in an upcoming post.

  2. Connecting is so important. We need to slow down and take the time to connect - truly connect - with our students. I love that you did and shared that you learned something about yourself as well. We need to be vulnerable in order to truly connect with others. You did that and gained his trust. I am confident you helped him understand his place in your school and in the world.
    Thank you for sharing an important example of instructional leadership.

  3. Powerful reflection. To me, these are the most important lines:
    "I knew that finding out what may have led to this situation was so much more important than jumping in and trying to change and control the behavior."
    "their lives are as complicated as ours."

    I once heard a child psychologist say that we think children feel less deeply that adults, but think the same. When in fact, children think differently than adults but feel as deeply.
    I'd say, maybe more.
    I like your reflection about hoping you helped this boy find his place in your school. Everyone needs to feel known.

  4. So important to realize the behavior is a response to something upsetting...and connecting makes all the difference. Glad you could build a relationship with him.

  5. What a valuable less for us all - learn to connect with others! But as educators, it is critical we learn to connect with our students. I love this slice and how it gets to the essence of those connections.

  6. It is so important to make that connection. How wonderful for this little boy that you reached out to him and allowed him to connect with you in such a positive way. Lovely slice.