Last week, I was sitting out in the hallway one day during the first nutrition break — in my favourite spot between the water fountain and the front door — and I saw (and heard) a student running past me. I looked up and recognized him. I quietly called his name, and he stopped. I said to him, “You look angry. Would you like to sit with me in my quiet space?” He said, “Yes.” He slowly walked over to me, and he sat down beside me. For a little while, neither one of us said anything. I asked him if a few deep breaths might help, and he said that his “mom has him try this at home,” so we took some breaths together.
That’s when he started to talk. He told me about what happened and why he was angry. He even spoke a little bit about home, and his pets. I told him that I have two dogs, and pulled up some pictures of them on my iPad. He wanted to hear a few dog stories, so I shared them with him. He laughed a few times, and you could tell from both the tone of his voice and his body language, that he was calming down.
One of the dog photographs I shared. This one made him smile.
As we were talking, I was eating my snack: an apple. He mentioned that he had an apple in his lunch bag. I asked if he wanted to go back to the classroom and get it. I said that we could eat together in the hall or that I would stay with him in his room. He said that he would like if we went back to the room together … so we did.
When we got back, we had to work through a few problems together. He wanted to sit in a chair that he couldn’t, but we compromised, and moved a different chair to the space that he wanted. I helped him choose something from his lunch to eat. I even sat down for a few minutes, and the kids around the table spoke to me about their snacks and their day so far. For the time being, everyone was calm, and that was a wonderful thing!
A few days later, the teacher on duty that day spoke to me in the staffroom as I was heating up my lunch. He said to me that I have a really good connection with this child. I explained that we’ve done some problem solving together already this year and that seemed to help. I also said that this child’s spoken to me a bit about home and what he likes, so I can use this information to help him calm down. And it was as I uttered these sentences that I was reminded of something so important … Before anything else, children need to feel safe and loved. How do we help students feel this way? What value might this have on their school performance? I may use my “office in the hall” as a quiet place to regroup over the nutrition breaks, but on this day, I was glad that I could share it with a student that needed this environment even more than me.
As we head into a new week, I like to remember the importance of connecting with kids, and maybe helping that one child that needs this connection most of all. What might you do to reach out this week? May we all have that terrific feeling that comes from making a difference for kids!