Fly on a Sticky Wicket

A second grader, hands still so small they remind you of the baby they grew out of not so long ago, eager to please, eyes full of wonder and mirth, proud to show her parent some of her schoolwork, excited because the parent is here, in her classroom. It is a special day, out of the ordinary. As she moves to retrieve her journal from its crate, a classmate in the front row sneers under his breath, “What do you think this is? A second open house?”

The parent in this scenario is me. The second grader is my daughter. The classmate in the front row is – rude? A bully? Jealous? The teacher in me found it hard not to reprimand this rude comment. The mother in me found it hard not to put this punk in his place. But because my daughter thankfully didn’t seem to hear it, because it wasn’t my place, and because it wasn’t my charge of children (ie my classroom) – I stepped back to assess the situation.

All teachers know that nearly all off-base comments are based on some insecurity hidden deep within the offending student. In the heat of a disruptive moment in one’s own classroom, it’s hard to remember or appreciate this, but as a parent privy to only this one comment and able to scoot back out the door I’d only just peeked into, it was easy to presuppose why this student may have made such a snarky comment.

As jazzed as my daughter was at my visit, there was a vacuum of other parents who couldn’t be in the room right then. Perhaps this young man was upset that his parent(s) couldn’t be there. Perhaps his parents have jobs that prevent a midday visit. Perhaps he’s angry or sad that his parents would never think to come into his classroom. Perhaps the obvious joy and pride in my daughter’s eyes reflecting in mine is something he can’t bear to see because this is the only time he will.

Perhaps it is unfair for me to make such presuppositions.

After many years of seeing students in action, however, I know that those students who you would least like to embrace are exactly the ones who need it most.

Not an easy task when they make hurtful comments, strike out at those around them, and have no other framework of operating to follow. There is no easy answer. Remember, I didn’t say anything . . .

But while there may be a reason for it, such behavior cannot be condoned. Had my child heard this hurtful comment, her joy would’ve been squashed as well. Her fragile nature, which I’d come into the classroom to build up, would’ve been diminished.

How do we support such children without discouraging others around them?

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