It's all about the relationships.

After school today, I was talking to one of my administrators who is going back to the classroom next year. He was telling me a story about one of our little charmers, and I said I couldn’t imagine being in admin. The administrator said it had a lot of good parts, but it was definitely different. I agreed – it seems like the student relationships would be so different. I shared the following story with him.

One of my boys came to class this morning looking pretty down. This is a kid who is always good-natured, always friendly, always open. When he doesn’t understand a concept, he flings his arm in the air and says, “I don’t get it.” Language Arts is challenging for him, but he always tries his hardest, always participates, always is polite and respectful and kind. I’ve seen him off before, but usually from a physical issue – the kid’s a natural athlete and fully commits to the moment, so he often comes to class clutching his side or limping from a morning football injury. I fully believe that someday he would throw himself in front of a car rather than miss a pass. But I digress.

Today’s mood was different from what I’d seen before. The Natural Athlete was upset in a different way. “Hey, you okay?” I asked.

He shrugged. “Not really.”

“Wanna talk about it?”

Shrugged again. “No.”

I didn’t push it, but when I saw him staring at his desk five minutes into class while everyone else finished making kites (we’re practicing following directions and then analyzing the directions), I called him over. “Honey, what’s going on? You seem really upset. You sure you don’t want to talk about it?”

He still didn’t really want to talk, so I switched tactics. “Here’s the thing. You’re kinda freaking me out right now. You just don’t seem okay. I need to know if you’re thinking about hurting yourself in any way.”

He shrugged again. “I don’t know. Maybe.”

Awesome. “Do you want to go talk to Ms. Counselor?” Definite no from him. “Then I need to know what’s going on.”

After some more pushing, I finally asked if it had to do with a relationship. He’s been going out with one of my girls for a few months, so I assumed it was linked to that. He affirmed. I asked if it had ended. He affirmed again, and then poured out the story. They’d been going out for three months, but then she dumped him this morning and he didn’t know why except that she said he talked about sports too much, but he didn’t even talk about sports that much, and now she and all her friends hated him, and he just didn’t know what to do because he was so sad about it all.

Yep. Girls. Always causing problems.

So the Natural Athlete and I talked about relationships, and how they end but new ones are formed, and how he’s a great kid and I’m sure will have no trouble finding a new girlfriend when he’s ready, but he should take his time, and he’ll get there in the end, and it’s hard now but it will get easier. He nodded, and sniffed a bit, and nodded some more.

After we talked, I asked him again about the hurting himself. He said no, he didn’t think he would. But saying you think you won’t hurt yourself isn’t good enough, so I pushed him again about going to see the counselor.

“I don’t want to! I don’t even know her – I don’t want to talk to her about this. I know you.”

Which I get. I wouldn’t want to talk to someone I didn’t know either. But I couldn’t just let this go – the possibility of self-injury isn’t something I take lightly.

“Okay. Here’s the thing. Take some time and think about all this, and then let’s talk this afternoon and we’ll see how you’re doing then. Cool?”

He agreed, and we left it at that. At lunch, I found Ms. Counselor and filled her in. She said that when I talked to him to ask again about if he was thinking about hurting himself.

I stopped him on his way into his reading class. “How’s it going?”

“Better. I’m still kinda sad, but not as sad. She’s not talking to me but whatever.”

“Are you still thinking about hurting yourself?”




“Cross your heart?”

“Well…I don’t know if I can cross my heart.”

“Yeah, I’m going to need you to go to Ms. Counselor.”

“But I don’t want to!”

“I know. And I’m sorry. But your safety is the most important thing, and I need to make sure you’re safe. You know that, right?”

“Yeah…I guess.”

I looked at him. He was staring at the floor. “Would a piece of candy help you feel better?”

His face lit up. “Yeah!”

So I gave him two Jolly Ranchers, signed his pass, and sent him up.

That’s why I love teaching, and why I don’t want to be an administrator, at least not at this point. I have relationships with these kids that you don’t get if you’re not in the classroom. Yeah, they can be built, and the counselors certainly do build them when they can, but the Natural Athlete trusts me, and that’s why he was willing to tell me what was going on. It’s all about the relationships.


Tom.... said...

Nice job. persistence can sometimes be the best tool we have in our kits.
Tom Anselm teacher and author

TeachEnEspanol said...

I wrote you this fantastic long response about how much I love this post but then my internet exploded. I just love how committed you are to building relationships with your students and I know that they feel so blessed to have you to trust and confide in.

loonyhiker said...

I'm so glad this student had you to talk to. Years from now, he may come back and let you know how you have impacted his life. I know because I've had several like this and it warmed my heart to hear that I made a difference in their lives. Many pats on the back go to you!

"I'm a dreamer but I ain't the only one Got problems but we love to have fun" -K'naan, "Dreamer"

I teach eighth grade Language Arts at an urban school. My kids kick ass and will change the world. I want everyone to know.
Copyright 2009 I'm a Dreamer All rights reserved.
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