A Child Tells Me How He Really Feels

image from icanread

There are those kids that don’t sneak into our hearts but instead kick the door down, scream for a while, and then try to leave again.  Those kids that make the most noise, that fight us the most, that make sure that we stay on our toes every single moment they are in our presence.  Those kids that you will miss the most even if they were the ones that kept you up the latest every night as you wondered how you would reach them, connect with them, support them as learners.

I have had many of these kids and this year is no different.  Tom (name changed of course) came into my life with the loudest of voices and the most hatred toward writing I have ever met in a child.  It wasn’t just that he didn’t know what to write, he simply didn’t want to write.  Ever.  Not even his name.  Or the date.  Or what his favorite thing was.  Tom hated writing and told me this repeatedly.  He would rather get kicked to the office, he would rather be yelled at by the principal, he would rather yell at me than write.  And yet, I kept at it, helping him, supporting him, pushing him each and every day, refusing to give give in, refusing to take the bait and yell.  But more importantly than me, he started believing in himself.  He started to write just a little, even if it was through lots of complaints.  He picked up his pencil and wrote just enough so that i would leave him alone, enough so he could show he got it.  So today he handed me this memoir to finish the year…
My worst day ever was when I met Mrs.Ripp it was so boring all we did was just talk about something I forgot. she was so bogus for noting. I didn’t even do anything she was just being mean I would hate to be Mrs.Ripps class next year I’m telling you the truth Mrs.Ripp. You were as mean as a pitbull.You can be so bogus sometimes and the worst teacher but sometimes she can be nice other times she mean in the morning she’s nice but in the afternoon she’s mean but I think she will be nice to her other students.She nice to be on the first day but the second day she was super mean and I was just minding my business doing me.I hope she nice to her other class.she even taking minutes off of the field trip and thats not fair that was bogus I got 10 minutes because I didn’t do my thing but dang just mean.
Some teacher may get upset.  Some teachers may think it is rude.  But I am not that teacher.  I love this writing.  I love his honesty, his use of periods, and the fact that he used a simile.  I love that he had me read it aloud to the class and that he smiled when he handed it in.  Look at how much he wrote!  Look at what he did.  He wrote and that to me is the biggest victory ever.
I will miss him a lot, every noise, every fight, every refusal or complaint.  My classroom will feel too quiet after he moves on.  And I think he might miss me a little too, even if I am the meanest teacher ever.

9 thoughts on “A Child Tells Me How He Really Feels

  1. Wow. I would definitely be one of those teachers that would take a less positive view of this student's piece. Let me ask you this: If he had written something similar, except it was about another student, would you have read it to the whole class? If not, why do you deserve to be treated in ways you would never allow a student to be treated?

  2. I would not get upset over this piece, and I would allow a student of mine to write it, but I can't imagine any series of events that would cause me to read this in front of the class. But I trust your judgement/analysis of what was going on behind the scenes on this one.

  3. He will miss you more than you know, I'm sure. I've worked with Toms. One in particular, so feisty, so angry, so unwilling to play the game. And he grew so much during our year together. At the end of grade 5 when I said goodbye to him I cried and cried. Because despite our difficulties working together, I knew a relationship was formed and we learned from one another. I wasn't certain his next teachers would embrace him for all that he was or could see the good he brought to the world. He graduates this year. I can't wait to see him at graduation. I will cry again.

  4. Nice post, Pernille. I think I would have reacted much the same way as you in this circumstance. I've found that those students that push us the most usually need us the most.I have a Tom this year. The hardest Tom I've ever had in class. He has so much anger. His disdain for me and my class is palpable. I've never been so disrespected by a student in my life. It's been an incredibly challenging year with him. I'm very anxious how our last few days are going to pan out.Thanks for sharing.– @newfirewithin

  5. Loved this post. Another thing that I think many would miss is that there are 20 or so other students watching that interaction. Love from someone reaches another level when you know they will love you at your worst and you just demonstrated that to a whole class of students. The kids in your class know you will always be in their side even if they think you are "bogus." :).

  6. I love this post. This shows the kind of relationship and trust that has to be built with a child who refuses to learn from adults–and how that relationship and trust go both ways. It was a test, and Mrs Ripp passed! I happen to love the angry kids and the challenge they pose. How can we find a place for that kid in an education system that often values compliance above all else? How can we see through the anger to the kid inside while still honoring the anger? I love what Joey says here about what all the other kids in class are learning when Mrs Ripp reads this piece aloud. So powerful! Thanks for sharing.

  7. I'm in tears. "I love his honesty, his use of periods, and the fact that he used a simile." Sometimes it takes recognizing childishness for what it is and letting that go. At the bottom of it all: He trusts you. There is no way he would ever write anything like that if he didn't know you care for him. In the adult-child power dynamic, the angry child is looking for somewhere safe to drop his fists and his blows are tests to see if you'll turn on him. The fact that you were "mean" (translation: you didn't give up on him or walk away) made him feel safe.It's going to take more time for him to heal, but you have given him such a gift.I once taught an angry eighth grade boy who raised his fist and threatened to hit me in the face. Five years later, he came to my room to pick up his little sister from school. He spoke to me about getting kicked out of high school, earning his GED, and learning how to use Auto-CAD in his new job as a landscaper. He had gone from building others' designs to learning how to design his own. He never apologized for our fights, but he talked with me for half an hour, sharing his life, his struggles, and his success.Tantrums at any age are simply questions.1. Am I safe?2. Does anybody love me?

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