I wish I could articulate my thoughts today.
We didn’t have the welcome party after all, so that was something of a relief. Downtime at least.
I am just so incredibly tired. I keep trying to write a post, and I am just so tired.
I was thinking about the girl in my Class 3. Let’s call her Lonely Child. I didn’t move her, because she became engaged in the class. The quality of her gaze changed. It became focused and attentive, rather than something which made her seem far away. I noticed the change on Thursday, and on Thursday I felt how intense that was. Perhaps being engaged with others was a new experience for her, and very stimulating. I don’t know. But it felt too intense for me to engage with, and I withdrew from that. I felt myself withdrawing from it, and I couldn’t help it. I just wasn’t in the right place to be with her in this new place of connection.
But yesterday I could stay with her in it. So I was glad of that.
On Friday, there was a point during class when she was trying to sharpen her pencil and somehow it wasn’t sharpening. Maybe it kept breaking on her. I don’t know. She had borrowed someone else’s sharpener and maybe the sharpener was simply not sharp. I saw this—it must have been 10 minutes of trying to sharpen her pencil and it just wouldn’t sharpen. So finally I gave her mine. On Thursday, there was some problem with her ruler. She had had one at the beginning of class. I know she had one, because she was playing with it during meditation time. Then later she could not find it. I gave her mine then too. Actually, that ruler is not really my ruler. It’s a lost and found item, never reclaimed, from some careless child in Class 5 last year. It is cracked and scratched and old.
Anyway, she forgot about it, so Friday, she remembered she had my ruler and she gave it back to me. Friday she returned my ruler and later in the period I gave her my sharpener.
It is a big deal in Country X for the teacher to give the student her own things to use. I know this. When I first came here, I did not know this. To me it was just a pencil. It was just a ruler. It was just a sharpener. And I need pencils and rulers and sharpeners, but there is nothing special about those things. That is what I came here thinking.
Now I understand they are my things, the teacher’s things, and this is sort of like saying they are God’s things. A student cannot sit in the teacher’s chair even if that chair is exactly like all of the other chairs in the classroom and even if the teacher is not in the room, because the student is a student and not the teacher.
So to give Lonely Child my sharpener is a very special thing. She knows this and I know this. It is especially true because the sharpener really is my sharpener. It is brass and likely to last a lifetime.
I am doing something with Lonely Child that is very important right now. I am sending her a very clear message that she is worth something. She is worth noticing and worth taking care of, and she is responding to this, and her response to it is very intense.
It made me think of C, because that intense quality of connection was there with her too. It was there with me. When a child has never been able to connect with anyone in a genuine way—when no one seemed to notice that child or care, or when it wasn’t safe to connect so profoundly—it is a very intense experience when that connection does start to happen. It was intense for me and it was intense for C. It had the same quality about it as falling in love, and that is probably why the boys in 8C began to gossip about her.
It makes me understand the earlier part of our relationship better, because to some extent I am just being me. I am just noticing what is happening around me, and I am noticing a child has a need, and I am an adult and a teacher and I am just responding.
Lonely Child was falling behind in the lesson and also probably getting very frustrated, and she also needs to be drawn in and made to feel part of the group. And I am her teacher, so I am noticing that and meeting her need. Because to me that is just my job. That is my duty.
I saw that C was too frightened, she was too reactive. Something was wrong. As a teacher, what I know I can do is take an interest. I can’t solve children’s problems in their families, but I can take an interest. I can notice their performance in football and comment. I can praise them when they read well at assembly. I can tell them to straighten their National Dress. I took an interest in C, because I can do that and I know it helps.
C wasn’t being supported or encouraged in her education by her parents and so I supported her and encouraged her. I know when teachers can do that it can make a huge difference. It can help kids stay motivated through difficult times and it can help them stay in school. I did the things I could do for C, and to me it did not seem like a big deal, particularly at first. I could do it, so I did it.
But that may never have happened before for C. No one had ever looked at her and thought, “It seems to me you feel very alone and unsupported, and like you have too many adult responsibilities for someone of your developmental level to handle, so I am going to try to show you that you are not alone.” Maybe no one had ever noticed, or maybe no one had ever known that just being there on a consistent basis can help. Or maybe no one had realized that even when the child does not know how to respond to that gesture, even when they seem to reject that gesture, it is helping.
Maybe adults have tried to help C and then given up on her, because actually she does not know how to form bonds with other people or how to control her own emotions so that they don’t disrupt the bond. Her parents don’t know how to form bonds with her or how to contain their emotions, and so they have not been able to help her. It might be that no one has ever just kept showing up for her.
To me, it’s not complicated. You just keep showing up, and it helps kids. It might take a long time and with some kids you will never see the results of it, but it does help. Some kids maybe it doesn’t help, but when they are 13 and 14 and 15, it is not possible to say who your efforts will help and who it won’t. So just don’t your best with all of them, and mostly this is going to pay off. It might not pay off for you personally. They may be a pain in the ass for the rest of the year, but it will help them be better spouses and parents down the line and ultimately your world is going to be a better place.
I do things for kids that don’t seem like a particularly big deal to me. They need things. It won’t kill me to try to meet some of those needs. Usually it helps them.
But for Lonely Child and for C, it is a big deal. It is a very big deal, and it is something no one has done for them before. IT Ma’am has helped C, but not consistently. IT Ma’am has her own “modes” to contend with.
There is something different about me. Not unique, I would think, but not necessarily average. It’s both a belief in the potential of children and an attentiveness, and also an understanding that their emotional needs are important. It’s a human element. I don’t think about it. I just do it. I have never quite put together that not everyone has either that belief or that attentiveness.
I was going about my life, doing what I always do, and for C it was like the sun coming out for the first time in all of her 14 years. Her response to me to me was very intense. Something happened to me from there.
The hard part of this for me is to realize the feelings I have for C, the sense of protectiveness I have for her, my parents really never had for me. They did not believe human beings are worth caring for, or they did not have the skills to take care of me, or they were not attentive enough to care for me. Or all three. But this bond between C and me never existed between my parents and me. I needed them, and I can remember the need for them, but I do not think there was any part of the warmth that is between me and C. The care was not there, and it never led to a bond. The bond was not there to create any warmth.
My parents did not know how to create a bond with me. They didn’t know how to take care of me. I do not know why this was. Actually, I cannot fathom why this was. And so there was no joy in our relationship.
And that’s why I feel so worthless. There was no joy in relating to me, because they did not know how to create the bond that is the source of the joy between people.
At the parent-teacher meeting on Saturday, the vice principal showed some pictures of events at the school—some from the end of last year, some from this year, which has hardly started. There was a picture of C. I think the captains were given something at the end of the year, so it is a picture of her coming up to shake hands with the vice principal and get a white scarf or something. Something has happened to make her look back, in the direction of the camera, and she is clearly very happy in that picture. I would have been there when this happened, but I don’t really remember it. I suspect I could not see her that well from where I was standing. Anyway, I saw that photo sitting there at the meeting yesterday, and I felt so full of joy just at seeing her picture. I don’t think I ever knew anything could bring me so much joy, let alone a teenager who is sometimes very difficult and frustrating.