Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Sep 02 2011

Sixth grade boys still cry

There’s this boy in my homeroom who I absolutely adore. He’s built to play football, he’s confident and he’s funny. He wants to be an engineer. He’s also the sweetest child on the planet, always eager to volunteer for anything and does the right thing at all times. We have him sitting next to one of the worst-behaved boys in school, because somehow the presence of this wonderful kid just calms him down and makes him act right. If I have a son, I’d love if he ended up just like this.

Today, this boy pulled me aside and told me he needed to talk. The first thing out of his mouth was, “I just don’t feel welcome in this community” and then my big football player ll-year-old started crying and couldn’t stop. We went and sat in the staircase and talked it out for a long time (this is why it’s great I get so much prep time). He told me he feels loved by the teachers but thinks none of the kids like him. They poke him and push him and put their feet on chairs so he won’t sit next to them. He says it happens all the time.

Important background info is that he attended the school we’re taking over for elementary school. He knew the majority of kids in our school when we started here, and apparently in fifth grade he hung out with some tough kids and misbehaved regularly. When I asked him if he had friends last year and what had changed, he said:

“Yeah, I had a lot of friends, but I hung out with the bad kids. This year I decided I didn’t want to grow up to be a bad person. I know the rules here and I want to follow them. I don’t want to get detention every day. But now that I’m doing good, they don’t want to be around me anymore. They don’t like me now.”

My heart broke while he was talking. I just wanted to hug him and keep him and save him from the world. He should be as thrilled with his amazingness as I am, and instead it’s apparently lost him all his friends. It was all I could do to not cry with him as he talked. Baby, how can I make this right?

Luckily, my dean let him sit in her office for the rest of the day (which was almost over). She adores him as much as I do and got him to tell her the whole story too. She ended up inventing a Leadership Award for him, getting me to sign it, and then sending it home with him at the end of the day. Somehow she convinced him it was the best thing ever and he looked happier when he left. At least that’s something.

3 Responses

  1. Lucas

    He sounds so adorable and sweet, but this story makes me really sad (and a little bit angry). I’ve been the kid teachers use to calm other kids down and make them act right. It’s not fun. It’s miserable. It’s not “a learning experience.” It’s exhausting. And worst of all, it’s not really a job you do voluntarily. You’re just a tool being used to make life easier or more convenient for other people. There are some kids who will do what you ask or expect of them, no matter what, because they know you’re a good person at heart, and they want to help you and do what’s right, but that kind of behavior has a cost. It means less time with your friends (or less time making new ones) and more time alone. It means playing the part, instead of being yourself. Sometimes it means not even knowing who you are. I just hope he gets to sit (on some days at least) with kids who respect, admire, and love him for who he really is (or who he wants to be), not just kids who need his help all the time. I hope that makes sense and doesn’t sound too harsh, because I’m so impressed that you’re probably the most trustworthy person in his eyes right now (or pretty close). That’s a privilege and an honor that most teachers don’t enjoy. You’re an amazing person, and I’m sure you’re helping him grow and learn a lot every day. I just worry about what might happen if his job is to help the adults when his job should be to find new friends his own age and show them what a cool, fun person he is.

  2. Kurt (Community Manager)

    Congratulations! Your post has been featured on the Teach For Us homepage.

  3. Stella

    This blog touched me to tears. I can relate to his inner conflict…do I remain good and do well or do I just succumb to peer pressure for friendship’s sake? I pray that he is given the strength to endure negative influences, but they will never stop. BUT, I COMMEND AND APPLAUD you and the dean for using his situation as an opportunity to praise his AWESOMENESS in the midst of adversity. This is an inspiration for me as an aspiring TFA corps member and a mentor-alike.

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