All this week, there have been massive clean-up efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. The kindness shown to others has been inspiring. In my classroom, there have been on-going efforts to help Cloie in the aftermath of her own storm. The kindness shown there has been inspiring, too…
Over the next several months, Cloie kicked me, hit me, pulled my hair out, and tore up her work. One day, she bit me seven times on the legs because she did not want to comply. She broke the skin through denim and a pair of pantyhose. I went to the doctor’s after work and got a tetanus shot. Another time, she was very angry at her mother and ripped the earring out of my ear. Again, I went to the doctor’s after work and had them sew it back together (since then, I’ve had my ear sewn back together four other times). But more importantly, every day, Cloie also did some work and slowly we started to see a change in her. Her father got her professional help from outside agencies and we all worked in conjunction with one another.
Cloie had beautiful eyes and a smile that could light up the room. Every one of my other students adored her. She had a gentle soul inside of all that anger.
Every time any of us did something that was kind, I would repeat that the reason we did it was because we cared about her and that’s how people treated you when they cared about you.
At Thanksgiving, we had an art project where we made a turkey with feathers that could fan out. During the activity, another student loaned Cloie his crayons; I had my conversation with her about others caring for her and when she was done she put the turkey in her backpack. I didn’t give it another thought.
As the school year progressed, she soared in my class. She became less violent, she occasionally laughed out loud, and she earned her way to the highest level of my 5-tiered level system, The No Bull Method™. She was amazing to watch. The one thing she would never do is show any physical affection. Who could blame her?
When she came into my class, she barely knew the phonetic sounds necessary for reading. She struggled with reading for months and then in one week, in about the middle of February, it all came together for her. I have never seen anything like it during my career. On Monday, she was struggling to read sentences and by Wednesday she was reading whole paragraphs. By Friday, she read a library book on her own. She tested at the 5th grade the end of her first grade year. She always had her nose in a book. She was hungry for knowledge.
Cloie continued to do well, and started to replace the violent, non-compliant behaviors with non-violent, compliant, and kind behaviors. She still had big trust issues but that I expected.
The last day of school, as all the students were lined up to leave for the summer, Cloie asked me if I would please come to school the next week and teach her. I explained that I would love to do that, but she needed to take a break and have fun during the summer because she had worked so hard. I also told her I would check on her throughout the summer and see her in the fall. At that, she opened her backpack and started digging around in it. She kept it up for a few minutes and finally pulled out the turkey with the feathers that could fan out. She held it up to me and told me she wanted me to have it. I was getting ready to tell her what I had been telling her all year when she threw her arms around my legs and, for the first time, said, “It’s because I care about you, Ms. Brown.”
Be kinder than necessary, be grateful and have a peace-filled week,