Friday, January 4, 2013

No time for kindness

     One morning, I brought in a radio so one of my students could help me set it up. A brilliant child with emotional needs greater than that of most students, he soaked up the rare one-on-one attention. The previous year, I had devoted a great deal of time to building a trusting relationship with him.
     The principal interrupted, ordering me to assist two older students in their social studies class. It was a testing year for them, and my job was to make sure they paid attention in class.
     That's more of an assistant's job, but we were short-staffed; it happens in some schools more than others.
     I walked the child back to his class on my way down the hall, assuring him we would get to it later, but we never did. But I'm sure he passed his tests at the end of the year and generated some positive data for the school.
     Still, I wonder what went through his mind when the principal came in and told me to go help those other children. Did he feel less important than them? Did he feel like no one cared about him at all?
     Maybe that's what he was thinking several months later when he slipped his fingers around the throat of another child on the playground. Oh, it wasn't anything serious, boys will be boys and all that, especially if we ignore their needs long enough.
     Anyone taking a close look at the data from that year could have predicted something like that would happen. I'm still unsure why we give out so many labels in the first place if we aren't going to provide the services to go with them.
     Could it have something to do with money?
     I still think about all of my former students, especially that particular one. I hope he is at a school where someone has the time to praise him when he is doing well, giving him that extra little bit of attention needed. But I am not optimistic.
     A retired teacher friend of mine was shocked to hear a friend complaining about how difficult a particular student was being this year. "I couldn't believe the way she criticized him and seemed at her wit's end," she said.
     When my friend responded that the child probably needed some kindness in his life, she was told, "There is no time for kindness anymore."
     No time for kindness in elementary schools.
     God help us all.