When things finally settled a bit, a little girl raised her hand and said, Suzy (fake name) is being mean to everyone. She says she hates going to school here, doesn’t like any of us or you, and wants to go to school somewhere else.
I immediately knew something was wrong. First of all, I adore this little girl to the ends of the earth and back. She hardly ever does anything wrong, so I never have to fuss at her. Why would she not like me? Ironically, just last night I was telling Justin about her and how if her Mom came to me today and said for whatever reason she could no longer care for her, that I’d be her mother in a heartbeat! So, naturally, it stung to hear that she said she didn’t like me.
As soon as I said, “Suzy- surely you don’t really mean all that,” she burst into tears. Not only did I call her up to my desk at that moment, but I wrapped my arms tightly around her in a big bear hug, then pulled her up into my lap. There, she proceeded to bury her head in my hair, clung tight to me in an equally impressive bear hug, and just sobbed.
After I gave her a minute to cry and just be snuggled, I asked if she had had a bad morning. Turns out, she had gotten into trouble (don’t know why) and just came to school sad and upset. She liked everyone, had friends, and loved me too- just got a little grouchy. I assured her I wasn’t angry at her and that I also loved her very much. I wanted her to know that it is ok to be sad and upset, but we still don’t need to hurt others when we are feeling that way. Then, I let her sit in my lap just a little longer while I told her all the reasons she was amazing and fabulous. And, she truly is. She isn’t the smartest, coolest, or most popular little girl in school, but she is amazing and perfect just the way she is!
You see, this morning, I broke the rules. Since the earliest of college days, I, along with my colleagues, have been taught not to touch the children. That’s how you get sued and fired. Seriously. They tell you that if you just have to touch a child, just gently rest your hand on their shoulder to get their attention. I do and have always found this absurd. Absolutely, in this sue happy world, you should be intelligent and not do stupid things. However, children need to know you care. They need to feel your love and care for them. They need hugs when they do something great and they need a warm lap to sit on when they are sad and upset.
When I was in Kindergarten, I proved that girls truly were smarter, wiser, cooler, more intelligent, could do more than boys, etc. by swatting down an art piece that was hanging from the ceiling. My teacher had a friend in her room and was talking while I was in my reading station minding my own business. The boys, however, were trying and trying and trying to jump up and yank this thing down. Irritated at their stupidity and lack of triumph, I marched over there, jumped up once and ripped that sucker down. Then, I marched back over to my station to complete my work- like a good Kindergartener would do.
As I continued to dot my I’s and cross my T’s in my reading station, I had a sense of “wa ha ha- I showed them!” My teacher, on the other hand, wasn’t exactly impressed…
I spent recess that day sobbing at my seat. My teacher finally came over to my desk, picked me up, carried me to her rocking chair, where she let me cry and cry over my yellow clip. (I only got my clip moved two other times in Kindergarten and both deserve an equally entertaining story!)
My point is, out of all the lessons I learned in Kindergarten that year, when I hear the word “Kindergarten” that moment is always the very first thing that comes to mind. The fact that my teacher was compassionate and cared that I was upset. That she took the time, instead of grading papers during our recess, to console and rock me in her lap. Assuring me that, even though I made a bad choice, she loved me so much and it was ok to mess up. As long as I learned from my mistakes.
So, if showing compassion and love to my students means breaking the rules, so be it. And if I lose my job for hugging a child, Ok. I