I feel kind of silly linking up to this one, because hands down, Kim's post is the best I have read in a looong time! I love her second story! I do have one special memory I'd like to share though:
My absolute favorite memory of my first year of teaching is of a little girl who came to my class a few months into the school year. She came late because she had been expelled from our local private school. Expelled in kindergarten! I didn't know much of the background - just that she clung to mom with a fearfulness that she tried to cover with angry bravado. I was told that Child Find was monitoring her (a local program that identifies special needs kiddos). I was told that her previous teacher thought she was autistic and wanted cameras installed in the classroom to capture all of her unbelievable behavior because she should be institutionalized.
I took a deep breath and treated her as I would any other child.I welcomed her to class, I explained our rules and procedures and schedule. For the first week, all was quiet. She watched me closely, trying to get a feel for me. During the second week the other shoe dropped and I saw all of that "unbelievable" behavior. She threw fits to outdo any other fit I have ever seen. Fits that could last over an hour. Screaming at the top of her lungs fits. But the whole time, she was watching me. She'd be screaming away, but I could feel her eyes on me, gauging my reaction.
So I ignored the fits. I kept treating her as a smart, valuable member of my class. I didn't give in, but I didn't get upset. When a fit would start I'd send the other children to center time and let them play while I sat next to this little girl, acting like I was grading papers without a care in the world. Inside I was scared to death that the principal would walk in and see me with this apparently out-of-control child or that the fits would never stop and I'd spend my whole first year teaching trying to deal with this child. But, I never let on. I just casually sat by her, grading the papers and acting like it didn't bother me a whit that she was screaming her head off. When the fit was over, we went back to what we had been doing and I treated her just as I would any other child.
Within a week or so, those fits stopped. She saw that I wasn't going to get angry. I wasn't going to send her away. I wasn't going to back down. I was going to keep her in my class and love her and teach her to the best of my ability. With that security, with those boundaries tested and proven, she felt safe enough to trust me. Once she trusted me, she didn't need to throw fits any more because she knew that I would be fair and consistent.
Fairness and consistency wasn't something she'd had a lot of. I came to know many months later that part of the reason for her fear and anger was that her mother, a soldier, had been deployed at least 4 times since this little girl was born. Since her father wasn't in her life, the little girl bounced around among relatives during those deployments, which lasted months long. She didn't get consistency or fairness plus she was angry with her mother for leaving, but also fearful that she wouldn't come back. That whole mix of emotions was just too much for her to handle, thus the behavior problems.
I won't say the rest of the year was perfect, because there were hiccups of course. But we were able to send Child Find away, satisfied that far from being special needs, she was actually intellectually gifted. I saw so much growth in socialization and empathy over the rest of the year. Each week I'd have something new to share with her mother about her improved behavior with her peers. By the end of the year she was a fully functioning, beloved member of our class with many friends. I am so glad that I didn't give in during those first weeks, that I didn't tell my principal that I couldn't handle it.
Now, I'm anxious to read your stories! Please join the linky party and let me know of a time of courage in your life!