Erasing Frowns

“We worry about what a child will become tomorrow. Yet we forget that he is someone today.” ~ Staci Tauscher. In high school I tutored elementary school children at a nearby school. I always enjoyed visiting the classrooms and helping the children in whatever they needed assistance in. I’ll never forget the afternoon that made all the difference for one particular child.

I was sitting at a table with a boy in second grade. He was very quiet but I could tell very focused on the task in front of him. We were working on reading and answering questions, him reading aloud to me and me assisting when appropriate. As he got to the questions, writing his answers out, asking me for spelling when needed, he took his time, and I was amazed at how attentive he was being. Suddenly, the school principal showed up beside us, towering over the table and appearing quite intimating. She said “Hello” to me, asked what we were working on, and then proceeded to say to the child, “Come on! You can write much neater than that!” I looked over at the boy who appeared saddened, as he stared at the woman before us. I said, smiling at the child, “Really?! You can write even neater! Your writing is already so beautiful!” But while I said the words the child began to erase all he worked so hard on. The principal stared, waiting for the child to rewrite his words. The boy was focused on his paper, his hand moving ever so slowly, the pencil flowing across the paper as neatly as could be. As the boy looked up from his paper, still holding the pencil in his little hand, his eyes gazed up at the principal. Once again the woman was dissatisfied and the poor little one looked up with a look that I could only assume to be, “What’s wrong now?!”And before words were even spoken the boy proceeded to once again erase all he had written. I stopped him and said, “You don’t need to erase all this. You’re doing a fantastic job! Let’s just move to the next question.” At that moment the principal gave me a stern look, conveying that I was undermining her authority, but rather than verbalizing anything more, she walked off and let us be. The boy sighed, sat back in his chair, and I could tell was understandably still feeling frustrated and upset.”I am so proud of you! You have been doing an excellent job today!” I smiled and the little one gave me half a smile. “You’re almost done,” I said, and I read him the next question. As I read the words on the page, from the corner of my eye I could see the boy gazing at me. I lifted my head up, looked at him, and he smiled… The biggest smile I had ever seen him make the entire time being with him.

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