“You can try, but you won’t succeed. You will not succeed at pushing away the people who are here to help you and who care about you.”
I found myself having this quiet conversation with a 5th grader who sometimes checks-in with me as a way to keep his academic and emotional progress on track. He has been struggling this week and I was happy he accepted my invitation to come work in my room while my 4th graders took their math test. When he didn’t show after lunch, I went next door to his classroom to extend the invitation again. As soon as he saw me he grabbed his things, and without saying a word, followed me to my room.
We looked over his latest writing piece, but I could sense he was ready to talk or in this case, write about how he was feeling. As my own students were diligently working away on their test, I took out a piece of paper and some colorful markers for him to write with. I began to talk to him about the fact that everyone has bad days, sometimes even a bad week, but how taking help from people around you can really turn things around. I asked him why he thought he was having a tough week, his response sort of broke my heart.
In red crayola marker he wrote, “I don’t belong here. I really want to get along with people, but stuff always gets in the way, I’m always in trouble. Then I stop caring.”
I continued to whisper, he continued to write his feelings down and then it dawned on me, maybe he doesn’t think he actually deserves to be cared about.
“Do you believe that you deserve to be cared about?” I asked.
He shrugged his shoulders, shook his head no and buried his head in his sweatshirt.
“You do, everyday, you deserve it- even when you try to push people away, even when you have tough days.”
He lifted his head, just enough to allow his eyes to peer over his sweatshirt. I explained to him that caring about kids is what we do here at Edgewood and that no matter how hard he tried, he would not succeed at making us not care- we were not giving up on him. He smiled for the first time in days and I smiled back, hoping a weight had been lifted off of his young and fragile shoulders.
I have no idea what tomorrow will bring for him, but in that moment, I think he felt a sense of comfort; feeling as if he does belong and that he deserves to be cared about. I got to thinking later today, aren’t those just the things that everybody wants feel?