All the children run exuberantly across the field, all but one. Alone in the field, perhaps just standing there, looking at the sky, the clouds, or perhaps even running the opposite way from the others.
Working intently on their projects, focused and eager, the children do not notice as one child circles the room wandering from desk to desk, perhaps silently, perhaps quickly and staccato like in movement. For a moment attention is disrupted.
Or when everyone is excited and eager, twinkly eyes, fast beating hearts, presents are opened, hugs exchanged. Then one notices a simmering fire, then a yell or scream or dissolving in tears to the floor, melting, melting, melting alone in sorrow.
All of us teachers of children, many of us parents, have most likely had that child in our classes, in our family. Perhaps there was forewarning in the staff room in a file. Perhaps no warning when the child appeared in the classroom and one sensed in seconds something a bit different, indefinable and obvious in its magnitude.
As an educator for many years, a special educator and now a yoga and mindfulness instructor, I was often given/gifted these particular kids. Years ago sitting with my colleagues divvying up our caseloads, there was a pause as my coworkers looked at one huge file filled with reports, anecdotal information, too full for child of 8 years old. Before they said the child’s name I knew and said “yes I will work with Bobby.”
Getting Through the Walls
As I entered his classroom days later I sensed a small body peering at me with an expression, perhaps of curiosity, perhaps of resentment and fear, a look unreadable in many ways. He had skepticism that’s unusual for a child so young. I smiled and quietly sat down next to him, observing as he worked and interacted with others, just quietly providing space with warmth.
Soon it was time for us to start our sessions, working on his IEP goals. As we worked together I could sense that underneath his prickliness, stubbornness, frustration, there was a small child saddened, hurt, by his peers and others in his world.
Year after year, we worked together and slowly, very slowly, he softened and opened up. He shared his fears, his feeling of being alone, not noticed and yet singled out, bullied and simultaneously disregarded.
When the time came for him to graduate from high school he was unsure. Maybe he would work or maybe join the military. His plans uncertain and unclear.
In fall I transferred to another district to be closer to my family. Years went by and life became full with a family of my own. I had a new job with new joys and challenges.
Then a year ago I happened to look in the “other” inbox on Facebook, a place I assumed was full of Spam and found hidden away a message from “Bobby.”
The message read: “Finally, I have found you! I have been trying to find you for 20 years. You were the one person who believed in me, who knew me, understood me and was there for me. I want to thank you.”
And that was it, just these words, simple and profound. I responded back, thanking him, curious about his life now and just like his fleeting message, he disappeared again.
As teachers we may be gifted students who challenge us, who push our buttons, whose lives are tumultuous. We may never know the pain these students carry inside or perhaps years later they will reach out to you with gratitude.
May each of you teachers of the heart, soul and mind, know that for one small child, a life is being changed as you share yourself, your heart and your gifts. With but a smile and a glance that sees beneath the thorns of “that one child” you could be “that one teacher.”
About the Author: Macy Ratliff
Macy lives and works in the greater Seattle area and brings her years of teaching children, her love of reading, her passion for yoga and her strong exuberance for life to these mini yoga journeys. When not teaching yoga and mindfulness at local private and public schools, you might spot Macy around town enjoying one of her many other passions like running, swimming, kayaking, hiking, and of course, YOGA!