Last semester, I walked out of my empty classroom during lunch to the sounds of a girl sobbing in the hallway. Her friend was sitting with her on the row of chairs outside my door, comforting her.
This particular student was one of my favorites to have in class–she was always joking around, had a ton of enthusiasm, and just seemed to be the type of fun-loving person I’d love to be friends with if I was in middle school.
I couldn’t imagine what had made her so upset to retreat to this corner of the school where no one else ever goes (my classroom is a bit isolated up on the fourth floor–they probably figured I’d have a habit of talking too loudly).
It upset me because neither of us knew enough of the other’s language to converse about what had happened. All I could do was give her a hug and walk away, thankful she at least had a friend by her side.
It reminded me of my favorite teacher from all my schooling combined, Mrs. Burke. She impacted me in two ways. The first was when I took her class junior year of high school. That’s a story for another time. The second was in my senior year when I had pre-calc in her classroom with Ms. Pellow. We didn’t have enough classrooms to go around, so some teachers had to move around and use classrooms during other teachers’ free periods.
Ms. Pellow was…not the most understanding teacher I’ve ever had. I missed a bunch of school senior year ’cause of health schtuff–more than just senioritis, promise!–and I remember feeling the shock on my face as she informed why she was unable to help me catch up with my studies.
One particular day, I was unusually upset over a social situation. I asked to go to the nurse so I could avoid making the scene I felt welling up inside me. But Ms. Pellow, in her unending wisdom, refused. The outbreak of sobs combined with, “Just please let me go to the nurse!” finally convinced her.
Mrs. Burke followed me into the hallway.
“Rachel, I know you. I watched you all of last year and much of this one and you’re always bubbly and full of energy and smiling. I don’t know what has upset you enough to wipe the smile off of your face, but I can tell you this: it will be OK. Will this matter in five years? If it won’t matter in five years, it’s not worth being upset over.”
She was right. I remember that part of the story, and I remember her. But to remember what upset me, I actually had to sit and think about it for a minute.
I wanted to be able to tell my own student that–to reassure her that whoever or whatever had upset her, she would be OK. I hope she’ll be OK. This culture is a tough one for children to grow up in. It’s getting better though, I think.
Along those lines, one of the computer guys at my school also needs some love. He never talks, never makes eye contact, never smiles. I wish I could talk to him, maybe crack a joke or ask how his day is going. I wonder if he has friends?
Boo language barrier.