During those first few days of school, teachers do something bad… well most teachers do… well at least I do. In the chaos of those initial days, as I try to reach the surface and get a gasp of air, I scan the room and identify those kids who you think are going to be difficult and those who aren’t. It’s not fair, it’s not on purpose, it just happens. With each year of experience I gain, I realize more and more how wrong I usually am.

This year, the sprout I was most wrong about was Audra. It didn’t help that a few staff members knew her from outside of school and had ‘warned’ me about her… it didn’t help that her parents let me know she could be ‘difficult’ at times… it didn’t help that she showed up those first few days and looked like she’d rather be getting a cavity filled than be in kindergarten.

In a word, Audra appeared crabby. She didn’t seem to like anything we did, any of the other children much, or her teachers. When we sang and moved, she just stood there. Sometimes I thought I could see her lips moving, but I think she might have just been grumbling. I feared it was going to be a dreadfully long year for all of us.

After a few weeks something started to change. As we all settled into the routines of kindergarten, Audra relaxed and began… blossoming. She started singing… she started dancing… she started to love working – especially writing. She started giving hugs… she’s become one of the most frequent huggers… the other day I called her my ‘Velcro friend’ and she laughed. She laughed.

Now when I see those staff members who know her and they ask about her, I gleefully report how well she is doing in all areas. I take a small bit of satisfaction in the surprised looks on their faces. She has become a child who loves just about everything about school. She’s a model student. She’s showing her sweet and caring self just about all the time.

Naturally the lesson here is not to be quick to judge our students. I’m not sure that will happen, because those first few days, we’re all in survival mode. Rather, become aware of those judgments, but don’t hold on to them. Realize, just as the craziness of those first few weeks morphs into a calm and trusting community, so will your perceptions.

Our class wouldn’t be the same without Audra. I sincerely look forward to seeing her smile each morning and knowing she’s going to be helping out anyway she can and offering up hugs every few minutes. She now clearly loves school and I simply adore her.


Plants seeds of knowledge...for our future! said...

This is sooo true! This year several people came to me and said Oh no, you have so and so! He is trouble he is a runner, hitter, biter. I was worried but was trying to remain positive. In those first few days he did throw a few tantrums and I thought oh boy it is going to be a long year. However, once we got into a routine he has become a highly motivated learner, loving, a great source of entertainment, and is blossoming into quite the young man! I am so proud of him! He is an amazing young man! If I listened to those other teachers I would never have given him a chance. I am glad I did give him a chance.

Deborah said...

Hi Matt - I think it is because your classroom is all about loving and accepting first and foremost. In that kind of learning environment, we can all be successful.

Karen Harrington said...

Matt, we all have been in this situation. This year, I was so worried about a child in my classroom who was very young. Actually, he was too young to even be in my classroom, but because of certain circumstances, he was allowed to join he. WOW, was I wrong! He is one of the most amazing children I have ever taught. He still has trouble with sitting for any length of time, but his sweet nature makes it all worth while.

Thanks for sharing this story, it makes me realize I am not alone in my thinking!

Ayn Colsh said...

I seem to have ad an Audra almost every year. Right before conferences last week with "this year's Audra"'s parents, I was reflecting on our time together. I was thinking how great it is that initial impressions can be soooo misleading. I wouldn't trade my time with my Audra for anything! Thanks for sharing your experience and making me smile all over again! :)

Ms. Katie said...

I have one of those! Everyone knows "N". From what I had heard in the past, he couldnt sit still, would disrupt the class - to the fact that there was talk of disenrolling him if his family didn't get help, and has severely delayed speech and motor skills. While I agree with the delays (hes 4 years old and operates at the level of maybe a young 3 year old), I dont see any of the other issues. Everyday N comes in with a smile and hugs, loves to sing and dance and sits "criss cross apple sauce" everyday in group time.