Anthology: A Collection of Flowers Home
John was taller than the other children in his age group. His sandy red hair had a cowlick that made it always appear uncombed. He wasn't a very handsome child and his clothes were mostly hand-me-downs. But most of all, he had a real attitude.
I was teaching fourth grade and his reputation had preceded him. As I looked down my class list for the year, his name was there. I wasn't surprised. I was the only male teacher in the fourth grade and I knew why he was put into my class.
"Its going to be a fun year," I sighed.
Predictably John lived up to his reputation as a bully. I tried to keep a strong hand on him and see that he didn't hurt the other children. I noticed that he had some good days and then, one day he would blow up in aggressive behavior. As the weeks wore on, I began to have less and less patience with John.
One morning, as I opened the door, three children ran up and shouted that John had already hit two boys. As I looked up to the class line I saw John hit and shove a boy to the ground.
I rushed out and grabbed him by the collar and literally dragged him down to the office.
The secretary looked up and saw John. For her, it was an old familiar story. This scene had been played out by every teacher that had ever had John., She looked at me and said, "The principal is out for the day and the counselor is not going to be in for a while." She paused, "You can put him on that chair against the wall and I will make sure he doesn't go anywhere until the counselor comes in."
"Fine!" I said as I pushed him down into the chair. "He had three fights before the class even started. I can't allow that in my class."
The secretary nodded in agreement and I marched back to the class.
About 11:30 the counselor came into my room and pulled me aside. "I have John outside and he will behave. I really need to talk to you for a minute in privacy. Can you come into my office during your lunch hour?"
I nodded in agreement and the counselor went outside and led John into the class. His head was down and he was quiet. "Boy, the counselor really must have laid it on him!", I thought.
Soon the Lunch bell rang and I headed down to the counselors office. Mr. Burnson looked up as I walked in. "Thank you for coming. Please have a seat."
I sat down as he stood up and walked over to the window. "I realize that as a teacher you have a real responsibility to protect your students and John's behavior is certainly not anything that can be tolerated. I am, however, at a real loss as to what to do about him. You see, John witnessed his father beat up his mother this morning. John is so angry about this that he took out his anger on those around him at school. He is really tormented. I think it is important for you to know this about him. I really want to help John. There is just so much I can do."
He turned and looked at me. His face was sad and concerned. I was stunned. I had no idea that that is what John was going through!
As I walked back to the teachers lounge, I thought about John's morning. First witnessing the abuse at home and then being separated at school and forced to sit in a chair for three hours until the counselor arrived. I was mortified! At a time when this little boy needed love more that anyone on earth, I had regulated him to isolation on a hard chair in the office, without even a recess!
After lunch, when all the children were back in the room, I called John up to my desk.
"I quietly told John that I wanted to start all over again, but I needed his help. "Whenever you feel upset and angry, or maybe just feel like you need a friend, just come up to me and let me know."
John looked at me and nodded. I put my arm around his shoulder patted his back.
Latter that day, as the class was quietly working, John came up to my desk and stood beside me.
"Yes John?", I said.
He looked at me and said nothing. Then I realized what he wanted. I smiled and pulled him close to me and put my arm on his shoulder like we were buddies. He stood there for a couple of minutes as I graded papers and finally he smiled and patted me on the back and sat down.
John improved remarkably throughout the year. Sure, he still had some bad days, but I pulled him into my heart on those days. For the next two years, John would sometimes come up to me on the playground and stand beside me. I would put my arm on his shoulder and we would talk and even sometimes laugh.
I wasn't wrong to separate him from the class. I was just acting out of ignorance concerning his circumstances. It is only when we have a complete knowledge of a situation that we can act out of wisdom.