Each of the kids in my classroom is precious to me, for reasons as unique as they are. One of them has stolen my heart completely, maybe because it has been such a struggle to earn his trust.
He is an inner-city child who has landed in the middle of rural Iowa. He doesn’t know what to think of all the people who surround him in his daily life now.
He has been deeply suspicious and has preferred to keep his distance from students and adults alike.
He is quick to argue that we are all being very unfair to him, and his unspoken “because” hangs loudly in the air every time.
He tells me how the students in his former school “curse the teacher” every day.
He explained carefully all the places on your body where you die if they shoot you, but you survive if they miss.
He is only seven.
Little by little, he has started to change. Over time, he has been more willing to put out feelers of friendship.
He stood right next to me during his parent-teacher conference, his squinting eyes daring me to say that he was bad in class. His eyes widened when I talked instead about how he has grown so much as a reader that he has gone from a bit behind to meeting the end-of-year goals in just three months. He didn’t dare look too happy in front of his stern mama, but he left with his head held high.
He laughs more and more in class, an infectious giggle and sometimes even a huge belly laugh. His eyes sparkle with delight when he laughs.
He told me today with wonder in his voice that “almost everyone here is my friend”.
He came back in after all the other kids had left today and asked me if he could take some of my books home because he doesn’t have books at his house. I gave him all he could carry, and told him to hurry home so he could find a good reading place. He trotted down the hall with his backpack sagging down to his ankles, full of books.
How did I ever get so lucky to have such a fine young man in my class?
I have the best job in the world.