Monday, March 31, 2014

The Mouths Of Babes

Janice is a kindergartener. She came to my room on Thursday morning, along with the rest of her class. I am used to Janice being a little chatty. My approach for her is similar to the one I take with many of my younger students: I wait her out. Shushing her only leads to her becoming more insistent about getting whatever is on her mind off of her mind and out of her mouth. That's what I did on Thursday. I kind of wish that I would have found a way to keep her quiet.
"Mister Caven," Janice announced, "you have a fat stomach."
I remembered my position and my poise. I said nothing.
"And you're bald," she continued.
This resulted in the standard mix of giggles from her classmates and shocked gasps from those who had yet to fall prey to the Dark Side. After this, it took me a few more minutes to bring the group back around to the topic of numbers bigger than eleven and less than thirty. There wasn't a lot in those digits that could compete with Janice. Still, I pressed on.
What Janice didn't know is that she hurt my feelings. I know that is what she meant to do, but I didn't want to give her the satisfaction. I was ignoring her, a strategy that I often prescribe to children who come to me with complaints of bullies teasing them. Still, somewhere down deep inside, the round kid that was teased on playgrounds decades ago winced. I wanted to tell Janice that I had lost more than twenty pounds over the past year, and I was working on my weight not just for appearances but for my health. As for the baldness, I suppose the fact that I had shaved my head just the week before was my own fault, but there was a simple matter of genetics and age that provided that outcome. I wanted to defend myself.
I didn't. I waited until the rest of the class, and Janice, were ready to get the directions for the day's lesson. Just before I was going to set the kids loose on their computers, Janice raised her hand. "Mister Caven," this was a squeak compared to the sneer I had been hearing just a few minutes ago, "I had an accident." She had wet herself, and though a thousand other thoughts raced through my head, I scribbled a quick note and handed it to her, calling ahead to let the office know that she was coming and would need a change. Even mean little girls have accidents sometime.

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