Colton

16 12 2010

As a Teacher-On-Call, I have the privilege of meeting hundreds of new students every couple of weeks. As a Prep teacher who moves around from class to class each block, sometimes it’s hundreds of faces every day. Today was one such day.

Being a relational individual, I find that it can be difficult to get to know someone in a 40-minute time span, knowing that when the buzzer rings, POOF! I leave one class for another group of unfamiliar faces. As TOCs though, that’s what we do – we specialize in meeting the immediate needs of students we’ve never met while being fully aware that deep relationships will probably simply have to wait.

I had an unusual encounter with a grade six boy in the computer lab today that bucked the trend. “Colton” was sitting next to me working on an assignment and we began to chat. It began with him having trouble logging in. He didn’t have a password since he was a new student that arrived to the school this week. As we got that settled, he told me that he had learning problems because he “didn’t eat right” (his phrase). I wasn’t sure what that meant and when I asked him, he replied, “My mom didn’t feed me properly. She told me that I wasn’t supposed to be born.” It’s as if the laser gun was set on “stun”. I didn’t know what to say and so I didn’t say anything.

Colton didn’t make eye contact with me, but opened up some more, telling me that he had been to 3 different schools since he left his home in Alberta on November 1. “Did you know that if you don’t sleep properly, you’ll get a cold?” he asked me, still looking ahead at the monitor. “That’s what I’ve been told” I nodded. He went on to tell me that it was his dreams that were keeping him up at night. He kept dreaming about the bad times in Alberta where his mom didn’t treat him like everyone else. “My mom treats me rude. It was difficult for me. I’m kinda used to it. My dad got remarried and I have a new mom now. I’m really happy.” Colton turned and smiled at me for the first time. Somehow I think the smile I returned to him made him feel extra special.

It’s hard to remain “professional” when as a dad, I can recognize a child’s need for a hug a mile away. Ten minutes later, I was on to my next class and I didn’t see him again. His candid conversation with me today was an intense reminder that many of our students come from backgrounds that leave us asking how so many kids turn out as well as they do, given the climate they grow up in. Colton’s story isn’t necessarily abnormal, but it is unique, and as teachers we need to be prepared each day to give what we can in the moments we have to the students who need it most. This day, Colton desperately needed the listening ear of an unfamiliar adult he could trust. In that sense, it was a pleasure to be his teacher today.

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