I hate it when the little boy who has tried and failed sometimes and is still vain and self-serving like the rest of us tells me with tears in his eyes that he is tired of being thought of as the kid who will mess up. And whether or not his teacher actually thinks that, the child feels it, and the burden that rests upon that little boy every day in class is the burden of being expected to fail.
What this kid wants is someone to expect great things of him. And to notice when he succeeds.
All this kid needs, all any of these kids need, is someone to look in their eyes and listen to their words and try for a single second to feel what it feels like to be growing up again. They need an adult to see them, to love them, to hold them responsible for what they have done, and to call them to something better.
They do not need vocabulary as much as they need compassion. They do not need addition as much as they need someone to care. They do not need a well-ordered classroom as much as they need to be seen.
They do not need to be taught as much as they need a teacher.
And I think that if we do not see them as first and foremost people–immortal, set apart as no one else in this universe for the mercy of God, Named in the very inscape of their souls as no other is or shall be and aching beyond understanding to be loved, –then we have failed.
Sometimes it is fourth quarter and I am tired and stressed and I go to detention to talk to tired, stressed little children, and I remember how often it is I who have failed to look at them, and have laid the burden of stress and sadness upon them by my willingness to forget who they are.
Sometimes I go to detention, and repent.
(And sometimes it is fourth quarter and I take a deep breath and am suddenly excited by the prospect of having five more weeks–to try again.)