Feb 2, 2013

A story of hands

There is a little boy in my class.  I'll call him Josiah because, well, this blog is public and I am telling someone else's story.  This little boy first came to my class with no coat and no backpack.  He was very excited when we came a up with a couple and he got to take them home.  At first, Josiah tried very very hard to please me.  He told me every day that he loved me when he left for home and then asked me, "Do you love me too?"
To which I replied, "Of course I do.  Every single student in this class is loved and important and special."  I send my students off with hugs and high fives everyday.  All of my students know I think that by now, because Josiah is not the only student in my class who needs to hear that every day because it is missing somewhere else in their life.  However, Josiah is a seriously neglected little boy.  He's often tardy to school and arrives crying because he is afraid to come.  He has been in foster care and he is afraid that when he leaves home, he won't see his Mom again for a while.  He desperately loves his Mom.
Josiah is one of my smartest students and has the worst reading and writing skills.  He needs so much positive reinforcement to start and complete tasks. Josiah is adorable and has the longest eyelashes and the sweetest face.
Josiah needs love and attention more than any other kid I have every met.  Since I am just starting to earn his trust, his behavior has gotten worse.  Much worse. Which makes sense.  He wants to know if he is bad, if I'll reject him.  This is a serious exercise in patience for me as I am also trying to teach a class full of a lot of other students, many of them also quite needy.
I have discovered something.  If I hold Josiah's hand or set my hand on his shoulder, he is fine.  If I let him get as close to me as possible, he is fine.  He needs that constant reassurance that he is loved.
So everywhere I go....Josiah walks with me holding my hand.  Sometimes he even strokes my hand against his cheek.  He needs that contact.
We walk to lunch that way.
We walk to recess that way.

I care so much for this little boy.  Sometimes I think, is hand holding enough to really change a 7 year old's
life?
Maybe, maybe not.  But my heart wishes I could change it all for him.

I often get down eye to eye with him and have a heart to heart.  I care about you.  You are smart.  You are important.  You are part of this class like everyone else and you can do this too.  Sometimes it works, sometimes I am competing with a worry that is on his mind that is too great for me to breach.

But one thing ALWAYS works.  Holding his hand.
He calms down.
He acts like all the other students.
He relaxes.
He feels important.

So we hold hands.  I really love you back, Josiah.