By Sabrina Bartels – Almost a year ago, I wrote a blog post about Amy Murray’s letter entitled “Dear Parent: About THAT Kid.” I still am inspired by the letter that she penned to parents everywhere, asking for patience and kindness when it comes to “THAT kid.” You know, “THAT kid” that maybe drives us a little nuts, but simultaneously tags at our heartstrings. Imagine my surprise, and delight, that there is a letter from “THAT kid” to teachers. This one is just as heartwarming and thought-provoking.
I knew the letter was going to be good when I started tearing up upon reading one of the first sentences: “I taunt. I terrorize. I hit. I destroy. I curse. I abuse. I roll my eyes. I talk back. Maybe I’ve even made you cry a few times.” Because I have been there. I have been the teacher who is being cursed at, talked back to, and yes, I’ve even cried a few times in my office out of pure frustration towards a student. But as you continue reading, you see the words, “I really am a good kid deep down.” And that really got to me.
You may remember that in my initial post about “THAT kid,” I said that I had one student that immediately came to mind. Let’s call him “Leo.” Even as an 8th grader, Leo still is “THAT kid” to me. He’s grown up a lot since last year, but there are still things that trigger him and cause him to become angry and defiant towards his teachers and peers. When I go upstairs to do damage control with him, he usually goes from hostile and swearing, to silent and fuming.
Many times when this happens, teachers are shocked. Leo will rage at any person who dares cross his path, but I can count on one hand the number of times that his rage has been directed at me. The first time this happened, I was surprised. I was used to kids taking their anger out on me because of my “unconditional support” role. When I asked Leo why he was so mad at everyone except me, his response was simply, “You care.”
And I do. Just like the letter suggests, “THAT kid” can often be a good kid, but struggles to show it. While a lot of teachers see the angry, hostile, sullen kid that Leo can be, I get to see a whole new side of him. I see the good side whenever he talks about his younger brother, or whenever he shyly tells me that he did well on a class assignment. I see it when he draws a picture for Rob (yes, my husband gets more pictures than me!), or when he begs me to play chess with him. I feel so fortunate that I get to see this aspect of him, this side that he seems to hide. Maybe he thinks he is too vulnerable when he shows it.
But enough about my experience. The link to the letter is here. I beg you all to read it, study it, think about it, and then show a little love to “THAT kid.” Showing that unconditional love and support, as a teacher/counselor/administrator can have the biggest impact on a student for years to come.