Bouncing Back

Dear Terrence,

When you walked into the classroom today, I knew things were going to be difficult for you. Your face was set in such anger: it looked as if you were about to explode. I’ve learned from experience that kids in a state like you were in are better off left alone, so I decided to let you sit there for as long as you needed, for until you become disruptive — always a possibility in such situations.

We began the lesson, things moved smoothly, and I kept my eye on you. You were unmoving for a good ten minutes. Then you loosened up a bit, but not much: your fists were still clinched, but not so tightly; your jaw was quivering with anger, but not so violently. I put the stack of papers to be passed out on the desk at the head of your row: when the stack arrived at your desk, you took one and passed the rest back. A positive step. Still, you weren’t in any place to begin work, so I let you sit. Finally, as we began marking the text, filling the pages with our scribblings and lines, our arrows and marginal notes, you raised your hand and asked for help catching up. I numbered the paragraphs, drew the lines between paragraphs for our text clusters, and handed the paper back.

“Thanks,” was all you said. And you slowly began working.

Let me tell you now: that behavior was not how a kid acts; it was how an adult acts. It was impressive. It filled me with hope for your future. It reminded me again how much you’ve matured this year.

Now, the next step: set a goal to get to that point a bit faster. Then a bit faster. And before long, you’ll find yourself able to set aside even the most troubling situations long enough to deal with the responsibilities at hand. And that will be one of many signs that you’re a man.

Impressed and still smiling,
Your Teacher

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