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star-sailor (profile) wrote,
on 10-10-2008 at 2:03am
Current mood: indescribable
Music: Once More For The Afterlife - Explosions In The Sky
Subject: Anthems for an Eleven Year Old
Things at work have been going well. Basically, we have four different groups of 15 or so kids, organized by colour. Mine is blue (ironically, my favourite colour!). Then there are purple, red, and green. We rotate the groups into different activities every week, trading them between the teachers. I'm in charge of doing speed stacking, which is basically stacking cups... long story, hahaha.

Anyway, this is the last rotation for the types of activities we've been doing over the last month. I had my group first, then red, followed by purple, and this week, green. Green group are the fifth graders. They think they're so cool; they're mostly the "popular" crowd in the after school, made of the football players, tough kids, and diva girls, with a few odd kids out and fourth graders. Two of the sweeties (and some of my favourite kids from last year (Lesley and Maritza)) are in that group. But I digress.

So, there's this boy named Jacob, who is kinda notorious throughout the school. He has some intense ADHD, and I have a feeling he might be bi-polar. He is basically, just SUPER weird, and dorky, and just acts out a lot. The kids pick on him a lot, and as much as you try to stop it, there's not much you can really do, y'know? What gets me about him, is that as annoying as he is to us teachers... I relate to him... I was really awkward and weird when I was his age. Maybe not as obnoxious, but... definitely outcasted from the other kids.

Well the tough kids were making jokes about him, and there was nothing much I could do to get them to stop. Finally, they said something - I didn't hear what - that was just too much for Jacob to handle. He rushed out of the room. I can't let my kids just run off, so I got the others working on an activity, and hurried after him.

He went to the cafeteria, and just laid his head down upset, and like he was going to cry. I tried to comfort him, and see what was really bugging him. "They just... they all make fun of me... all the time," he finally told me. "They call me stupid, and dumb, and weird, and I hate it... Why do they do that?"

How does anyone answer that? There are no right answers... But I did what felt natural to me. "You know, when I was your age, kids made fun of me all the time. They called me the weird kid too." There was a cup by me, which I put on my head, while showing him my bracelets and that shoelace of yours, "The type of weirdo who wears Pokemon cards as necklaces, shoelaces on my arm, and puts cups on his head."

He laughed, and I kept talking. "Even the kids in after school say I'm really weird. Do you think I'm weird?" He laughed again, and nodded. "Well guess what," I said, "I love being weird. Normal is boring. And there's nothing wrong with being weird. If those dumb kids in there say you're weird, they just don't get how cool you really are." We talked for another minute or so, and then now that he was comforted, went back to join the others.

Things were alright for awhile. The kids made some mean jokes at his expense, as expected, but he didn't let it get to him. Which was a relief. But I noticed one of the girls, named Brianna, in the corner. She definitely didn't look happy, and she's quite the happy girl; she wasn't playing with the rest of the class, and looked morose. I asked her if anything was wrong, and she nodded yes, but didn't want to talk about it. I minded the class for a little longer, but after she didn't join in, I went to see what was wrong again.

"How are you feeling?" I asked. "You sure you don't want to talk about it?"

"It's just..." she said very suddenly, "They just make fun of Jacob all the time. They say mean things about him, and I just want to be his friend..." She then went on to explain how she thought Jacob was pretty cool, even though he was weird. She wanted to be his friend, but was worried about what the popular crowd would think. She hated that the others made fun of Jacob, and how she felt kind of helpless on how to actually do anything positive in this situation.

How does anyone answer that? It's another infinite question, with no right answers. I felt her pain... that's such a hard position to be in. I felt bad for having thought Jacob was such a pain before today, and how out of everyone - the other teachers, students, and myself included - had blown Jacob off as just a strange child, when this little girl wanted nothing more for HIM to be accepted by everyone, and for him to be her friend. How cruel the rest of us were! It took all it had in me not to cry (which I'm doing now).

But I stayed strong for Brianna, who was already crying for the both of us. "They're... they're just dumb kids, y'know?" I tried to explain. "They're mean, and dumb, and Jacob is really unique. And they just don't get him. But you do! If you want to be his friend, you should try! I bet that if you start to get to know him, those dumb kids will start getting jealous, and want to know him more too. And if they think you're weird... well, to bad for them. Cause you've got a new friend to be weird and cool with."

She cried, but seemed to be feeling a little better. I wiped one of her tears away, and just kept her company a little longer, before bringing her back to an open space where we could play. I asked Jacob to join us, and he happily did. No sooner did I invite Jacob, did those sweeties I mentioned - Lesley and Maritza - wanted to join. Even one of the popular ones, Maira, got jealous of the group we mustered, and she joined too. We sat together in a circle and played together.

I don't know what any of this means. Maybe it just doesn't have meaning. It's just so... weird to see these kids, who are still so young, dealing with problems that I - as a young adult - still could never ever figure out no matter how hard I tried. These are adult problems, and these kids are having to face them head on. It's so weird to see them so sad and upset over issues that make me so sad and upset. It shows me how alike I am to these little children, and how alike they are to me, even though we're 10 years of life apart.

I have so much respect for Brianna now. And much more for Jacob than I did, even though he's still a total pain in the ass, haha. It just makes me so sad to see these kids hurting so bad... and makes me mad at the dumb kids who do this for no reason, and happy that I can try to help out. I'm still crying, and I'm not even really sure why... It just makes me think of my childhood, and about when my dog died, and how painful being weird can be, and how complicated life is, and how sad it is to see this happen, but so happy that Jacob can see that me, his teacher - someone who he respects and admires - has been where he is today. That someone so kind-hearted like Brianna is there for him, at a time when nobody else is. And it reminds me of Leslie, because she was there for me at a time when I really didn't have any other friends. And it's all so confusing, but it just makes hate and love life all at once, and makes me cry and smile at the same time, and makes me really see how ugly and beautiful our crazy lives can be.

Hahah, I'm still crying. But that's my story of what happened today. And I don't know if there is any real point, reader. Maybe this is life in all its permutations; life in its true, unfiltered, unadulterated, unbiased form. Maybe this is a case of some overactive people. Maybe this is what growing up is or feels like, for Brianna and Jacob, and for me. Maybe this was a change of inter-related events that we'll all forget about. Or maybe this is a moment that we'll all remember vaguely when they're 21 and I'm 31. Maybe this was training for me, so I know how to say the same thing to my kids. Maybe this is the story I'll never be able to truly articulate, because there are far too many emotions to even confine to a work of fiction. Maybe this is something that shouldn't be spoken of, because it's too powerful, too emotions, and too precious to part with. Maybe everyone should see and read this, and love and hate life, and feel exactly as I do. I really don't know, reader. But I do know that today is life altering. I do know, reader, that a couple eleven year old kids changed my life in twenty minutes. I don't know reader, but I do know that.
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