When you’re right in the middle of it. When it hurts. When you don’t know if you can hold on one more second. Instead of giving up, can you get curious? Can you try a new perspective? Can you take a deep breath and hold on?
This strategy was introduced to me during a yoga class. The instructor made the connection between holding a challenging pose and staying in a challenging situation.
We’ve been having quite the challenging situation at our site. A six year old showed up for school a month ago. He was so lethargic from hunger that his glazed eyes refused to focus on anything. During nap-time the first day he defecated in his sleep. His body wasn’t used to having to manage sleep and digestion simultaneously. During the third day he stopped stealing food from the others. He knew he could get more if he wanted. During the fifth day, the crazy started.
This beautiful boy is absolutely wild. He’s never had discipline of any kind and spends his days as he wants. Suddenly, there were rules about not pinching, and not leaving rooms at will, and using actual toilets for elimination. Squeaks of laughter marked each jail break. If he was chased it was his victory. His high-pitched jabbering encouraged everyone to join him. We pulled two of them off the roof of the playground three times that day, chased them around the compound, sat with them in timeout, then took them back to class and repeated the process.
Stickers? Don’t need ‘um. Candy? Don’t care.
My professional suggestion: He’s not ready for school. He needs to go home and come back when he can figure it out. He’s taking so much away from the other kids.
I was shocked his teacher disagreed. This poor woman spends her days corralling kids who each have special issues to overcome and all she could say was, “let’s try one more day. If he goes home, it only hurts him.”
I prayed; I asked for prayer. And as so often happens when we pray to see change in others, we find change is necessary in us.
Armed with new ideas from the share expertise of others, I went back to the site ready to be curious. Ready to study my specimen and figure out what made him tick. I wanted to find the why behind the crazy.
We gave him a squishy ball. He was entranced. He rolled it up and down is forehead. He squished it into his ear. He squished it into his sister’s ear. Interesting. He got antsy. I took him outside and we jumped up and down as hard as we could. My eyes shifted to the classroom door then to his, he ran right back and took his seat, holding his hand out for the ball. He got antsy. I took him outside and we twirled in circles. Back to class. He got antsy; more jumping. He got antsy: twirling. He sat on my lap and I held him tightly so he would feel solid and safe. We went for a bathroom break, we washed our hands at the big water tank. He didn’t run away. As water poured from the tap, he smashed his whole face against the side to feel the vibration of water leaving the tap. He hit a long stick as hard as he could on the ground. I encouraged him. He smiled and hit some more. We walked back to class.
He began repeating “Nimetoka kuandika!” “I want to write!” With raised, questioning eyebrows I took him to the back of the room, poured salt onto a plate, and started tracing letters with my finger. He drew a circle with the pad of his pointer finger. Under his breath he said, “Circle”. In English. My heart stopped. He said it again. He drew circles until snack time. After snack time, he couldn’t handle class anymore even with jumping and twirling. So, we went to the office.
“Nimetoka kuandika!” I pulled out a blank sheet of paper and popped open a container of colored pencils. He colored happily until lunch. He ran once. I hopped up to follow and saw him racing to the toilets, then to wash his hands, then right back to keep coloring. He wasn’t running to be chased he was running to get back quicker
After lunch is nap time. He wasn’t interested in napping with his classmates, so I put a blanket down on the office floor. He didn’t seem very tired, but when I asked him, he laid down for solid ten minutes, before returning to HIS desk to continue coloring. Then he brought me books to read with him. My heart stopped again.
Every time I held my held my hand out to him, he took it. After four days of nothing but running and challenging, he was happy and peaceful. I was, too.
He isn’t ready for full-time school. He’ll need a lot of breaks. I can’t be is 1:1 aid because I got ZERO of my actual to-do list accomplished…and I’m, like, trying to run a school. But, I can hire someone who will be his jumping buddy. I can help him to feel safe and seen. I can support him in building stamina to increase his time in class. I can stay curious about what’s going to happen next.
I can stay in a challenging place because I believe the next moment is as likely to be a break through as it is to be a break down. That’s a good way to end a week.