Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Sep 09 2007

Mistakes are okay, as long as we learn from them

i have a student named Sam. Sam used to be special ed but recently was removed and placed in my gen ed classroom. Sam has anger management issues and a quick temper. over the past few months, I have gotten to know Sam and can quickly identify when he is going to flare up; i have found several strategies that aid in avoiding a flare up and can usually calm him down if i catch the warning signs early enough.

but yesterday….i just wasn’t quick enough. before i knew it, Sam’s face was bright red as he huffed and puffed, his brething getting louder. soon enough he started pounding his fists on his table. it was too late. I gathered the rest of the children on the corner away from Sam as he picked up his desk and slammed it into the other desks, sending its contents flying across the room. soon objects were been thrown through the air as he released screams of frustration and anger. despite their tears and terrified eyes, i made a vain attempt to give the rest of the class a task to work on whilst i tended to Sam. in order to keep the rest of the class safe, i picked up his chair (with a raging Sam still in it) and relocated him to our class library where he proceeded to tear apart my bookshelves and destroy the classroom Royal Throne (an incentive chair). his fists were flying as he released his anger by punching the wall. i was able to calm down the other students and focus them on our project and thank the Lord they were able to ignore Sam.

my biggest concern wasn’t that the students would be afraid, but for the embarrassment and humiliation I’m sure Sam would feel after he calmed down and realized what he had done. I knew i had to do something to make sure the class would support Sam and accept him regardless of his actions. About 15 minutes and one phone call home later, Sam began to breath regularly and i watched the tension realse from his tiny shoulders. tears in his eyes, he looked up at me and between gasps of breath released a soft, “i’m sorry.”…his shoulders slumped over as guilt began to take over. I took his little hand in mine and told him that I think he is a wonderful little boy, that nothing he could ever do would make me not think so; i looked him in the eye and told him all the things that i love about him, how he comes to school early every morning to help me clean the room and pass out papers, how he fought his parents to come to school despite a 103degree fever because he didn’t want to miss out on anything we did in class… he slowly looked up at me, then lunged into my arms, hugging me tightly, and my eyes began to water.

we talked about controlling our temper and together we brainstormed a signal for Sam that he could use when he felt like he was flairing up; he decided to tug on his ear signaling me and could leave the classroom and walk outside for 5 minutes until he felt he was calm and ready to return.

before i knew it, he was off the floor, and returned with scotch tape and began fixing all he had broken. He gathered the contents strewn about the room and neatly placed them back in his desk. several students stopped what they were doing and walked over and began helping Sam….”glad you’re back Sam!” when i saw this, the tears i had been fighting flowed without restraint. i slipped out the back door to take a deep breath and compose myself before continuing with the day. i prayed a prayer of gratitude that the students welcomed Sam back with open arms, no grudges, no judgement. i sighed slowly and wiped my eyes. i took a deep breath and returned to class. i stood in the door, gazing at the little hands hard at work. several glanced up and smiled, “Um, Ms. Judson?” i felt a little tugging on my arm. “I accidentally colored the flag blue instead of red.” “Thats okay Evan. Sometimes we all make mistakes, and thats okay.” He paused for a moment before replying with “Yeah, mistakes are okay, as long as we learn from them.” i smiled at him and ruffled his hair, “You are absolutely right!”

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