Earlier in the year I had a negative interaction with a student. She does not show interest in what we do in the library (which bugs me) and last year she quietly antagonized a student who doesn’t have the same social skills until I permanently moved her seat. I was protective of the boy and really upset with her for manipulating the underdog.
The day of our negative interaction I asked her several times to follow a direction and she chose to play with friends instead. I’ll admit the past 14 months caught up with me when I expressed my displeasure. It was not my proudest moment. When I saw her upset I instantly felt remorse. That interaction haunted me for several nights. I did not want her association with libraries to be tied to that one experience with me. So the following week I apologized to her for our last class interaction and told her I hoped we could move forward in a positive direction.
I have made it a point to find ways to connect with her these past few months. When she told me she really likes books about history and World War II, I was sure to place holds on titles I thought she might enjoy. I give her a smile at the start of each class. Over time we have forged a tentative, amicable rapport. She is respectful and attentive in class. She raises her hand and asks questions. But if we see one another in the hallway she will look down and pretend she doesn’t see me.
Now that I’m back to school the kids want to know where I’ve been. I have been honest with each class when I explain I was very sick and my dad passed away unexpectedly. Today this student surprised me by walking up during book check out to quietly say, “I’m sorry for the loss of your dad. I’m really sorry.”
I thanked her and let her know how kind it was for her to say that. I looked at her and had a sneaking suspicion. “Did you lose someone you care for?”
She nodded and said, “I lost my great grandmother a few years ago. She was really special to me. We were close.”
I said, “She must have loved you something fierce. I bet she was really proud of you and loved you so much.”
She smiled and said, “She did. Again, I’m sorry for your loss.”
Of all the students I work with, I was not anticipating this one to express compassion and sympathy. It was today that I realized how far we really have come. I’m thankful for second chances. And I’m glad that I could let her know that adults make mistakes too but we’ll work to make it right when we can.