Sunday, January 10, 2010

Closing doors. Opening hearts.

There's the gentle click of my classroom door closing. Our work continues, the children intent on the pattern shapes on the table in front of them. Timmy breathes a sigh of relief, and looks up to catch my eye. He almost smiles.

With the closing of the classroom door, the angry yelling sounds coming from the crisis room are muffled. It's suddently much easier to concentrate. It's not just that the discomforting noise is lessened. It's also that when someone out in the hallway takes the time to unobtrusively close doors, they honor those kids who are doing the right thing. We are, after all, a place for learning and teaching.

Living the school day in a program for children with emotional disabilities means that, of course, we will be hearing some rageful shouts, anguished tears, even loud, inappropriate laughter. But when children come to learn that they are accepted and valued even if their behavior falls short of expectations, they also learn the value of empathy, not judgment, for their peers. They learn that loud and angry or sad are feelings that their teachers and counselors are ready to help them with. It may be upsetting to hear the noise, but most of our students trust that the situation is under control and will be worked out safely.

And that can be a very big relief.

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