Kindness Transforms an Alienated First Grader
by Arlene Lackowitz
Midway through the school year, a handsome child with blond hair and big brown eyes was standing at my classroom door with his mother who spoke no English. Jeremy was soon to be my 24th first grade student. Little did I know beyond his handsome appearance, there would be serious challenges that I would face as his teacher.
He had no interest whatsoever in being social with other children. Somber, piercing glares and unkind words were intimidating his classmates. Jeremy tried very hard to exclude himself from life around him. He went so far as to try to squeeze his head into his desk to try to accomplish this goal.
Jeremy refused to participate in activities on the carpet where the class gathered to share literacy experiences. Each day, instead of fueling negative feelings, I quietly encouraged him to at least sit on the carpet, assuring him that he did not have to sit near anyone.
In time, he did sit with the class - at a distance. Each day he came a little closer until he was part of the group. My positive remarks to Jeremy were contagious, and soon other children were voicing kind words and enjoying his company. Jeremy’s smile revealed that he was enjoying them as well.
As time passed, from being quite negative originally, Jeremy was voted our classroom’s Student of the Month. His pride swelled as he received a certificate from the vice-principal. Positive comments rang out from his classmates.
Jeremy had come to a classroom where he was nurtured positively. Through kind words, rather than yelling with demeaning remarks and demands, respect was honored and made a difference.