Saturday, October 31, 2009


Last week, my student Javier was having a bad day. All morning, he wandered around the classroom, muttering under his breath, refusing to do what I asked. As a result, he ended up eating lunch alone in the classroom with me.

I sent his mom an email to let her know how his morning had been. I tried to ask him what was up, but he wouldn't tell me -- he just acted pissed. His mom wrote back and said, "If you have a chance, call me so I can talk to him."

Since we were alone at lunchtime, I called her and put him on. As I puttered around the classroom, he talked.

He put the phone to ear and said, "Hi, mom."

After listening for a second, he explained, "I didn't get enough sleep last night, so I'm really tired."

Another moment of listening, then: "Yes, but I was feeling frustrated."

As she answered, the mouthpiece of my cellphone dangled closer to his eyes than to his mouth.

"I don't feel like talking to you about that right now," he said in a low voice.

Another quiet moment.

"Yes, I understand what you're saying." His voice was calm and resigned.

I was amazed. I had never heard him talk this way before -- so measured, so clear, so self-aware.

"Javier," I said to him. "All morning you've been letting me know that you're having a hard day. You've been letting me know by not doing your work, by not following directions, and by stomping around the room. But I just heard you talk to your mom in a clearer, more mature way than most grown-ups know how to communicate. Now if you could just talk to me that way when you're having a bad day, we could figure out how to help make your day better."

So far, he hasn't been able to talk to me this way. But I know he has it in him.


  1. That is amazing :) I hope he talks that way to you soon and sets an example for the whole class!

  2. This really speaks so much to the power of building strong relationships with families. Because they have known their child for so long, we learn so much from them.

    I'm so glad you were able to see that side of him, because one day he will show it to you. I can't wait to hear about when he does.

    [also, btw, I've shared your blog with another teacher friend whom I'm hoping you'll meet one day.]