Today was a very quiet day. All the kids seemed to just be in good moods, and for the first time since I’ve started coming, it felt like no one was really arguing or getting on each other’s nerves. Something must have just been in the water. I worked with Sam, who was, as always, working on his times tables (we worked on sevens today). We passed out snacks and had a restroom break, and then came back to the classroom to work on homework. I noticed that Sam is a lot like me—he procrastinates like it’s his job. Any chance he gets, he’s getting up from his desk to do something, whether it’s important or not. He has something to tell his sister, he’s going to get a new eraser, there’s a piece of trash on the floor that he just has to throw away before we can continue. I think he just feels more productive if he’s doing a bunch of things (which I can also relate to), even if they aren’t actually productive. We talked today about focusing on one thing at a time. We set a goal for him to accomplish before we could move on to something else, and that seemed to work for him. After we finished the times tables, he set to work on a project for school he’d been working on, some kind of shoebox diorama depicting a scene from Charlotte’s Web (if I remember correctly, Wilbur was squealing “But I don’t want to be bacon!” in response to something the sheep had told him).
I moved on to work with Jaylen (not to be confused with Jalen) on his reading comprehension. He was having a lot of trouble focusing and kept turning around to talk to the students behind him. I consistently had to be patient and draw his attention back to his work, and after a lot (a lot) of prompting, he finally buckled down and finished it. I don’t know if he thought he just wasn’t smart enough to figure it out or what, but he kept saying he needed my help when he really didn’t. The obvious answer would be that he was just trying to get answers out of me, but part of me feels like that’s not the whole reason. He just needs to be told seriously that he’s smart enough, I think. But I’m not sure yet. We definitely got to know each other better—he knows now that I don’t take crap. But he came to respect that, I think. I’m interested to see where our relationship goes from here.
One of the most noticeable things was how well Jalen was working with his tutor. She’d been working with him all day, and he hadn’t acted out once, but instead worked calmly and quietly at his desk. He was very diligent, and when we were about to leave for the day, I went up to him and told him that I was very proud of him. I told him that I’d really noticed him working hard and, coolest of all, that he’d been very respectful to his tutor, Mrs. Rose, and his fellow students. He got the biggest smile on his face, a truly genuine reaction. He nodded and said, “Yeah, I think I’m gonna try and act like that more.” I was blown away. We did some kind of cool bro handshake and I could tell that not only did my words mean a lot to him, but he was really proud of himself in a healthy way. Needless to say, I was beaming as I got onto the bus to go back to campus. It certainly wasn’t all me, but the stuff I’d been learning in class had really paid off. Jalen really benefited from just being listened to. It makes me excited for the weeks to come. Part of me wonders if it was just a fluke, if Jalen was just having a really good week. But I know that even when the more frustrating days come (as they surely will) that progress is being made. These kids lives are being impacted, and I get to be a tiny part of it.
Basically it just made me really excited to be a social worker.