When In Doubt, Be Kind

, , , , , , | | Hopeless | August 18, 2019

I work at a public elementary school in an area characterized by opioid addiction and homelessness. I am working closely with one particular student who I know is experiencing homelessness. He lives alone with his mother, who is neglectful and borderline abusive. Whenever he says something about it I send in a report, but there’s nothing I can do beyond that. The school social worker visits their home regularly and is working with his mother on being more present, but I don’t know if that helped at all.

Additionally, though he doesn’t have an official diagnosis, he shows many characteristics of autism and is frequently bullied by his classmates. We have been working together all school year on social-emotional health, finding ways to control his temper and articulate his emotional needs. He has been making incredible progress all year.

For one of our sessions, I decide to play a text-based computer game with him that simulates living in poverty. You have to balance work, rent, health emergencies, and other situations on a very limited budget. In the game, you have a child, and various scenarios regarding your child appear throughout the game; for example, your child is in a play, and you have to choose between going to the play and accepting an extra shift at work for some bonus money.

My student chooses the options that would best benefit the child, every. Single. Time. Even if it costs more money than he can realistically afford, he is so invested that he wants his imaginary child to have the best life possible. When we finish the game, he turns to me and says, “I’m a good dad.”

I still get choked up thinking about this child who had every reason to be angry at the world, but still chose kindness every. Single. Time.

Words Can’t Express How Nice This Is

, , , , | | Hopeless | August 14, 2019

I work at an elementary school in a third-grade classroom. One of our students is selectively mute; she physically can talk, but English is not her first language and she has severe anxiety about speaking it, so she just doesn’t talk at all. 

Every day, the students rotate to different stations to practice reading and writing. One of the stations involves pulling a popsicle stick out of a jar and reading the word on it aloud. If you get the word right, you get a point. Early in the year, I’m walking around to the different stations, and I see the mute student playing this game with two other students. I stick around to watch to make sure she isn’t being left out.

When it’s her turn, to my surprise, another student picks the popsicle stick and says the word aloud, and then the mute student writes it on a piece of paper. They tell me that they came up with that solution on their own so that they could still include her even though she didn’t talk.

Throughout my time at that school, I frequently find that her classmates come up with solutions to games and activities that allow her to participate, and from what I have seen, no one mocks or excludes her. It warms my heart to think of how naturally the students have accepted her and found ways for her to be part of the group so that she is never left out.

Don’t Question The End Result

, , , , , | | Hopeless | August 13, 2019

I work with a group of elementary school students who need extra help in math. Right now I’m doing multiplication flashcards with three students: two girls, and a boy. They’re all brilliant students, but the girls have a lot more self-confidence, while the boy frequently has fits where he keeps saying he’s stupid and the worst at everything. It breaks my heart because he’s shown that he knows the material, but if he gets the tiniest thing wrong — or even if he gets it right! — he goes into a full meltdown. Often he will say the wrong answer just so he can complain about being dumb. 

During this practice, the girls are on a roll, and the boy is getting increasingly upset. He’s getting the answers right, but he doesn’t say them fast enough so the girls are getting all the points. I try to remind him that it’s just a game, and what matters is that he knows the correct answers, but he’s not having it.

After a little bit, I notice that one of the girls is being more hesitant about answering the questions and even starting to answer them incorrectly. Soon, the other girl starts to do the same thing. I realize that they’re doing poorly on purpose so that the boy has a chance to give the right answers.

Normally, I wouldn’t want the girls to sacrifice their practice time, but as the boy gets more and more points, he gets visibly happier and stops speaking poorly about himself. When the game is over and he sees that he won, he’s through the roof! The girls seem genuinely happy for him. I know it’s not the most honest method, but all three of those students are equally good at math; the boy just needed a confidence booster to get him out of his rut.

At the end of the year, the school hosts an assembly where the principal reads the names of the students who tested at or above grade level for math and reading. All three of those students’ names are called, and to see that boy’s smile as he is recognized for his hard work is beyond worth it.

Applying A Little Customer Kindness

, , , | | Hopeless | July 31, 2019

Both my father and I have worked retail but my mother has not. I ordered a small appliance from a store who ended up sending me two of the same appliance. It was an accident; I checked and I only ordered and paid for one. 

As I was unpacking, I was on speakerphone with my parents. I told them that the store accidentally sent me a second appliance. My mother said, “Oh, you should take it to a store so they can have it back.” My father and I tried to tell her that it doesn’t work that way; I would just get a refund for the one I purchased. Once it’s out, it’s out. She did not understand this.

Several days later, she called and said she talked to corporate and that they confirmed they could not just take it back without a refund. According to her, they were very perplexed with the situation and said that nobody had ever tried to return something they were sent accidentally. They suggested she keep it, which she did, and my mother enjoys it greatly. She even wrote a review on the website along with this story and said how great the customer service was. Really my mother is just a sweet cinnamon roll and it warms my customer service heart.

Family Reactions Can Be Fluid

, , , , , , , | | Related | July 26, 2019

(I am a transgender teen and have just started living openly as a male. My mother’s side of the family is very open and accepting. My father’s side is full of very conservative, hyper-religious types who are a lot less positive. While he supports me, extended family gatherings can be painful. At this particular family dinner, I’m sitting with [Cousin #1], who I’ve always liked. Although she’s using my preferred name, she hasn’t directly mentioned my transition. [Cousin #2] walks over to talk to me.)

Cousin #2: “My husband says what you’re doing is evil. Don’t you dare talk to my kids about it! They are good Christians!”

Cousin #1: “That’s enough, [Cousin #2]!” *to me* “Are you okay?”

Me: *shrugs*

Cousin #1: *to [Cousin #2]* “I think your baby is crying. You should go check on him.” *to me, after she leaves* “I have to go do something. I’ll be back, okay?”

(I watch her leave, disappointed that she seems uncomfortable talking to me, but figuring she must be more like the rest of the family than I thought. She comes back a while later, holding something.)

Cousin #1: “Sorry, I’m still new at this stuff. I needed to talk to my husband and get his permission before I could talk to you. See, he’s not public about it and I don’t think I should tell anyone without checking with him first, but he sometimes lives as [Female Name]. I think it’s called being gender fluid? Anyway, I love her, and I love him, and I just want you to know that all that matters to me is that you keep your awesome personality. Also… I had to swap your Christmas gift. I got you a necklace, but this seems more appropriate.” *hands me a necktie* “Merry Christmas!”

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