Friday, January 25, 2008

Just maybe....

I am sitting here at midnight thinking about the past week. I have been substituting at the elementary school all week, teaching grade 1 (Colby's class) through Grade 6, which I had today. I know a lot of the kids in the school from the Northern, and unfortunately not in the best of circumstances, as I have kicked many of them out of the store for either attempting to shoplift or just being a pain in the ass. These are kids that I have known for the past several months, and really haven't made an effort to get to know them. It hit me for the first time on my very first day when I was helping out with a gym class. They were having so much fun, playing together and laughing like I have seen kids do back home all the time before we moved here. No sideways hats, no attitudes, just kids playing. It was quite a humbling moment for me, as I realized I was being like many others and just "writing these kids off" as bad kids. I've made a real effort this week to try to learn names, which is very hard as I am in a different class everyday. What I love the most is now, after only 4 days of being in the school, all the kids know me, and at least 10 hug me when I walk through the door. These kids LOVE to hug and be hugged. It honestly breaks my heart because I know, in some cases 1st hand, that these kids do not get this at home. How can you NOT hug your child? When I'm out on the playground supervising recess, I have at least 3 with me at all times, 1 under each arm and one standing in front of me leaning back, just so they can get that little squeeze and hug before they go back to class. As I really looked around the school today, all the teachers are like this. Kids just cling to them, and I love the fact that I am now in that same catagory. Kids who wouldn't look at me without distrust in the Northern are now stopping me, either to just say hi or get a hug. There is one little boy in particular in this community that I have a real soft spot for. I only found out yesterday he is in the 6th grade, but he is not much bigger than Colby. He comes from a very broken home with no supervision and does what he can to survive. That's a lot to have on your shoulders when you are only 10 years old. Another one of the teachers and I were in the hallway today and he was between us. I put my arm around him and told his teacher that I wanted him in my class and I was stealing him. We then started "fighting" over him, saying that we "had to have him". There is nothing more heartwarming to me to see a face that I normally see so tough and guarded, laughing and loving the fact that 2 people were fighting over him. We were both holding on to him and pretending to push each other off him, and he was beaming. I met up with him and 3 of his friends in the Northern a few hours after school today when Mom and I went over. For the first time, he spoke to me in the store and called me by name. When I was at the check out, he asked me if I would buy him a bag of chips. I am always very careful when it comes to this, because as you can imagine if you do for one, they will all hound you. Knowing what I know about this boy, and knowing he probably hadn't even been home since leaving school, I tipped his hat back so I could look at him, grabbed him on either side of his face with my hands and said to him

"If you weren't so cute I would be able to say no to this face"

The smile he gave me lit his face, and at that point I would have bought him everything in the store and took him home with me. I told him and his 3 friends to go pick out a bag of chips each and I would treat them, as long as they promised me they would not cause trouble in the store for the rest of the night. 4 smiling faces quickly nodded and brought back 4 bags of chips, and all said "thank you" to me when they handed them to me. Thank you is a word that is not heard often here.

Yes, I know I will now be the "favorite" one in the Northern, and the boys will now more than likely be asking me all the time to buy them things. Will I? Of course not, that would be silly and would quickly get out of hand. What I will do, which is what I do for my own kids, is occasionally treat them to something if they are around. If a 1.00 bag of chips is all it takes to make a little boy or 2 (or 4) feel loved for even a few minutes, then I'll do it. And the more time I spend in the school, getting to know these kids, I'll see what it is that draws teachers from the south to come up here for 1 year and stay for 10, because they love the kids. I know I'm quickly losing my heart to all of them. And maybe, just maybe they'll feel the same for me.


Anonymous said...

Thst's a really great story Tina. Kids amaze me all the time, even kids in my "bad" classes. It's really hard not to give up on certain kids or groups of kids, but they are definitely worth the effort it takes to make them feel special. You just gave me a little boost for what promises to be a hectic "last review day before exams". Thanks!


Jackie S said...

What a amazing thing to sit down and read in the last hour of a friday, when i'm feeling tired and frustrated.
If you were in Nunavut, and the Nunies hadn't already been going, i'd totally nominate this for best post :D

Rob & Tina said...

Thanks Jackie, that's sweet.

jen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jen said...

sorry I messed my first post up.:)

I know exactly how you feel! You are so wonderful to try and love them in some small way.

However I got burned doing this. A bunch of kids brought Tallinn back to me after he got off his chain. I decided to reward them with chocolate bars because they did a good thing. A few days later I caught them letting Tallinn off his chain so they could "bring him back" and get more chocolate bars. Anyways meanwhile Tallinn took off and I spent the night looking for him. They are smart kids.

Tawny said...

The stories of kids in situations like these can be headbreaking. We deal with kids at my work that are lucky if they get a few crackers each day to eat and then you catch them stealing because they're hungry. Stealing is wrong, no question about it, but for a kid to be hungry all that time - that's wrong too. We tell the kids if they're that desperate, that they have no other option, to just tell a staff. We can always get them food somehow but we can't always guarantee that we can bail them out if they're caught with a wallet they shouldn't have :(.

You're doing good, Tina. As always :).

jods said...

They are so lucky to have you, and you are lucky to have such a rare opportunity to experience a different way of life.

Its good that you are able to hug the children up there, and get hugged back - obvioulsy the foolishness that has gone to far in the rest of the western world re touching children in a GOOD way, hasn't reached the north.

A hug can often be the best remedy. A bag of chips doesn't hurt either:)

Anonymous said...

I love this story.....haven't had a whole lot of time lately to sit down and read anything.....but I'm glad that this one was the story I had a few minutes for.
You are an amazing person Tina!!!! Good for you!! If anyone has lot's of love to spread around it you.
This is a lucky school to have you there.

OHN said...

Oh may never know the difference you are making in the life of a child. S2 had a friend that I took under my wing and basically just treated him like one of my boys. That boy gradually pulled away and got in with a shaky bunch but last year stopped by for a visit and told me that I was "the best mom" he ever knew. I had no idea how bad his home life was and that he felt that way. A burger here and there, a few jokes, I was just being a mom and apparently he didn't have that at home. It breaks my heart and it sounds like I would be toast up there where you are!

Just know that you may be giving them something that they have never had before--attention and love. It may give them hope and everyone needs hope.