I have a little boy in my class – I’ll call him Gus – who is one of the gloomiest children I’ve ever known. (While I am relatively new to teaching, I’ve worked with children in varying capacities for close to 15 years). A lot of Gus’ negativity stems from the ideas his parents teach him (that’s their prerogative), which are in direct conflict with the cultural norms that this boy wants to experience as a 6-year old. Of course, Gus’ propensity to react in anger when he feels slighted does not help things. I will say, though, that he is making progress in expressing why he’s upset, which helps him get his emotions under control more quickly.
All of Gus’ gloominess generally conspires to make him into one of the more curiously regarded children in the room. I’ve tried to help him understand that it makes other kids uncomfortable when he gets so angry. They really become wary when he starts saying things like, “I don’t like books about animals!” while pounding his fists” or “I hate jack-o-lanterns!” while screaming red-faced at other kids. Throughout the year, Gus has pretty much found at least one thing every week that he dislikes or even hates, oftentimes due to the strain of his conflicting home and school lives. And because of this, he has not been the happiest camper this year.
Today, we had an assembly, and since my class was the first one in the auditorium, we were able to take the first two rows. It’s the kind of thing that has the potential to send Gus into a rage of hate – who knows what in the assembly will touch a nerve in him? All the other kids were loving it. They were fixated on the magic tricks and comedy coming from the stage. I knew Gus would find something to rail against, but as I scanned my class, I spotted his smiling face turned back at mine. The kid was laughing an authentic guffaw, right down to the slapping of the knee. I never saw anything like that from him. And he seemed to be telling me without his words that he was glad, that he felt safe.
There’s nothing to hate about that.