Our Land – What comes around, goes around…

As those of you have been here for a while know, Our Land began as a worried-mommy blog post, in which I wondered whether a school photo of my son was adorable or him desperately needing a break. I wondered whether I was looking at autism. People responded, and it’s grown into a series of amazing voices, many that don’t have anything to do with special needs. Our Land is bigger and more important than the place from which it started. It’s the place that we strive to get to in our minds, our hearts, and our communities. It’s the place where a person’s walk, talk, hair color, skin color, sexual orientation, style of outdated shoes, and all of the whatevers don’t matter. What matters is a person’s heart. What matters is his or her ability to see empathy and wonder in this world, and to spread it.  For us all to see and to sew what’s important.

I’m beyond thrilled to welcome today’s voice: my good friend Kenya, from Here’s the thing...  Kenya is talented, warm, funny, and inspiring. Each one of her stories provides a look into her home, her family, and her perspective. Her words have made me laugh out loud, they’ve made me cry, and they’re always welcoming. If you don’t know her, please go visit Here’s the thing...  after reading the below. You won’t regret it, I promise.

What comes around, goes around…

This was originally posted on Here’s the thing...

From 1977 to 1981, I attended a predominately white private school and I was the only black girl in my class. When I was in 2nd grade, I met another black girl who was in the 1st grade. She was the one who became my friend and we played together during recess.

The following year was difficult for me because my black friend was no longer there. I was a year older and more aware of my differences because they were brought to my attention. I can still remember the full names of the girls who taunted my differences. I can still remember the full names of the Jewish girl and the tiny white girl with thick glasses who became my best friends.

We had Show & Tell on Fridays. The ‘IT’ thing for all the girls to bring to school was their cabbage patch doll. The redheaded girl with freckles had a cabbage patch doll with orange hair and freckles. The blonde girls had cabbage patch dolls with yellow hair and hazel or blue eyes. The girl from Spain had a cabbage patch doll with straight black hair. The hair on the cabbage patch doll was made from yarn. Friday was my least favorite day at school because I never had anything cool to take, and I didn’t own a cabbage patch doll.

One day my mom surprised me with a cabbage patch doll. I feigned excitement, but I knew she wasn’t a real cabbage patch doll. She didn’t come with the birth certificate (certificate of authenticity) that showed my name and hers. Additionally, she was black, and she had black cornrows in her hair. She looked like me. I can imagine the thrill my mom must have had when she found a black cabbage patch doll with cornrows. As a mom today, that makes me feel warm and fuzzy to tears.

However, at that age, I had already learned that I was a contrast to my classmates similar. No one was excited about my doll when I took her to school and the insecurity of my differences was on the rise. The girls would ask me why I never wore my hair out. My classmates always questioned my lunch. I was a vegetarian and they didn’t understand fake meat. Additionally I was an early bloomer and boys would pull the straps on my training bra.

I can still remember the names of the teachers who made me feel bad, and I can still remember the teachers who made a difference. One of the teachers who I only remember as Miss “Swears” (incorrect spelling/correct pronunciation) didn’t complete the school year because she got married and moved away. I cannot remember if ‘Swears’ was her married name or her maiden name but in my memory, both were hard to spell.

Before Miss Swears left, she pulled me aside when no one was around. She gave me a book with white and black models in it. She told me that I was beautiful, I was special, and that I was no different from the girls in my class. She told me that I was smart and that I could be anyone I wanted to be.  Her words withdrew my uncertainties and gave me hope. Today it makes me feel warm and fuzzy to tears to know that she noticed me, and that she cared enough to teach me an important lesson on her way out.

         

There are many people who have been in and out of my life who left no impression at all. How would you choose to be remembered? Helpful, indifferent or not at all?

This is a lesson for all of us. We can chose to ignore someone in a situation who is not our problem or we can give someone hope. Spread hope, so that hope comes around and goes around.

Update from Kenya: Every child should have the “Miss Swears” experience. Last school year, Christopher was in the second grade and I had to meet with his teacher when we were only 30 days into the school year. He repeatedly came home sad, saying how he didn’t like school. He said his teacher yelled a lot and he didn’t think she liked him. He did not want me to meet with her. This broke my heart. Empathetically, I flashed back to my formidable elementary school years.

It took me a few days to put Mama Bear at rest and asked for a confidential meeting. Ultimately Christopher’s teacher and I had a good meeting and established a parent/teacher relationship based on e-mail communication. She confided that she felt like she was in over her head. She was coming from 25 years teaching 5th grade, to teaching 2nd grade and she had a lot going on. I explained how impressionable his age group would be with positive reinforcement. Each day I would ask Christopher how his day was. One day he said, “It was actually pretty good.” While I couldn’t undo how the school year started out, I was able to lend what I could to improve his second grade experience. “The good” became the more prominent memory.

I told you that her words would suck you in. And, she made me cry again. It was “Spread hope, so that hope comes around and goes around.” Kenya is amazing. Here’s a bit more about her:

Kenya G. Johnson is a freelance writer, editor, blogger of Here’s the thing... and the author of The Christopher Chronicles. It’s a delightful, warm and hilarious compilation of adorable phrases and thoughts from her son Christopher. Kenya is one of those women who makes me feel like we’re having a back-and-forth conversation in real life through our Twitter chats and blog commentary. In real life, I imagine that she often says “Here’s the thing…” just as she does in her writing. I love it. She’s currently working on three writing projects. Kenya resides in Jacksonville, North Carolina, with her husband and her son.

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. You have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars, to change the world.” – Harriet Tubman


  • Janine Huldie - Kenya, I had great experiences and not so great experiences, too in school. Your post reminded me of my 4th grade teacher, who actually told my parents at a parent-teacher conference that I was nervous. I honestly just remember how mean she was and how she never seemed to smile. But then in 2nd grade, i had a teacher who not only believed in me, but let me shine in her class. Both was reasons that I wanted to become a teacher, because I knew the good and the bad and truly wanted to be more like the good then anything else in my future students’ minds. This really was such a wonderful post and if either of my girls need me I know I will be just like you were with Christopher last year and be the mama bear for sure!
    Janine Huldie recently posted…Drawing Tips for Kids–With Step By Step Tutorial To Draw Mickey MouseMy ProfileAugust 14, 2013 – 9:50 amReplyCancel

  • Katia - Kenya is a beutiful girl and a beautiful woman inside and out. It is quite incredibe that it takes so little to give so much. I write this with a lump in my throat. Thanks so much for sharing this, Kenya.
    Katia recently posted…A Childhood Lesson From TwitterMy ProfileAugust 14, 2013 – 9:50 amReplyCancel

  • Kenya G. Johnson - Thanks for having me Kristi. I love the picture placements. And what am I crying for? I’ve read this a million times. Well I think it had to do with you crying again. LOL ;-)
    Kenya G. Johnson recently posted…The Key to Empathy is Knowledge…My ProfileAugust 14, 2013 – 9:52 amReplyCancel

  • Kenya G. Johnson - Janine – thank you! My parents stepped in with a bad teacher experience I had in high school with an English teacher. It was an AP class and I deserved to be there. It didn’t work out because she did make me feel bad about myself. I had to take regular English which turned out to be harder and the experience that solidified my desire to be a writer.
    Kenya G. Johnson recently posted…The Key to Empathy is Knowledge…My ProfileAugust 14, 2013 – 9:56 amReplyCancel

  • Kenya G. Johnson - Thank you Katia. I feel like I’ll be having tear flashes all day. So true that it takes so little to give so much.
    Kenya G. Johnson recently posted…The Key to Empathy is Knowledge…My ProfileAugust 14, 2013 – 9:58 amReplyCancel

  • Kristi Campbell - Kenya,
    THANK YOU for allowing me to share your words. And you just did it again. *sniff*

    Janine,
    I agree that this is a wonderful post. I’m glad that you did have an amazing teacher but am bummed to read that you, too, had a not-so-great experience. Sigh.

    Katia,
    I suppose there are lumps all around!

    Kristi Campbell recently posted…Our Land – What comes around, goes around…My ProfileAugust 14, 2013 – 10:11 amReplyCancel

  • Dana - Your story touched me, Kenya. It reminded me that even the smallest act of kindness can be life altering, especially for a child. So many times spreading hope is so easy to do – why don’t we all do it more often?
    Dana recently posted…Full of possibilitiesMy ProfileAugust 14, 2013 – 10:15 amReplyCancel

  • Kristi Campbell - Dana,
    Yes! Why don’t we do it more often?? Let’s start!
    Kristi Campbell recently posted…Our Land – What comes around, goes around…My ProfileAugust 14, 2013 – 10:19 amReplyCancel

  • Kathy - Kenya, as usual your post resonates. I went to a predominantly all white school, but one of my best friends was one of the only black girls in the school. We both went to Penn State afterwards, and were room mates. As much as I “thought” I understood when she would tell me how different she felt growing up in an all white school district… There was truly no way I could. One Saturday night at Penn State she asked me to go to one of the all black dances held on campus. What??!?? It was with great trepidation that I went. But what an eye opener it was to TRULY feel different, out of place, stared at, and the subject of some pretty cruel comments. It’s been 30 years later, and I still tell my friend it was one of the greatest learning experiences of my life! Sometimes we all need to have our eyes opened. And your post also accomplished that :) August 14, 2013 – 10:40 amReplyCancel

  • Considerer - Absolutely gorgeous Our Land piece, Kenya. Totally worth waiting for.

    You were blessed with an AMAZING teacher! So glad that you were then able to pass that kind of help and support down to your son. THAT’S the kind of cycle I like to see :)
    Considerer recently posted…Wordless Wednesday: Internet historyMy ProfileAugust 14, 2013 – 11:00 amReplyCancel

  • Michelle - This was amazing! I was all choked up reading it. I hope all of our children have a Mrs. Swears in their life! We all have the opportunity to make a difference in other’s lives. And if we choose to do so, our world becomes a better place. It’s a wonderful reminder…thank you for sharing it! I am going to try to be even more mindful of it. Thank you!
    Michelle recently posted…How to Keep Your Audience Engaged with Facebook InsightsMy ProfileAugust 14, 2013 – 11:05 amReplyCancel

  • Deb @ Urban Moo Cow - Amazing, Kenya. So evocative. Not to minimize your experience with race at such a young age, but I do think your words ring true for many of us who felt like outsiders in our own world.

    Also, I want to say how impressed I am with your ability to stay calm with your son’s teacher and really hear where she was coming from. We are all coming from somewhere, aren’t we….
    Deb @ Urban Moo Cow recently posted…How Often Do You Eat Dinner Together?My ProfileAugust 14, 2013 – 11:33 amReplyCancel

  • Tamara - I think I’m crying with you right now – from the happy, fuzzy things (the doll, “Miss Swears”) and I’m also crying a bit for myself. My father waited on line for hours just to order me a Cabbage Patch Kid and he didn’t live to see when they were finally delivered to us as surprises.
    I remember every name of anyone who ever taunted me and anyone who made a great difference. I’m happy that the second list is much larger, or else maybe I have forgotten or let go of a few from the first column. May our lists of the good things grow!
    Tamara recently posted…Head and Heart Places.My ProfileAugust 14, 2013 – 11:45 amReplyCancel

  • mytwicebakedpotato - As a mother and a teacher, this post was a wonderful reminder about the importance of our words and the way we can impact a child.
    Thank you ;) August 14, 2013 – 12:02 pmReplyCancel

  • Michelle Liew - Teachers can really make a difference to situations like this. It takes an empathetic one who is willing to take that little step forward for a child. Beautiful share, Kenya and Kristi Rieger Campbell.August 14, 2013 – 2:07 pmReplyCancel

  • Jessica - Kristi, I just love this series! And Kenya, this was such a wonderful post. Miss Swears was right about what she told you, and when we believe in someone in a way that they don’t believe in themselves, we should definitely share it. Especially with children so young and impressionable. I’m also impressed by the way you took control of your son’s school experience. We should all care so much about each other. Thank you so much for sharing!
    Jessica recently posted…[134/365] The Back RoadsMy ProfileAugust 14, 2013 – 2:56 pmReplyCancel

  • Kimberly Isaac-House - I love this Kenya!August 14, 2013 – 3:35 pmReplyCancel

  • Stephanie @ Mommy, for Real. - That was beautiful, Kenya, and I’m with Kristi- you made me cry, too. Your story was both heart-wrenching and inspiring. What a perfect addition to this series.
    Stephanie @ Mommy, for Real. recently posted…My Awkward Return to School: PTA, Poodle Skirts, and Mom-FailsMy ProfileAugust 14, 2013 – 3:44 pmReplyCancel

  • Kenya G. Johnson - Dana – Thank you! I’ll be the first to admit we just get caught up in our lives and sometimes it takes having an experience or reading about one to recognize where we can do better.
    Kenya G. Johnson recently posted…The Key to Empathy is Knowledge…My ProfileAugust 14, 2013 – 4:05 pmReplyCancel

  • Kenya G. Johnson - Kathy – thank you for stopping by. I can almost hear your friend, “Oh you’ll be fine.” It just goes to show how close the two of you were – probably like sisters – that she thought nothing of it. Thanks for sharing your experience.
    Kenya G. Johnson recently posted…The Key to Empathy is Knowledge…My ProfileAugust 14, 2013 – 4:11 pmReplyCancel

  • Kenya G. Johnson - Lizzi, Thank you. It’s a moment I can see so clearly. If I were an actress and had to tear up on cue with a smile, that’s a scene I would reflect on. I feel like I am holding my breath to find out what Christopher’s teacher will be like this year.
    Kenya G. Johnson recently posted…The Key to Empathy is Knowledge…My ProfileAugust 14, 2013 – 4:15 pmReplyCancel

  • Kenya G. Johnson - Michelle – thank you. That’s exactly what the Our Land series does. I’ve said the exact same thing. We can be mindful of what we learned and apply it to our lives.
    Kenya G. Johnson recently posted…The Key to Empathy is Knowledge…My ProfileAugust 14, 2013 – 4:18 pmReplyCancel

  • Kenya G. Johnson - Thank you Deb! It truly took me a few days once I decided okay that’s the last straw. I talked to my husband. Then I talked to my mom and dad who were no help. My dad wanted to drive here and go to the meeting with me. LOL! I had bullet points when I went to visit her. She was probably scared when I pulled out two sheets of paper and spoke with a shaky voice. But it really did go over very well. By the end of October I was helping her with something at the schools Fall Harvest party – and I never volunteer for stuff like that. ;-) August 14, 2013 – 4:26 pmReplyCancel

  • Kenya G. Johnson - Tamara – Every time someone writes “cry” there I have go again – especially after your following comment. Thank you for sharing that with us.

    Yes my “taunted list” is short too but it is sad to remember the first and last names this many years later. Some of the people who were really wonderful I can’t remember their names at all.August 14, 2013 – 4:31 pmReplyCancel

  • Darcy Perdu - Makes me so happy to know that the Mrs. Swears of the world are making a difference. And yes of course I cried at that part! Loved this post!
    Darcy Perdu recently posted…Murderers Trying to Break into My HouseMy ProfileAugust 14, 2013 – 4:37 pmReplyCancel

  • Lisa @ Golden Spoons - Beautiful Kenya! As a former teacher, I can only hope I had that kind of positive impact on at least one of the children who found their way to my classroom. I also hope that my three daughters will have teachers as special as Ms. Swears! A little compassion certainly goes a long way – sometimes even more than we realize.
    Lisa @ Golden Spoons recently posted…Tuesday Ten – Back to School EditionMy ProfileAugust 14, 2013 – 4:38 pmReplyCancel

  • Kenya G. Johnson - mytwicebakedpotato – Thank you for your comment. I have so much respect for the work you do. I know it takes a lot and you need the parents to meet you halfway.
    Kenya G. Johnson recently posted…The Key to Empathy is Knowledge…My ProfileAugust 14, 2013 – 4:42 pmReplyCancel

  • Kenya G. Johnson - Jessica – thank you. I love this series too. I’ve learned a lot through everyone’s experiences. I was proud of myself too for the way things went for the meeting at school. It was so early in the school year and I really didn’t want to mess anything up for him. When he initially said he didn’t want with me to meet with her because he didn’t want her to know he said something and he didn’t want her to get it trouble it did take me down a few notches.August 14, 2013 – 4:51 pmReplyCancel

  • Kenya G. Johnson - I haven’t thanked everyone for tweeting this out. THANK YOU!

    Stephanie yours was the most recent share – so thank you. There go my misty eyes again!August 14, 2013 – 4:54 pmReplyCancel

  • Kenya G. Johnson - Thank you so much Darcy. I mentioned in a earlier reply every time someone mentions that this post made them cry I tear up again. But I’m still here – blowing my nose ;-) August 14, 2013 – 4:56 pmReplyCancel

  • Kenya G. Johnson - Lisa – my wish for you is that one of your former students comes back to tell you that you did. That reminds me we have a couple of visits to make before school starts – one to Christopher’s preschool teacher and one to his Kindergarten teacher. It means a lot to them.
    Kenya G. Johnson recently posted…The Key to Empathy is Knowledge…My ProfileAugust 14, 2013 – 5:01 pmReplyCancel

  • Joi @ Rx Fitness Lady - Hi there! I am actually a guest of Kenya’s today after her post yesterday so I am already quite familiar with her wonderful words. Glad to be here.

    Kenya, I love your Ms. Swears! I think that is the goal of some bloggers. I know it is for me in the area of health, fitness, and a full balanced life. I went to school with my Mother but with similar minority demographics. I didn’t have quite that experience (I think I am about 5 years or so behind you) but the 6 black girls in the entire class (all 4 classes) remained tight all the way through elementary school. I have had Ms. Swears in other situations though and constantly try to duplicate that effort.
    Joi @ Rx Fitness Lady recently posted…10 Reasons Why You Should Try Les Mills BODYPUMPMy ProfileAugust 14, 2013 – 6:47 pmReplyCancel

  • Donofalltrades - Love it. I’ve had the fortune and sometimes misfortune of coming into the lives of hundreds, if not thousands of kids during my career as an urban police officer. Anytime I ran across a kid who I could tell was bright, I’d implore him or her to choose the right path and give their mother or father my card in case I could help in any way. One person called once and she wanted me to bring her over some cigarettes one night. No lie! Lol. Oh well, I like to believe that at some point, some kid remembers a police officer being nice to them and telling them that they had potential and doing something positive with their lives. Maybe none have, but I’ll keep trying.August 14, 2013 – 7:54 pmReplyCancel

  • Considerer - Let us cross our fingers that her attitude is as wonderful as Miss Swears’ was :)
    Considerer recently posted…Wordless Wednesday: Internet historyMy ProfileAugust 14, 2013 – 7:59 pmReplyCancel

  • Kenya G. Johnson - Thanks for stopping by Joi. I love your blog, it is well-balanced with entertainment and information. You’ve done so well in a short time.

    Sweet of you to say but I am way more close to ten years older than you, I remember your birthday you just had and I called you a “young-in”. ;-)

    Reading all the comments today, I thought earlier how Ms. Swears is still making a difference ;-) August 14, 2013 – 9:51 pmReplyCancel

  • Sandra Sallin - What a pleasure to read Kenya. Thank you.August 14, 2013 – 10:20 pmReplyCancel

  • Lanaya | Raising Reagan - Such a beautiful post. Growing up in a bi-racial family I know all to well the scrutiny placed upon those that are “different” in their surroundings.
    Teaching hope to those is such an important lesson. The smallest acts of kindness really do make a difference.
    Reagan will know that she has every right to stand up for herself and for others.

    ¤´¨)
    ¸.•*´
    (¸¤ Lanaya | xoxo
    Raising-Reagan.com
    Lanaya | Raising Reagan recently posted…I Couldn’t Help ItMy ProfileAugust 14, 2013 – 10:55 pmReplyCancel

  • Alison Hector - Kenya, the way you described your experience really touched me!

    “How would you choose to be remembered? Helpful, indifferent or not at all?” Here’s the thing (you know I couldn’t resist using your line!): people often don’t realize how much of a difference little gestures and a few kind words can make. It’s especially so when we are in some way different from the majority.

    Your teacher sowed seeds that turned things around for you. I know I always pray to be one who would be remembered as “helpful.” What on earth else are we here for?

    Thanks so much for sharing.
    Alison Hector recently posted…The goodness of GodMy ProfileAugust 14, 2013 – 11:50 pmReplyCancel

  • Out One Ear - This was beautiful. It is so amazing how you (and me, too) remember full names of people who stood out in either a good (or bad) way–making some sort of difference in our life. Personally, I think you should have been a model as well as a writer. You are gorgeous. I love your voice in this piece, Kenya. I love your name. I love everything about this piece. I’m so glad Kristi introduced you to us through her blog. My husband was a teacher for over thirty years. Fortunately, he was well liked (even won a “Teacher Of The Year” award as well as “Coach Of The Year,” two times). Now that he is retired, a month rarely goes by when a student in our community doesn’t stop me and say that my husband made a huge difference in his/her life and that he was his/her favorite teacher.August 14, 2013 – 11:51 pmReplyCancel

  • K - Kenya, this is beautiful — positively beautiful! I am loving Our Land more and more each week. Thank you for this amazing addition to the series!August 15, 2013 – 12:19 amReplyCancel

  • Jennifer Hall - God, I love these posts! Really the highlight of my week. This one is no exception. VERY nice to meet you, Kenya! Me and a friend of mine often say “here’s the thing…”. In fact, I almost put it into my most recent post. (Took it out because I didn’t like the tone.) I shall be following you……August 15, 2013 – 2:32 amReplyCancel

  • SocialButterflyMom - It breaks my heart to see kids excluded. Thanks for the reminder for us all to be “includers.”August 15, 2013 – 7:11 amReplyCancel

  • Colleen @ MommieDaze - I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I can have a more positive impact on people I encounter. This is a great encouragement.
    Colleen @ MommieDaze recently posted…Mama Styled – Polka Dot ChambrayMy ProfileAugust 15, 2013 – 10:20 amReplyCancel

  • Allie - Just beautiful. And I think everyone can relate! I’m Cuban and Italian and no one really knew what to make of me in school. I had darker skin and thick, curly black hair. Needless to say, I was teased quite a bit. I absolutely remember the people’s names who bullied me but more importantly, those who raised me up!…most especially my MOM! Thank you for this…what an inspiring story!
    Allie recently posted…LET’S HEAR IT FOR THE CROWD!My ProfileAugust 15, 2013 – 1:04 pmReplyCancel

  • Kenya G. Johnson - Lanaya – thank you for your comment as well. I am sure you feel that Mama Bear protection for your child as we all do.
    Kenya G. Johnson recently posted…I’ve got a hangover from a blog high…My ProfileAugust 15, 2013 – 1:17 pmReplyCancel

  • Kenya G. Johnson - Alison – that’s so true. To be indifferent is truly selfish. Thank you for your comment, and I love it when people “Here’s the thing” back at me ;-)
    Kenya G. Johnson recently posted…I’ve got a hangover from a blog high…My ProfileAugust 15, 2013 – 1:24 pmReplyCancel

  • Kenya G. Johnson - Thank you K – I appreciate it!

    Thank you Social Butterfly – “when we know better, we do better.” ;-)

    Colleen – I’m all pumped up now to do the same thing. Actions speak louder than words don’t they.

    Allie – Thank you for your comment. I think that being in school was such a big chunk of our day. On school days when it really came down to it, I only had a couple hours with my parents during the week. But just imagine six or more hours in school with someone who picks on you – that makes them unforgettable.August 15, 2013 – 1:33 pmReplyCancel

  • Rachel - I’m so glad that you had that teacher! Clearly, she (and probably many others) helped guide you and make you the beautiful woman you are today! Really touching post.August 15, 2013 – 2:50 pmReplyCancel

  • Kenya G. Johnson - Thanks Rachel! Sadly out of 12 years of grade school, there were only three. But they all made a big impact.August 15, 2013 – 3:06 pmReplyCancel

  • Julie Phelps - So glad I came across this. Beautiful.
    Teachers are such important ingredients in the lives of our young people, yet much of society seems to discount their importance.

    I assisted a teacher of kindergartners in a private school many years ago. I never really had that much interest in teaching, much less teaching 5 and 6 year olds. But it was part of the tuition bargain I struck with the administrators of the school. My son needed that school but our funds were short. The school was in real need of a teacher assistant so I was “it”.

    The class consisted of about 25 children. It was located in a small town in rural Missouri. Just one of the students was a minority race; her dark skin color was in sharp contrast to all the other little white children. The teacher was wonderful with all the children – a very capable person who conveyed love with a gentle spirit. But one child was difficult for either of us to manage: the girl of dark skin color. She would scream or hit or otherwise act out without warning. Then she would break into tears. She seemed unable to allow friendships with the others. She was certainly not enjoying her time in class.

    Her family was from Ethiopia – her father was doing a year’s residency at the local university. Her English skills were pretty good, and her parents seemed well educated as well as quite interested in becoming part of the community. But their daughter’s behavior was a concern to them as well as the school. No one seemed to know what to do to turn things around. I was no expert so was simply on the sidelines, awaiting instruction.

    When she struck out at others one of us would rush to intervene, explaining that it was not appropriate to hit other people. She defiantly rebelled, attempting to break free and run away or else continue hitting the other child. Of course it was concerning, but was also sad to see.

    One day I sat beside her for the majority of class time, hoping to find a way to redirect her into some sort of happy engagement. At one point her expression indicated she was about to strike out again. Since she had just completed a nice little crayon drawing, I impulsively put my arm around her shoulders and hugged her while commenting on the nice artwork. To my surprise, she turned in her chair and put her long little arms around my neck. She held on for some time. No outbursts followed that afternoon.

    Next day, she tentatively entered the classroom, looking for me. She sat quietly, then watched to see if I came close. I did, on purpose, and concentrated on her for most of the class time. She reached out to touch my hand repeatedly. We’d connected. I know it sounds simplistic, but I felt that reaching out to hug her as I did let her know she was accepted, liked, and connected to another human being.
    For the rest of the year she behaved as well as any other child in the class. She no longer had her meltdowns and no longer hit other classmates.
    Once her behavior became non-aggressive, other students befriended her.
    What a change.

    At the end of the school year, all parents attended for the celebration. Her parents approached me and thanked me for being a friend to their daughter. She had mentioned me at home many times so they knew about our relationship. I was very surprised. She cried when it was time to part. So did I.

    As we all said our farewells her parents gave me a gift, along with a hand-written invitation to come to their home a few days later. My son (her classmate) and I located their rental and were graciously invited in. We all sat around, sharing juices and cookies, while their sweet daughter snugged up close to me on the sofa. They told me I had made their year in the United States a positive memory for them and their daughter.

    I share that because all I did was follow my motherly instincts and hug a child. I was not trying to do anything more than offer comfort and show acceptance of a person who was obviously in distress. While writing this it occurred to me that such physical touching would not be appropriate anymore. It is no longer approved behavior. But it made a real difference in the life of that one little girl.
    It also made a real difference in my heart. Even if I develop Alzheimers I wager I will still remember the feel of her long thin arms encircling my neck.
    Julie Phelps recently posted…Grandpa OakMy ProfileAugust 15, 2013 – 6:35 pmReplyCancel

  • Kenya G. Johnson - Wooooooow! Julie Julie Julie!!! Thank you for sharing that story! How beautiful! Just when I thought I was done crying here. Oh I’ve got goosebumps too. I was reading your story in anticipation of a happy ending. I am so glad there was one and that your motherly instincts kicked in. Wow, I wonder how often that is the case with the little ones who act out at the beginning of the school year? They just need a hug to feel welcomed. I’ve seen that and I wonder if there is anything their peers can do to help. Very very interesting. I think the male teachers of young children probably are more careful with the boundaries (that’s my guess) but otherwise I have observed hugs. Thank you so much for your comment here.August 15, 2013 – 7:54 pmReplyCancel

  • Considerer - Julie, that’s a gorgeous story. Thank goodness for you. It’s so frustrating the way teachers are barriered from connecting with their students properly any more. There are times when the rules seem quite inhumane.
    Considerer recently posted…TToT: Meet the (NEW) Co-host 5My ProfileAugust 15, 2013 – 8:04 pmReplyCancel

  • Chris Carter - Sooo… THIS is what I have been missing all this time? I LOVE this series!!!! WOW! And I love your story Kenya! So powerful. I have to share my latest post, because it resonates so deeply with the power of teachers in our children’s lives. I really feel you would approve! Here it is:
    http://themomcafe.com/dear-teacher/
    Chris Carter recently posted…Dear Teacher…My ProfileAugust 15, 2013 – 10:23 pmReplyCancel

  • Rosey - My second oldest had a bad teacher experience in 1st grade. The teacher just did not like him, and anything I could do mattered very little to her.

    His 2nd grade teacher was that teacher’s best friend, with her room directly across the hall. He was doomed before he entered, labeled as ‘that kid.’ For a child that young, one year was A LOT, two years was too much. Though he had moments in jr. high and high school w/teachers he like, he never really did like school again. That childhood kind of trust was broken and it couldn’t get repaired. That breaks MY heart still (and he’s grown now). I’m glad you had a happier ending.

    I love your writing here, and your story too.August 15, 2013 – 10:28 pmReplyCancel

  • Jen - This is awesome Kenya. I really love this post. I have two teachers that left very strong impressions on me. One when my father was dying and I was a senior in high school. She was supportive and pushed me through my depression to write. And then again in college, when I started feeling like writing wasn’t for me because I wasn’t a feminist with a cause, while all my female teachers and classmates were. She wasn’t, she saw me for who I was and encouraged me to keep writing my way. I guess she made an impression?
    Love this post, love your memories. I am glad you had Miss Swears!
    Jen recently posted…100 Word Song – Yoshimi Battles The Pink RobotsMy ProfileAugust 16, 2013 – 12:21 amReplyCancel

  • Kenya G. Johnson - Chris – I enjoyed your post – I approve! Thank you for sharing it. Yep and this is what you have been missing. It’s a dose of realism and/or inspiration some way or another each week. Thanks for stopping by.
    Kenya G. Johnson recently posted…Call me “Pam”…My ProfileAugust 16, 2013 – 9:31 amReplyCancel

  • Kenya G. Johnson - Thank you Rosey. Yeah I don’t want that to happen. Christopher has no love for school yet. I would love for a teacher to turn that around for him. The same goes for coaches of sports too. That’s a whole ‘nother story.
    Kenya G. Johnson recently posted…Call me “Pam”…My ProfileAugust 16, 2013 – 9:34 amReplyCancel

  • Kenya G. Johnson - Jen – that’s wonderful. I like that “your way”. I found writing college papers more fun when I did it “my way”. Last year when Christopher came home and told me he didn’t like to draw anymore because he couldn’t do it the way the art teacher wanted him to do it, that really annoyed me. I didn’t intervene though. I just told him he could draw however he wanted to at home and then we went and bought some art supplies ;-)
    Kenya G. Johnson recently posted…Call me “Pam”…My ProfileAugust 16, 2013 – 9:39 amReplyCancel

  • A Morning Grouch - Beautifully written – thanks for sharing Kenya! Will def check out the blog. As a teacher, it is so nice to hear a story like this. Not because of the hardships you experienced, but because you felt like the attention the teacher gave you mattered. I get so frustrated with the teacher evals that focus solely on test scores and math and reading data. That is only a fraction of what teachers do. I’m so glad you had a “Mrs. Swears”. October 2, 2013 – 9:30 pmReplyCancel

  • Rosey - Kenya is a great writer and a great blogger. She’s the one that instantly comes to mind for me when asked the question, “With which blogger would you like to live in the same city?” I would love to go to lunch with her, get the kids together to play, meet her mom and dad, lol. SO not even kidding. I KNOW I don’t know her mom and dad, but I feel like I sort of do, lolol!!

    This was a great post of hers to feature. Have a great Friday!!
    Rosey recently posted…Coppertone Sun ScreensMy ProfileMay 16, 2014 – 8:57 amReplyCancel

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *

*

*

CommentLuv badge

N e v e r   m i s s   a   n e w   p o s t !