Beverly came to camp a little late. She quickly joined all the campers as we were singing camp songs, hoping no one would notice her. She wore her signature no-smile, crossed her arms, and plunked herself down beside me. She had been crying, hard, and wanted nothing to do with anyone or anything.
I just knew. I understood, even though I know very little about Beverly. I didn’t say a word. That would have been all wrong. Beverly was much like the other Beverly, Raymie Nightingale’s Beverly.
The next two minutes felt like a time warp. It was just the two of us; campers were singing away, and we were alone. Beverly held her knees close to her chest as if tucking herself in would protect her. I put my arm around her and kissed the top of her head. I didn’t let go. Beverly liked that.
Who was this child? In the few short weeks I have known her, she has been aloof, an observer, sometimes putting on a tough front. Just like Raymie’s Beverly. Stomping away and pouting with crossed arms is… well, Beverly.
The easy route is to look at a child, match their behavior to what you know, and then respond. If this always worked, the number of children who need help and the workload of teachers would diminish, drastically.
What is the magic answer? Connecting with each child, not you to them but them to you. There is a big difference. Children know; they sense everything and are intuitive. They know if a teacher or an adult genuinely likes them. They know.
I paid attention to Beverly. I was not judgemental, even though her clothes were different and her lunches were different. Different is a good thing, but people often applaud different in the big picture, not the little things close to home. Acceptance is far easier on a broad scale. Beverly was not on a broad scale; she was ‘right there’.
Beverly smiled at me later that day. From across the room. Today when camp started, she sat next to me and smiled again.
I have a new best friend. Raymie did, too.
Thank goodness I really understand children.