“I’m not smart enough for this school.” Those words lurched out in a whisper between halting gasps, tears trickling down his cheeks as he ducked his head down so that his hat would hide his face in the hopes that his peers would not notice. Twenty minutes had passed since the assessment had started. I glanced down at his assessment and saw that not a single question had been answered. There was not a single mark on his paper.
I had been out in the school lobby, talking to parents. When I walked into the room where students were taking the assessment, another teacher came up to me and told me that there was a boy who was about to cry. After watching him for a few minutes, I went over to talk to him. That was when I heard those heartbreaking words. I reassured him and tried to calm him. I proffered tissues and plied him with a drink of water. I whispered words of reassurance that he was definitely smart enough for this school and reminded him to breath. I reassured him that he should just do his best and that his best was enough. When I walked away, he had started working through a problem.
I don’t know this child or his story, but I am so saddened by our brief exchange. School won’t start for this eleven year old boy for almost a week. He decided he isn’t good enough before he has even begun. No child should ever feel this way. I don’t know this child or his story or where he will go next. He will not be in my class, so I will have limited opportunities to impact his outcomes. I am going to choose to see today, though, as one good thing. Today, I got to tell an eleven year old boy that he is good enough and he believed enough of what I said to at least start, to at least begin. Tomorrow, I will talk to the teacher that will share this year with him so that she will know to encourage him and help him to discover all the things that he can do.