Don’t Write What You Can’t Erase by Jodie Randisi
I’ve had the pleasure of working as a substitute teacher for seventeen years. Over the years, it became painfully obvious to me that children of all ages were showing up to school dealing with something that affected their ability to love, work and learn.
One day while tending a crop of feisty fourth graders, I noticed one particular student. We’ll call him Jack. Jack had written letters on top of letters on his paper and he had only written his name and date. I asked Jack to make the corrections using his eraser then show me his revisions, which he did. I was shocked to see nothing had changed except the boy’s face was swollen with emotion. He was very close to crying.
“What’s wrong, Jack?” I asked. “Why are you upset? Did I ask you to do something you can’t do?”
Jack was unable to put words together for his substitute teacher.
“It’s okay, Jack. Mrs. Randisi would like to know why you are so upset. How about when you feel up to it, you and I can talk. Would that be okay?”
It was lunchtime. With all the other fourth graders gone, Jack stood in the doorway staring up at me. He looked almost happy.
“Okay, Jack. What’s going on?”
“I can’t trust my mom,” he said without hesitating.
It was as if Jack had handed me a live grenade. Through further discussion I found out he and his mother had moved to our town to get away from mom’s boyfriend.
“He puts stuff up his nose then he gets really, really mean,” Jack said. “My mother went on a trip and when she came back, I found photos of them together. I’m scared.”
Poor Jack. He was literally scared out of his mind thinking any day the vicious boyfriend might come back into his life. This innocent fourth grader couldn’t even write his name on a worksheet. How in the world is he supposed to learn geography?
Trust is a hard thing to earn back. A child in fourth grade shouldn’t have to overcome a lack of trust in his or her parent. Without thinking, Jack’s mother wrote something she could not erase.
A few moments of reflection can significantly alter an outcome, especially in a child’s world. Giving a matter some consideration invites new thoughts that could possibly prevent costly mistakes. If Jack’s mother had stopped to consider Jack’s exposure and position, Jack might not have had ammunition to hand off to an unsuspecting substitute teacher.
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