When I gave an assignment, Erica ignored me. When I talked, she talked. I was never able to catch her doing something positive. When I tried to talk to her about it, the hatred burned hotter on her face. I almost felt stung.
One day she came in the room crying softly. She took her usual seat in the back and looked miserable. It was the first time I saw a look on her face that wasn’t hatred. It forced me to realize that even though she was bigger than I was, Erica was still a little girl. I waited until the rest of the class was working, and then I knelt beside her and gave her shoulder lightest of pats. Did she need anything?
She turned to me as if bitten and then shook her head. I withdrew my hand and thought, Oh, crap, I’ve done it now! Has she been abused? Will she hate me even more now? Is that even possible? Will she try to claim I assaulted her?
But the next day, she gave me a different look. I was sure there wasn’t so much hatred. I smiled at her. Her mouth…twitched. It was a start.
In the weeks that followed, she did her first assignment since I’d been there. She colored a map, and she’d done a great job. I slapped that map with the biggest “A” I felt I could get away with and hung it on the bulletin board, front and center.
I moved her seat up front “so I could see that smiling face.” And miraculously, in the weeks that followed, that face did smile, and often. I will always think of Erica as one of the greatest miracles I’ve ever encountered in education.
Who knew the power of one little touch on the back?