I’ll never forget one day when I was an eighth grader in junior high school and walking down the hallway with one of my best friends, Michael. I was a pretty good student from a behavioral standpoint (for the most part) and the staff liked and trusted me. However, my friend, Michael, was seen as a behavioral issue and was scowled at often by teachers and administrators. Michael was not a bad kid by any stretch of the imagination, but he would often ask a lot of questions which was viewed as a bad thing.
We were two minutes late to study hall in the library when the librarian greeted Michael with a frown and immediately asked, “WHERE WERE YOU AND WHAT TOOK YOU SO LONG!?” He started to explain himself and she immediately cut him off and said, “I DON’T EVEN WANT TO HEAR IT!” Even though I was late as well, not a word was said to me.
What the librarian didn’t know was we were late because Michael saw one of our classmates fall down the stairs going to the first floor while spilling the two books and pencil case he was carrying. This student happened to have Down Syndrome and sometimes struggled with mobility. Michael and I helped him get settled and got to the precious study hall as fast as we could. Whenever Michael and I talk about school, he always mentions that walk to study hall and how much he cannot stand the librarian because she absolutely refused to give him a voice.
Situations like the one described are all too common. This interaction has shaped part of my philosophy and one thing at my core is to treat all people as if they are good while assuming the best. Every. Single. Time. Kids might not remember the content you taught them, but they will ALWAYS remember how you made them feel.