I had the same three children to tutor as usual this week, and it was amazing to see the progress. Tutoring kindergartners is like watching plants grow. They just get more and more interesting and amazing every week. I’m grateful that their parents let me borrow them once a week. They all did really well. They don’t have their letters perfectly down yet, but it is almost there. Another week and they will be up to speed.
I chose J second and he leaped for joy when I called him. He celebrated and hooted. It is pretty heartening to have someone get so excited to work with me. It beats apathy, and he still hasn’t gotten the clue that I work with him because he is lagging behind. I hope he never does. Wanting to get tutored makes it easier. He sees it as a special treat. I’d not worked with him last week and it was heartening to see how eager he was to work.
Learning is work, certainly. We have our tutoring sessions in the hallway, just outside of the classroom. There is a little table there, just big enough for two. There are two chairs – one “adult” chair and one “kid” chair. I have recently started to use the “kid” chair because it is lower and that means I don’t have to bend over to see the kids eye-to-eye. I think it is important to be equal heights with them so there is no sense of hierarchy.
While I was working with the first child, S, there was a disturbance from another classroom (also a kindergarten). There was a shriek and then screaming from a child. “I don’t want to go home!” was clearly heard. The shrieks and screams continued. The teacher said “I’m calling the office.” I could hear through the door that the child was the only one screaming. The teacher was not screaming back. Something very bad had happened and she was being sent home, pronto. She was totally against it.
I looked at my student and we discussed this a little. I wondered out loud if I should go and check on things. I wasn’t sure what I could do. I thought if nothing else I could make sure she wasn’t having a fit or being harmed by the teacher. For the fit, I’m trained in basic first aid. For being harmed – nothing stops abuse like a witness. I didn’t think anything untoward was happening from the sounds, but I wouldn’t know until I looked.
I decided to act. I opened the door. The girl was standing near the door facing the class, screaming. The class was facing her, stunned. One blonde-haired boy was holding his hands over his ears. Everything about the scene was the exact opposite of what you should see if you open a classroom door.
I scanned the room and saw the teacher. For a moment I missed her, and I started to worry. She was standing near her desk, and she was on the phone, calling for backup. I asked if everything was ok. Obviously it wasn’t but it seemed the thing to say. This made the little girl turn around and it was like I had hit the reset button. She slowed down her screams a little. It helped. Her face was the red of a sunburn.
The teacher had things under as much control as could be expected at the time and I couldn’t see what else there was for me to do, so I went back to my student. We worked together for a little bit. The teacher then opened the door and had the little girl sit just outside the room while they waited for the office assistant. She propped open the door so she was still connected to the room. The teacher had pointed out to her that we were working in the hallway. The girl sat quietly, completely opposite how she was minutes before.
S and I kept working and I kept an eye on the girl. The assistant from the office came and got her and talked to her about how her behavior was inappropriate. She was headed home.
When I returned my first student I talked to my teacher about what had happened. She knew who I was talking about. She told me that if I met the family I would understand it all. It wasn’t a surprise to her. There are emotion-control issues here. There is some deep disturbance.
I saw my tutoring partner near the end of the scene and she said that she often tutored this girl. She said that she didn’t know her numbers yet. Numbers are usually learned before letters. The concept is easier to grasp. So there is a lot more to this story. When I saw the girl’s teacher later I asked what had happened. The girl had gotten angry and had taken her scissors and cut her own hair.
At least she had cut her own hair, and not someone else’s. At least the scissors are safety ones, so she couldn’t do a lot of harm to someone. Her anger appears to be self-directed, but that is a bad sign.
There is never a dull moment in the life of a kindergarten tutor. I always learn something. Rarely is it this dramatic, thankfully.
I’m grateful that my student was fine, and I’ve never had to deal with this kind of meltdown personally. I’m grateful that the teacher was able to call for backup. I’m grateful that my interrupting the scene seemed to defuse it. The teacher thanked me for looking in. I almost didn’t, because I felt I didn’t know what to do. Turns out, I did exactly what I was supposed to do, even though I didn’t know it.
I’m trying to learn to trust that feeling. It is scary every time. And every time it turns out exactly the way it is supposed to. I’m grateful to God for that lesson.