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Are we listening?

A child sits alone with a ripped worksheet packet on his desk.
He appears to be singing or subvocalizing something though no one hears him.
Or, perhaps they're ignoring him.
The teacher stands at the front of the room teaching on the SmartBoard.
The children follow along in their worksheets.
Except the child sitting alone.
He is in his own world.
No one engages him and he engages no one.

My heart aches for this child.
He is physically and emotionally removed from the class.

I ask him why his paper is ripped.
(It's not an accidental rip.)
He says he did that on a different day.
When he had been frustrated about the work.
He tells me that he sometimes sits by himself because the work is too hard for him.
He later tells me that he sits by himself because the teacher thinks he talks too much during the lesson.  He says he does that because he wants to find out about the "lives of the other children".

My first impulse is to rescue him from the wrongheaded approach in that classroom.
Reassure him that he's OK.
That there is nothing wrong with him.
That he has a lot to offer the world.
That he can learn.
At the same time, I notice that he seems to be taking all of this in stride.
It's another day in school for him.

Has he started to accept the picture that is being drawn of him?
Who they think he is?

So, I walk out of that classroom and do nothing.
I tell myself I can't reasonably do anything about this now.
I'm the one in distress.
No one else seems to notice what's taking place here.

And, no, it's not about feel-good, mindless teaching.
It's about heartfelt, sensitive teaching.
Teaching that is attuned to a child's emotions as well as his intellect.
It's about choosing our words and our actions carefully.
It's about including all children rather than marginalizing the harder to teach.
Because, if we're really listening, we will understand that all children pose a challenge to teachers.
We will know this if we understand that all children are unique.
All children learn differently, for different reasons at different times.

That is the real art of teaching.

But, are we listening?

Posted to Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life challenge.
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