Juan is one of my favorite kids in the class. When I first got there, he was one of a handful of children for whom it was a challenge for me to find something to really like about them. His behavior in the beginning of the year tended to be disruptive and a little bit mean toward a tablemate who had recently immigrated from Georgia.
After a while, however, I realized that these behaviors were his way of doing anything in his power to avoid writing. He HATES writing! I also realized that underneath it all he is a truly sensitive and nice kid. One day Juan walked into class and it was as if he was a different kid -- his attitude toward school was that radically different. He still asks to go to the bathroom anytime it's time to write, but as soon as I tell him 'no' he sits down and really tries.
Yesterday, as part of an ELA test bootcamp strategy, one of my cooperating teachers was having students practice listening comprehension strategies on a read-aloud. The story was a really sad one about a kid whose mom leaves her and the imaginary friend she invents to help deal with it. At the end of the story, one kid looked up and noticed Juan wiping his eyes. Seconds later the entire class was having uncontrollable laughing fits at Juan's expense -- not in a mean way, just out of sheer shock. They didn't blame him for crying, but of all the kids in the class, Juan was definitely not the one you'd expect to do it. One kid was working so hard to contain his laughter that he looked like he was about to throw up, until the teacher made him leave the room. Juan took it well. I wanted to go up and hug him, but of course that would have made it worse.
But it still warms my heart to think about it. And it makes me really appreciate the truly excellent job my cooperating teachers have done in creating not just an atmosphere in which kids can get emotionally that involved in a read-aloud, but also one in which students care enough about each other, and about the work that's going on in class, to let something like that slide. It gives me something to aspire to.