Kayla and I have some pretty amazing stories to tell. Stories of hope and love and friendship and acceptance. However, we have plenty of stories to tell that are messy and confusing and hard. Today, I’m going to tell you one of those messy and not-so-put-together stories.
Kayla and I had volunteered to be a part of the students versus staff kickball tournament, which I thought was hilarious because I knew the students would be better than me. The students practiced every recess! Anyway, a group of staff members played the game while another group of staff members watched over the student audience. It was pretty comical and the teachers were winning only because we had longer legs and thus could run a little bit faster. In the middle of the game, a student comes running up to me while I’m on second base.
“Mrs. H., Mrs. H.! We need you to come here!”
“I’m sorry, Bobby, but I’m in the middle of the game. You can talk to Mrs. Muri if you need something.”
“No, Mrs. H.! We need YOU! Frankie just peed on Mia.”
Needless to say, I immediately left the game.
I walked over to where my class and Kayla’s class were sitting. On the ground holding her legs and crying, was my student, Mia. Kayla had followed me because her student, Frankie, was the one who did the peeing.
Mia explained to me that Frankie had been yelling and playing around. All of a sudden, he pulled down his pants and started peeing right next to her, his pee splashing onto her pants and shirt. After Mia calmed down a little bit, she began to explain that all of her peers began laughing at her because of what Frankie was doing. She was mostly embarrassed.
“I was crying because everyone laughed at me. I know that Frankie sees the world differently, so I know he wasn’t trying to do anything wrong. ” WOW. The fact that she came to that conclusion was pretty amazing. She got it. And she was only an 8-year old girl.
After Frankie was taken to the office to talk with the principal, the game ended and we walked back to our classroom. I knew we needed to hold a class meeting. I knew the students would go home and tell their family members about this, and I was nervous about what parents and guardians would be emailing me the next day…
“Class, I know something happened today with one of our buddies. I wasn’t there, but I know Frankie decided it was okay to pee in the middle of the playground. That was very inappropriate and he was sent to talk with the principal. However, we could have done something to help as his friends. When someone laughs at a joke you tell, do you want to tell that joke again?”
“Yeah! We love when people laugh at us,” a student replied.
“I completely agree. So, when you laughed at Frankie, do you think you were encouraging him to pee in public? Or were you showing him that it is not okay?”
Silence. The students realized in that moment that their laughter was Frankie’s fire. The more they laughed the more encouraged he was to make the wrong choice.
After closing that part of the conversation, I wanted to bring up something else.
“I want to give you some insight on Frankie’s life. His brother is really sick in the hospital, and his mom has been taking care of him there. His dad works really late. Sometimes, Frankie is home with no one to play with or talk to. With that in mind, why do we think Frankie peed on the playground today?”
The students gave me inquisitive looks for a few seconds. Then, Mia raised her hand. “I think that Frankie was trying to get some attention. He just did it in a negative way. We all want people to pay attention to us.”
Exactly. Mia hit the nail in the head. I allowed the students to continue speaking and asking questions about Frankie’s home life, how we could help him moving forward, and how we could be supportive friends to Frankie. A student also boldly declared that we shouldn’t hold Frankie’s mistake against him because that wouldn’t be fair or kind. This is my class of 8 and 9 year old KIDS telling me all of this. I felt like I was in a room of educated, adult therapists.
In the end, Mia’s parents wrote me a very sweet message stating that they were so happy that their daughter was able to be involved in Frankie’s life. They also said that they were so pleased that we were teaching them such important life lessons at school about students who have disabilities. It felt like I was in a dream--this parent reaction was the opposite of what I expected.
So, I sort of lied to you. I said this was going to one of those stories that is hard and messy. It was definitely not our brightest moment as buddies; however, the conversation and understanding that came from this situation was priceless. Stepping into something difficult, like being peed on, was maybe one of the best things we did all year as a class. My students learned more from Frankie than they ever will from me.