“My dad gets out of jail in three days, Mr. Ramsey,” shouted Miguel who was beaming happily from his seat in the middle of the classroom.
I replied, “That’s great, Miguel. Your dad is going to be so happy to see you. I’m glad you will finally get to spend time with him again. You’ve been waiting so patiently!”
“Yeah!” the little boy exclaimed. “But he has to wait thirty days before he can get out of town!”
Not really understanding what he meant, I asked, “Get out of town? You’re not moving are you? I need you in this class, young man!”
“No, Mr. Ramsey! We’re not moving!” he laughed, rolling his eyes. “The judge just said my dad can’t leave town for a month or he will have to go back to jail.”
“Oh,” I said, not knowing what else to utter. Little kids really know a lot more than I ever knew when I was in grade school.
“It’s Friday today,” Miguel continued, “so that means he’s coming home on Monday, Mr. Ramsey!”
“Well,” I announced, “if you’re not here at school, I will certainly understand!”
Miguel wiggled for most of the day in his seat but managed to get most of his work completed. He reminded me at least ten more times before the final bell of his father’s imminent release. He rushed to give me a hug before going to Art, returning to class from Art, in the lunch line and twice during afternoon recess.
The resiliency of children amazes me. That this little boy could wake up every morning, come to school and go about his daily activities with a perpetual smile on his face is beyond my comprehension. His patience was amazing and left me wishing I had a little more myself.
Carl is another little boy whose father is also in jail. Carl is not always as cheerful as Miguel and not nearly as well-behaved. He has a hard time staying in his seat, doing his work and getting along with others. He has his “up” days, and then he has his “down” days. To be honest, he regularly tests my patience.
One day recently was especially difficult for Carl which meant that it was also difficult for me. There was very little work being completed at his desk, not that he was at his desk very much throughout the course of the day. There were many complaints, more than usual, from other students of “Carl did this…” and “Carl said that…” Following directions, accepting feedback and working with others were certainly not top priorities on his “to-do” list for the day.
My patience was severely tested that day. Even with 30 years of experience in the teaching field, I could definitely feel this child’s impact on my blood pressure. I took many deep breaths and stayed as calm as possible for most of the day.
After what seemed an eternity, the day finally drew to a close. Kids were cleaning up around their desks. They were packing up their backpacks. They were getting their agendas stamped for the day.
“Mr. Ramsey!” whined one little girl. “Carl stole my water bottle and won’t give it back!”
“Carl!” I called out. “Give her the water bottle and get yourself ready to leave.”
“I found it,” he retorted.
“Carl. Now.” I said behind gritted teeth.
“It doesn’t have her name on it,” he smirked.
“Okay! I don’t want it anyway. It has germs on it!”
I had just about had enough for the day. I was so close to losing it! But I kept a calm outer appearance and simply seethed inside. I have found that, if I clench my toes instead of my hands, no one will ever know when I am angry.
I am glad that I maintained my composure and that I was patient a moment more.
The dismissal bell sounded and the kids all headed for the door. Carl hung back and waited for everyone to depart. Then he came up to my desk and wrapped his arms around me. “You know, Mr. Ramsey. Last night, I found out that my dad won’t be getting out of jail for a long time. I cried all night. But you made me feel better today. Thanks, Mr. Ramsey.”
He hugged me again before leaving for home.
Copyright, Tim Ramsey,2017.