Randy walks the hall with a chip on his shoulder.
He is a big guy yet it seems like his shoulder width expands even more as he walks near guys smaller than him. His surly disposition is the only warning for people to get out of his way or else get bumped, pushed, or just plain shoved out of the way. Randy loves seeing people have to turn sideways or duck out of the way. Everyone knows when Randy is in the room.
Jessie talks and she talks.
She talks in the hallways and she talks in the cafeteria and she really talks in class. Jessie can’t stop talking. Ever. She isn’t saying anything inappropriate but she just doesn’t turn it off. In a morning assembly she was removed because she couldn’t be quiet. She has been in the office way too many times for the ridiculous offense of talking…and talking…and talking.
Becca makes good grades.
She turns her homework in on time, takes notes when the teachers are talking, never interrupts the teacher, or anyone else for that matter. Becca seems to disappear quickly into the crowd and reappear in her seat in the classroom where she quickly buries herself in her homework, avoiding eye contact with anyone near her. Becca is pretty sure that no one in her classes even knows her name.
Randy is the school bully. Jessie is the school motor-mouth. Becca is a teacher’s dream student.
These kids seem to be at opposite ends of the spectrum. One is anti-social. One is hyper-social. And one is non-social. So which kid needs help?
Randy obviously needs help. I don’t need to quote the stats to you, but about 77% of all kids feeling bullied and less than 15% get help. I don’t need to remind you of your personal experiences with the school bully in the hallway of your school so many years ago. Everyone knows the bully needs help, and now there are regulatory initiatives demanding social, emotional and behavioral help for that bully.
Jessie also obviously needs help. Her constant interruptions warrant a Behavior Improvement Plan and a placement in a Tier 2 small group for behavior change. Jessie, like so many other teenagers, needs to learn when and where to talk. Jessie also has a very frustrated teacher who will make sure Jessie gets some help if for no other reason than to get her out of her hair for a little bit. Do you know how hard it is to teach 22 kids when one of them will not stop talking??
What about Becca? She makes good grades so she is good, right? She doesn’t talk or interrupt or act up in class so she is good, right? She does her homework and is compliant and doesn’t start any trouble so she is good, right?
Becca is the one on the list that worries me the most. Randy will get help. His behaviors coupled with a well-deserved emphasis on bullying will make sure Randy’s behaviors are addressed. Jessie is also going to get help in the form of behavior training because her teachers need her to learn how to be in the class without disrupting. Again, this is well-deserved attention, and Jessie needs it and will get it.
But what about Becca? Becca seemingly floats through the day never stepping on the toes of her fellow students or her teachers or leaving an imprint of any kind. What about Becca?
Becca needs help. Randy and Jessie are going to get help – their behaviors demand it. Becca’s behaviors actually make her a model student in many ways. But Becca isn’t a model of emotional stability. Do you know how much it hurts to walk a hallway crowded with peers and no one notices you? Do you know the fear that grips your insides when the teacher asks for a volunteer to answer a question and you strain to avoid eye contact while not be so suspicious as to draw attention? Do you know the longing for a conversation when you hear them all around but the anxiety that comes when someone actually speaks?
There are a lot of Randy’s and Jessie’s and they will get help. There are also far too many Becca’s who are going through life unnoticed. A lack of bad behaviors does not mean that a student is not behaviorally involved. Becca is just as behaviorally symptomatic as Randy and Jessie, but she won’t get help. She isn’t doing anything to be noticed. Kids tearing the school apart and disrupting classes and bullying get noticed. Shy doesn’t get noticed. Quiet isn’t a criteria for help.
But do you know how much happier Becca would be if she could learn how to make a friend? Do you know how much more she could learn if she were taught the courage to raise her hand and ask for help? Do you know what a more fulfilled life she would lead if someone invested the time to teach her self esteem? Becca is very behaviorally involved. Becca’s problem is that her behaviors aren’t hurting anyone but her, so Becca doesn’t get noticed.
Over the last couple of posts, I have shared with you stories and challenges about being nice and listening. Last week the challenge was to find an elderly person and listen to their stories and hear of their life. What a blessing to give someone the gift of a listening ear for a few minutes!
Today let me challenge you to now look the other direction. Who are the students in your class that need to be heard? Who are the Beccas in your world that are trying not to be noticed but wished with every fiber of their being they were worthy of being noteworthy. What child or adolescent or teen is in your life but if they weren’t you wouldn’t really notice? Take a few moments now to notice them. Notice if they are ok. Notice if they are too shy to be heard. Notice if they need someone to see them and hear them and know they exist. Then notice how noticing can lift the eyes of a child who tends to stare down at his desk. Lift those eyes by giving them the healing of attention and the balm of self-worth.
Art Linkletter once said, “Kids say the darndest things.” But first he had to talk to them and ask.