Hurt kids, Hurt kids. Why teaching our kids to BE with their anger at school and at home cultivates authentic success.
A blog post by Annmarie Chereso
Hurt kids, Hurt kids.
I was a guest teacher in a 1st grade classroom in a Chicago Public School for 12 weeks.
For the first 6 weeks each time I came into this particular classroom, one little boy, I will call Isaac, would be sitting in the back of the room at a table by himself, looking pretty distressed.
I could see the anger and rage all over his face and on his body and I could sense him holding back something big.
I could see and feel the teacher’s frustration and the tension in the classroom was palpable.
Isaac was a “bad” kid.
Of course that makes sense – he was hitting others, acting out and causing stress, distractions and chaos in this classroom. I can see why he was considered the “problem”. And I could see how this teacher, who had 23 other kids to try and teach that day was at her wits end. On top of all the ‘typical’ obstacles of teaching a group of 7 and 8 years olds reading, writing and arithmetic, here is this boy preventing her from being able to effectively do her job.
Interestingly, my job is to go into the classroom and teach kids mindfulness skills- you know- to help them reduce stress, increase focus and concentrate so that they could be successful learners.
It was obvious to me that very little learning was going on in this environment, for anyone. The tension in that room was as thick as could be.
On week 7, I became curious and asked the teacher if she would mind if I spoke with him. Obviously exacerbated herself she agreed but warned me “that he best not be hitting anyone else today!”
I went to the back table where Isaac was sitting in his frustrated body.
His jaw was tight, his arms crossed and his eyes barely open as he glanced my way. I asked permission to sit down and he reluctantly agreed.
I sat for a moment and breathed. I could feel some fear rising up as thoughts raced in my mind.
I began to talk with him quietly.
The first thing I said was “Wow, you look really strong.”
And immediately the tears started to flow.
I was and wasn’t surprised all at the same time.
He and I spoke for few minutes. He expressed his anger and frustration. I asked him to describe what his anger looked and felt like in his body. He described it as a big black tight ball in his stomach and chest. And he went on to say that it felt hot inside his body.
I sat with him for a few more minutes while he described what it felt like to hold the anger inside, I witnessed his tears flowing and watched his frustration rise and fall as he talked about the kids who teased him and made him feel bad.
I told him that I could see his anger in his fists and sadness in his eyes.
And then I told him that he had amazing superpowers and those superpowers did not live in his fists, but his heart and head. I told him that the strength to “not hit” was a much bigger super power than the one to hit.
He looked surprised but curious and began to ask how he could do that?
I showed him how he could use his breath to help move his anger all the way through his body and that he did not need to use his fists at all. We talked more about his superpower and inner strength and soon I could see his body relax, his eyes begin to brighten and his face light up. I asked if he would be willing to join us in class that afternoon for our mindfulness session. He agreed.
He went to his seat among his peers and sat proudly facing the front of the room. His whole body looked different as he sat straight up, shoulders back, head held high with a renewed eagerness in his eyes.
I could see his classmates sitting nearby relaxing into the same energy.
He gave me a look and an “I got this” wink as he nodded to the “bully” sitting across from him.
For the rest of the lesson that afternoon he remained curious and engaged. I can still see the huge smile on his face and the pride in his eyes.
The following week I walked into the classroom at my usual time. For the first time in 8 weeks, there sat Isaac sitting tall in his desk. As I walked to the front of the room, he eagerly raised his hand yelling “Ms. Annmarie, Ms. Annmarie remember me? You talked to me.”
“You talked to me.” Those words echo in my mind so often. For so many children, they simply want to be seen, heard and witnessed, just like the rest of us.
I don’t know what has happened to Isaac since then. After my 12 weeks was complete I moved on to other classrooms in other schools. I often think of Isaac and the valuable lessons he taught me about the deep power of presence.
Isaac is not a bad kid, like so many other kids, he is simply misunderstood.
At home and in the classroom when we teach our kids mindfulness skills to be with their emotions and move through them consciously, we can cultivate self-awareness, increase attunement, which encourages focus and concentration. It’s from this place of presence that we can truly co create the conditions for successful learning and successful academic growth.