How Much Do Teachers Influence Popularity?
I had a jarring experience today. It’s my grandson’s sixth birthday, and my husband and I went to have lunch with him at his school. Afterwards, we went out to the playground for recess, and to spend a little more time with Luke. Of course, since he’s a rambunctious just-turned six-year-old, we only caught glimpses of him in his blue-plaid shirt as he raced around with his friends who’d just sung “Happy Birthday” to him.
Suddenly I noticed a little girl by herself. She was a cutie with missing teeth, blond hair and big blue eyes behind a pair of glasses, quite similar to ones I wore when I was about her age. She smiled and approached me. “Hi. I wanted to meet you.” I introduced myself and shook her hand. She told me her name was Isabella. Then she said, “Is the birthday boy your grandson?”
When I told her that indeed, he was my grandson, she said. “Could you introduce me to him? I’d like to meet him.” (I marveled at her maturity. For a kindergartner, she was quite articulate, and very polite.)
“Of course,” I said. “I’ll go get him.”
But as I headed over to where Luke was playing, a teacher called out to the little girl. “Isabella, leave those people alone. They’re here to spend time with their grandson, not talk to you!”
I was horrified. Couldn’t quite believe it. “It’s okay,” I said to the teacher. “She just wants to meet my grandson.”
The teacher muttered something about how Isabella would talk my head off, but I ignored her and went to find Luke. Bringing him over to where Isabella still stood, I introduced them. Luke smiled and said, “Hello.”
Isabella’s face brightened like a Christmas tree. “Would you like to play with me?” she asked.
But before Luke could get a chance to answer, the teacher snapped, “Isabella, he’s playing with his own friends!”
I felt my heart drop. I simply could not believe what she’d said. I looked at Isabella, expecting to see her crushed expression, but you know what I saw? I saw Luke smiling at her, and Isabella smiling back. The next thing I knew, they were off racing around the playground.
But the whole thing made me wonder…do teachers have a hand in determining who is popular and who will be a wallflower? All I know is…I saw something in that little girl, Isabella. I saw myself…bespectacled, a little shy, a bit of an outcast. And I carried that with me for many years. I’m not sure how it started, how I came to think of myself as not quite good enough. I hope it wasn’t a teacher who, with an offhand, inconsiderate remark, made me feel like that. But one thing is for sure. No one will ever make me feel like that again.
As for Isabella, I have a feeling that she is going to be just fine. Luke and she were still playing when we left the playground.
My local newspaper, The Carolina Forest Chronicle, did an article on me and INCENSE & PEPPERMINTS for Veterans Day. Here’s a link to it:
For this week only, you can get INCENSE & PEPPERMINTS on Kindle for only 99 cents.