Yesterday, our students came barreling into our room at the beginning of second period with all their normal enthusiasm. Friendly banter and noisy chatter about what they'd done in history class, questions about homework and projects due later in the day, jokes and stories to share with us in the aim of mocking each other. Passing period is always a bit rowdy, but it's good-natured, and they generally manage to calm down when it's time for class to begin.
In this sort of chaos, you can imagine that registering anything other than the general insanity of the atmosphere is pretty tough. So it wasn't until we were asking the class to settle down that I noticed one of our students, L., leaning his head down to speak quietly to a bright and friendly girl, G., before walking to his seat. As he left her, I saw that her head was down, hair hanging down so as to mostly hide her face, but not hanging well enough to cover the fact that she was crying. And not just a couple tears, but really crying. I wasn't teaching yesterday - my supervising teacher was - so I was just sitting on the side of the room observing. Because of this, it was easier for me to notice G.'s tears and keep an eye on her.
G. sat bravely through the first few minutes of class, occasionally reaching up to wipe away her tears with a tissue. When walking around to check homework, I gave her a gentle pat on the back - just a general show of support. As I sat watching the class, however - and her in particular, of course - I kept wishing I could do more. A pat on the back is nice and all, but what if she needed to talk to someone? What if she wanted to leave the room to have some privacy while dealing with her emotions? But at the same time, I wasn't going to stop class and bring everyone's attention to what was going on with G. Especially after my supervising teacher, not realizing G. was having these problems, asked her in front of the entire class to take off her sunglasses (which she'd donned to cover her red eyes). G. gently shook her head, and Ms. D. figured out that something was up, and so dropped the issue. But still, I sat quietly, wondering what I should do.
Enter the all-powerful Post-it note. I went to the supply shelves and grabbed a Post-it pad. I quickly jotted down:
Hey G., I hope you're okay. Let me know if you want to go outside and talk. If you'd rather just stay here, that's fine too. - Miss David
Walking around the class, monitoring student work, I casually stuck the note to her desk. I kept walking, not wanting to hover, but visually checked back after about thirty seconds. She smiled at me in thanks, but made no indication that she wanted to talk. Which was totally fine with me - I just wanted her to have the option.
After about five minutes, when students were working in partners, G. walked over to my desk and dropped a scrap of notebook paper, folded in half. She dropped it off with a small smile and walked back to her partner to keep working. Her note said:
Thanks Miss David, I'll be alright I just don't want to talk about it right now. But yeah thanks again. - G.
P.S. I'll talk to you when I'm able to.
We still haven't talked, which is okay with me, because she seemed a little more back to normal today in class. I figure now she knows I'm here and willing to listen, and she can and will come to me when she needs/wants. What's important is that in the moment when it mattered, she felt reassured and I felt less helpless.
And all because of a little Post-it.