My Titanic Connection: An Office Visit That Resulted In Reflections On Building Relationships

My Titanic Connection: An Office Visit That Resulted In Reflections On Building Relationships

Friday. My teaching partner was away for an appointment, and I had duty and period 5 prep. We also wanted to have students help us switch around our building space and begin to create a school in our dramatic play space. In order to get everything done and the class cleaned up before the children left for their time in the Learning Commons, I basically never left the classroom until 2:00. When I did leave, I also took a child down to the office to get picked up early. The office was a busy place, and since both the principal and the vice principal had people with them, I decided to sit down and wait with my student until mom arrived. Little did I know what this decision would mean.

There were a lot of kids in the office at the time, so my student and I sat down on the big bench together. Sitting beside me was a younger primary child lying down across a chair. I could have ignored him. I can’t tell you the number of times in the past that I would have done so, but something told me to say something to him.

I said, “Hi!” He replied. I then asked him, “How are things going?” He said, “Not good.” He then started to tell me about what happened that led him down to the office and into the chair. For confidentiality reasons, I’m not going to go into all of the details. This is not a post about if this child should have been punished, or not punished, sent home, or made to stay at school. This is not my decision, and I don’t know all of the facts that led this child being here. I’ve only heard one side of the story.

What I do know, is that when the child told me what happened, I asked him, “Did you have a sign on your work?” A sign?! He didn’t know what I was talking about, so with my student sitting next to me on one side, and this child sitting next to me on the other, we looked back at some documentation where our kindergarten students made signs for their work. He said, “A sign … I never thought of that. I could make a sign.” Then he asked me if I had pictures of the Titanic on my iPad.

It turns out that this child knows a lot about the Titanic. In fact, he knows way more than me. As the mom arrived to pick up my student, this child told me all about,

  • the Titanic disaster,
  • the size of the ship,
  • how this ship compares to other ones,
  • what happened when the iceberg hit,
  • and how I can differentiate between photographs of the actual wreckage versus recreated images.

He thought about things that I never even considered.

I knew that the office was busy, and that the office administrators were trying to answer phone calls and finish their work for the week. I was cognisant of the level of our voices and the impact that this would have on them. While I tried to keep our conversation to a whisper, I wondered if it might still be disturbing them. I also knew that the minutes of my prep were ticking by, and I had documentation to review, photographs and videos to upload, and things to organize in the classroom for next week. Now what? 

I asked this little boy, who was now sitting up in his chair, “Do you like to draw?” He said that he did, so I offered to go and get him a clipboard and a pencil. I figured that if he was going to be sitting in the office for a while, he would then have something to do … and this “something” would be quieter than talking to me. He was appreciative of the clipboard, but he wanted to look at the Titanic images to draw. So I went back to the classroom and got an iPad. We looked at some images together. I even found some short Titanic video clips on Learn360 for him to use. I couldn’t leave him with an iPad on his own, so I sat down beside him to work.

This child not only likes to watch, look, and listen to informaton about the Titanic, but he wants to talk about it. He was looking for a friend. While I hadn’t gotten any of my school work done yet, I decided to be that person. I’m not going to pretend to be a hero here. At first, it wasn’t easy. I kept thinking about how much I had to do, and that my prep was almost over. But then I decided to use this time to learn something new. This experience had me …

  • slowing down.
  • being cognisant of my vocal tone and volume.
  • thinking about stress — not my own at the time, but this child’s stress — and how I might be able to alleviate it.
  • visualizing Susan Hopkins and Stuart Shanker, and their important reminder that Self-Reg starts with relationships.

If I hadn’t walked into the office, I wouldn’t have known this child. This opportunity gave me a chance to get to know him, and what matters to him. I might not see this student again, but if I do, and he’s upset or angry, I wonder if the mention of the Titanic might change things. Would he approach me? Would he talk to me? In some small way, could I help change a trajectory? Just the possibility of a “yes,” made me feel better. It made me believe that I couldn’t have selected a better way to spend my prep.

When I see kids in the hallway or in the office, I often stop to say, “hello.” Somehow the conversation ends after that though. Maybe the key to relationships and the key to making a difference is to continue the discussion. I’m glad I chose to do so on Friday. Some may argue that this child didn’t deserve the time or the connection because of what he did. In the past, I might have argued the same. Now I wonder if he was even more in need of both. What do you think? What are some of your own “Titanic connections?” I hope that my school year continues with a few more of these special moments.

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Aviva Dunsiger has been the Portal Plus Moderator for over a year now and completed the Foundations 1 Certification Program. She has taught everything from Kindergarten to Grade 6 and enjoys blogging about her teaching and learning experiences. She blogs professionally on her blog, Living Avivaloca. Aviva is excited to contribute a monthly post on The MEHRIT Centre Blog.

By | 2019-11-19T08:45:16+00:00 November 19th, 2019|

6 Comments

  1. Nicole Colterman November 19, 2019 at 4:08 pm - Reply

    Thank you for being that child’s champion that day. I agree with you, that he may have needed that connection way more than any type of correction.
    I have had a similar experience with a child in preschool. She was struggling with how to enter play and in a full active preschool room, looking back now there had to have been multiple social, environmental and prosocial stressors. I was familiar with the term self-regulation at the time but had not done any learning on the topic. Over the past two years I have had the opportunity to attend a Symposium and read Dr. Shankers books and I am enthralled. Since then I always go back to this little preschooler and the moment she was screaming such a high pitch scream and hitting her teachers. As a supervisor this sound concerned me and I went into the room to see if I could be of assistance, I actually brought the girl out into the hallway with me and we went and sat by the window with our backs against the wall. She continued to spit at me and growl when I tried talking to her. So instead we sat there, I did not say a word and she screamed right into my ear, I think my ears rang for the rest of the week, but I remained calm. When she noticed I was not reacting and remaining a calm presence around her, she sat back down with her back against the wall looking out the window. I waited a minute and then asked her what was bothering her, she said she was hungry. It was just about lunch time and so we discussed the aromas coming from the kitchen and what might be for lunch and we started laughing and having a good time. I brought her back into the classroom and she wanted me to join her for lunch, we set our own table for 2 and ate lunch together.
    After this moment the educators in the room did not see eye to eye with me on what they saw as rewarding her behaviour by giving into what she wanted. But what she had wanted was someone to connect with her, listen to her and play with her, what is so wrong with that? We all strive for connection and when she was in an environment that without her knowing was casing her more stress, she was unable to communicate this. After reflecting with the team they began to understand and started to re-frame their thinking. I say all in all it was a successful interaction as a stress detector.
    All it takes is a moment of your time.

    • Aviva Dunsiger November 19, 2019 at 6:25 pm - Reply

      Nicole, thanks for your comment and for sharing your story! Like you, I think that my learning from The MEHRIT Centre has changed how I view and respond to behaviour. Your story was an interesting one, as it also looks at the possible dysregulation caused by hunger. It reminds me again of why we have an open eating table. Almost every time we see behaviour and/or upset in the classroom, a gentle prompt to grab a bit to eat almost always turns things around. Thankfully this student had you when she couldn’t have food at quite that moment and definitely needed something. You remind me of the quote about being “kinder than necessary.” I wonder if others find Self-Reg causing them to also be “kinder than necessary.”

      Aviva

  2. Angie November 19, 2019 at 7:19 pm - Reply

    Wow!
    I literally teared up while reading .
    What an incredible connection for you both.
    Coming from a former student who didn’t have many positive connections in my primary years that child will remember that single moment for a very long time.
    Thanks for sharing

    • Aviva Dunsiger November 19, 2019 at 7:48 pm - Reply

      Awww … thank you, Angie, for the very kind words! I think that these positive connections really matter. As much as I hope this child remembers our talk, I know that I will remember it too.

      Aviva

  3. Susan Hopkins November 25, 2019 at 3:24 pm - Reply

    Aviva, this story really touched my heart. I kept imagining that child feeling not just seen, but heard, and felt! All children need an adult whose eyes light up the moment they walk in the door (as Dr. Jean Clinton always says). This child felt your eyes (and heart) light up for him.
    -Susan

    • Aviva Dunsiger November 25, 2019 at 10:30 pm - Reply

      Thanks for the lovely words, Susan! This child really left an impression on me. I’m so glad that I responded as I did. This is an hour that I will remember for many years to come!

      Aviva

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