Her face was red. Her eyes brimmed with threatening tears. Her chin quivered.
Moments earlier, gasps and heads jerked up. Uneasy laughter had signaled something was up in this fourth grade classroom. The teacher had started the day with the class, then had to go out for an appointment. Another teacher was filling in. I had been working with a couple of students at a back table. They had just returned to their desks when the commotion rippled around the desk of the girl who had just finished her work with me. I called a couple of students back to figure out what was going on…all I had seen from where I was sitting was the back of their heads. The gist was that a boy who somehow always is at the middle of any trouble in that class had showered some unwanted attention on her, tapping his chest and making a heart, pointing to himself and her.
She said nothing, but her face, eyes, and chin said it all. So I thought.
She walked out to the hall with me, and we agreed it might help if she talked it over with our school social worker. As they talked, it became clear that although she was upset with the boy and embarrassed, she was much more upset with her friend, who sits by her, and who had whispered to others after the incident, “J likes L,” and laughed.
The friend was brought in to the conversation. She was smiling, a kind of nervous, I don’t know what to do with these feelings kind of smile, as she told what she had seen and admitted what she said. L was crying openly now, and M appeared bewildered. The social worker talked about being a friend. She asked M to think how she would have felt if it had been the other way around. M really didn’t understand at first. Then, her smile faded. She sat quietly, looking at L, who stared at the floor, avoiding M, still crying. A single silent tear slipped down M’s cheek.
The social worker talked with the girls a while longer, getting barely audible responses. When we walked back to the classroom, L was not yet ready to offer or accept a hug from her friend.
Hopefully, the hurt will heal. Friendship is not always easy. But, oh, how kids need friends as they take on the challenges of growing up.