During those first few days of school, teachers do something bad… well most teachers do… well at least I do. In the chaos of those initial days, as I try to reach the surface and get a gasp of air, I scan the room and identify those kids who you think are going to be difficult and those who aren’t. It’s not fair, it’s not on purpose, it just happens. With each year of experience I gain, I realize more and more how wrong I usually am.

This year, the sprout I was most wrong about was Audra. It didn’t help that a few staff members knew her from outside of school and had ‘warned’ me about her… it didn’t help that her parents let me know she could be ‘difficult’ at times… it didn’t help that she showed up those first few days and looked like she’d rather be getting a cavity filled than be in kindergarten.

In a word, Audra appeared crabby. She didn’t seem to like anything we did, any of the other children much, or her teachers. When we sang and moved, she just stood there. Sometimes I thought I could see her lips moving, but I think she might have just been grumbling. I feared it was going to be a dreadfully long year for all of us.

After a few weeks something started to change. As we all settled into the routines of kindergarten, Audra relaxed and began… blossoming. She started singing… she started dancing… she started to love working – especially writing. She started giving hugs… she’s become one of the most frequent huggers… the other day I called her my ‘Velcro friend’ and she laughed. She laughed.

Now when I see those staff members who know her and they ask about her, I gleefully report how well she is doing in all areas. I take a small bit of satisfaction in the surprised looks on their faces. She has become a child who loves just about everything about school. She’s a model student. She’s showing her sweet and caring self just about all the time.

Naturally the lesson here is not to be quick to judge our students. I’m not sure that will happen, because those first few days, we’re all in survival mode. Rather, become aware of those judgments, but don’t hold on to them. Realize, just as the craziness of those first few weeks morphs into a calm and trusting community, so will your perceptions.

Our class wouldn’t be the same without Audra. I sincerely look forward to seeing her smile each morning and knowing she’s going to be helping out anyway she can and offering up hugs every few minutes. She now clearly loves school and I simply adore her.