I was a cuddly, happy kid. I had friends, a Nana that made me scones, and a mum that worked really hard. At the beginning of Grade 6, my final year in elementary school, my mum decided to send me to a new school. The school I would go to for middle and high school. I instantly went form being a happy kid with friends to a sad, lonely, kid who was picked on daily.
After about a month of dreading school something changed. One morning my Grade 6 teacher, Mrs. Cribb, sent me to deliver a note to another teacher. I left the room and as slowly as possible walked to the Grade 1 classroom. I stayed there and helped the teacher for a while. I played with the kids and helped them do their work. The Grade 1 teacher, Mrs. Collins, then sent me back to my classroom with a note.
I waked even slower this time. I wanted to stay in the Grade 1 classroom forever. I remember entering my classroom, head down and sad, and handing Mrs. Cribb the note. I sat in my chair and looked up at the board. I could feel other kids looking at me so I slowly peered around the room. Some of them were slightly smiling at me, others had tears in their eyes, and none of them were making faces or picking on me.
Then at lunchtime kids asked me to join them. They talked with me, played, and were nice. Something had changed and I wasn’t about to jinx it by asking any questions. It was over. I stayed at that school surrounded by friends until I graduated year 12. Throughout my high school years, I would see Mrs. Cribb who always smiled and said hi. After leaving Grade 6 I had the same homeroom teacher, Mrs. Smith, for 6 years. Just like Mrs. Cribb she was always by our side. She stood up for us, cared for us, and put our wellbeing above our studies. These two teachers focused on Inclusiveness and as a result I knew I wanted to be a teacher, I wanted to have the opportunity to lift kids up and be a barrier form others bringing them down.
I hadn’t thought much about this time in my life until recently. I was at a Family night at one of our Character Builder after school programs watching dance performance. There were a group of kids dancing, their Y leader in front smiling and reminding them of the moves. When it ended a “cuddly” kid, just like me, ran over to her parents who hugged and congratulated her on her dance.
I walked over and congratulated her. She said “thanks” and ran off to join her friends. Her dad asked me if I worked at the Y and this prompted him sharing their story. They had moved their daughter to a new school at the start of the school year, about 8 months before, and she went from being a bubbly bright kid to a reserved quiet one. She was finding it hard to make friends and went from enjoying school to dreading it. Sound familiar?
They met with the teacher and principle and together thought that sending her to the Y program might help. The Y, he was told, focused on friendships as much as academics, including everyone as much as individual success. He told me, with his wife nodding and smiling, that within weeks they had their happy kid back. Since starting at the Y she had friends, confidence, and loved going to school.
I felt so proud! I don’t work at the school, and I had never met that child, but I love that I work for an organization that is doing what I always wanted to do; make a positive difference in the lives of youth!
Learn more about our Expanded Learning Programs here.