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Including and being included

Guest blog by Carrie Sprouse Norris

Pisgah Forest Elementary School

Transylvania County, NC

Teachers understand that the six virtues make our students into the human beings our world needs. With schools trying to pack in more academics, however, early grade teachers are abandoning or shortening community building activities during morning class meetings.

Sadly, I have sometimes been that teacher. Some days I don’t take time for morning circle compliments because we have to get into our RTI groups. And I have stopped doing buddy reading with older students because we have to complete Progress Monitoring.

Sometimes, however, I “sneak” in a virtue lesson. It can be a few seconds to compliment a student on pushing everyone’s chair in without being asked. Or it can be complimenting students on the way they lined up for lunch. Or I acknowledge the courage of a student who recites a poem in front of class.

There was one particular time at recess about a month ago when I thought, “Forget my math lesson. It can wait.”

“Rob” suffers from seizures throughout the day. This makes his movements clumsy and causes him to drool. He is different, but he yearns to have friendships like the other children. My class knows I am on the lookout for kids who may be alone, and I take notes on who chooses to include others. Rob was often included, but it was usually a game of tag, where he ended up being the “tagger” the entire time.

While watching this one day last month I had seen enough. I called over two boys who were throwing the football. I asked them if they would ask Rob to play. The boys agreed. They called him over and began tossing the ball back and forth. Within just a few passes, Rob was catching the ball. He was so excited. I was on the grass cheering him on, and pretty soon a few girls were doing cheers.

I called everyone over to make teams. Rob was on a team with 3 other boys. During the first few minutes, Rob just ran around. He never touched the ball. I didn’t say anything and just watched.

Eventually, I saw the teams huddle up to plan their play. The next thing I knew, a pass was thrown to Rob, who caught it and ran for the touchdown. The crowd (teachers and cheerleaders) erupted into applause, as the team ran to high-five Rob. I have never seen a child smile so big. We went into the school building a few minutes later still talking about Rob’s touchdown. The entire class was happy for him.

I later thanked the student who included Rob in the game. He simply stated, “I wanted him to be happy.”

My students did not learn about measurement that day, but they learned what it feels like to make someone else happy. Since that day my students have displayed generosity and understanding at recess. Rob continues to play football, and he is often the first one chosen.