I am sitting on the floor in the middle school hall, when the passing period bell rings.
"Miss, are you ok?"
"Do you need help?"
"What are you doing down there?"
It's the last question that probably needs answering.
This all started about twenty minutes earlier. I had just finished recess duty and ran through the office to drop off the walkie talkie. The kindergarten teacher stopped me.
"Can you help me with X? He's having a hard time, and no administrators are available. I left him by the music room while I came down to get help."
I know X well. About a month ago, I helped him sort conversation hearts. "You can color the graph, Dr. Carol, I'll eat the hearts."
Last week, when I was administrator in charge, he threw a pencil at his teacher.
As we are heading toward the music room, his teacher fills me in on the situation. It seems that the class was going to specials. For some reason, X got mad at another little boy. He made the L sign (for loser). The teacher says that J's parents were already complaining about X and she thinks they are going to be very angry. Something has to be done.
We find X sitting in a chair outside the music room.
He tells me he wants to go to music.
I tell him he can go to music, but that we have to solve this problem first.
X gets up and stands next to the drinking fountain, which is mounted in a recess in the wall. He takes a drink, a very long drink. I wait. Hydration is always good.
The computer teacher walks by. "You need help?"
"No, I'm ok."
X squishes himself into the corner behind the drinking fountain. I wait some more.
After a pause of two or three minutes, X says again, "I want to go to music." He dashes across the hall to the music room, but the door is locked, so he can't get in.
Again he says, "I want to go to music."
I remind him that he can go to music, but that he did a mean thing, and hurt his friend's feelings, and he has to solve that before he can go to music. I ask if he is ready to try to solve it.
I wait again.
Two or three minutes later, X says again, "I want to go to music."
I ask if he is ready to solve his problem. No words, but he nods his head yes. I try to get X to talk about the situation. He tells me that J cut in front of him in line, and he was mad, so he did the L sign.
"What does that mean, anyway?"
"That means loser," I say. "It's a very mean thing to do to people. If you do mean things, people won't want to be your friend."
"I just want to go to music."
Just then, the music room door opens, and children begin coming out into the hall. They are going to the auditorium to practice their piece for the music program. I see J and pull him out of the line. X is now squished in the space behind the door.
"He did the finger to me," J says immediately. I imagine him telling this story to his parents on the playground after school. At the same time, the situation strikes me as a little funny, and I fight back the urge to laugh.
I explain that X did something mean, but it was not "the finger." Now he is very sorry. He wants to apologize. I coax X out from behind the door.
"Do you want to say something to your friend?" I say.
X says in a voice that sounds only a teeny bit sorry, "Sorry."
"What are you sorry for?"
"For doing the finger."
By this point, I am pretty sure we are going nowhere fast. I decide I will have to have the kindergarten teacher explain the situation to whoever picks J up.
"Do you promise you won't do that sign again?"
"Yes," X says more than a little grudgingly.
I ask X if he accepts the apology.
"I guess so," he says, also more than a little grudgingly.
I explain the situation to the music teacher and put the boys back in line to go to music, then head down the hall to tell the kindergarten teacher she has to tell J's parents that X did the L sign, not the finger.
Just another day in the life of a literacy coach.