This is a story of a student teacher’s experience with a pupil during her four weeks teaching practice in a primary school, where she was assigned to grade one.

I walked into the classroom, greeted the teacher, Ms. Thornton and the pupils. I proceeded to reading the children a story. As we all sat on the floor in a circle, I noticed a pupil sitting away from others. I told him to come and sit with us. Then one of the vocal pupils said, ‘No ooo!’ I immediately asked why? ‘cause he stinks,’ replied the pupil. I reprimanded the pupil saying, ‘that’s not nice at all. Would you like it if everyone said that of you?’ ‘No, but he stinks.’ I continued to read the story since I was being observed by my supervisor. After the session, it was time for bathroom break. I seized the opportunity to speak with Ms. Thornton and asked why the pupil was so unhappy and withdrawn from his classmates. I didn’t get much from Ms. Thornton. The next time I came to class, there was a class activity and pupils chose whom to work with but this particular pupil sat by himself with his head on the table. I went over and called him by his name, which I found out, was Jacob. He did not respond, so I went and sat beside him, placed my hand on his shoulder and said, ‘I would like for you to talk to me if you felt like it.’ Still no response, so, I continued to make my rounds and give positive feedback to the pupils. By lunch time, I noticed that Jacob did not have home-made food or lunch money to buy school food. I took permission from Ms. Thornton to buy food for Jacob. She agreed but said, ‘if he accepts the offer.’ I went over and asked Jacob if he could join me for lunch. He looked at me and then followed me, which made me happy. We sat opposite each other and had lunch. Jacob kept scrutinizing me without a word.  I broke the silence and asked him, ‘would you like to ask me something?’ He gave me the most beautiful smile and said, thank you Ms. Nena.’

When lunch was over, Jacob held my hand while walking back to the classroom. This was great progress for me. During recess I had another opportunity to interact with Jacob. I asked him what was going on at home and if he was living with his parents. He responded saying, ‘my parents constantly yell at each other. Both drink a lot. When they do, my mom won’t cook any food for me. I would only eat a snack and go to bed.’ He stopped talking. I did not encourage him to continue.

As I was leaving that day, I gave Jacob a note for his parents and a hug. I told him that I shall be back in school on Tuesday the following week. My note read: ‘I would like to talk to you about your child, Jacob if you are chanced.’ I signed it as student teacher in your child’s class.’ I prayed over the weekend that God would give the wisdom and guidance to help my little friend, Jacob.

On Tuesday, as I walked into the classroom, a parent was already waiting. I greeted everyone as usual. Ms. Thornton gave me a sign to go and speak with the parent; it was Jacob’s mother. I walked up to her, greeted and introduced myself. In all situations concerning a parent/teacher discussion, always maintain eye contact, which is very important. Also, start with positive situations of the person concerned. I addressed her by her name and said, ‘You know you have a very intelligent and handsome boy here. I’m speaking to you based on what I have observed from your child, Jacob. I need you to pay attention to him and take care of him. I want him to feel happy when he is at school.’ Then I stopped and waited for her reaction. She was just quiet and looking at me all this while. Finally, she said, ‘thank you for talking to me. My son told me what you have been doing for him. I think he, my Jacob, likes you. I will take good care of him. Thank you again.’ Then I replied, ‘thank you for coming and listening to me. Bye bye.’

The next day when my friend, Jacob and his mother walked into the class, all eyes were on them. I was filled with tears, joy and gratitude to the Most High God. The transformation of both Jacob and his mother was great. I smiled as usual. Ms. Thornton smiled and said to me, ‘thank you.’ My friend was very happy especially when his classmates were happy to see him. Everyone was happy for the change. I walked up to my friend’s mother and said, ‘thank you. Look at the joy you have brought to everyone this morning. Keep it up.’ Jacob’s Mom gave me the most beautiful smile and left with joy. Everyone was happy with Jacob and he was happy too. I was glad to make a difference in his life. Kindness is all that matters!

Written by: Nnenna Nnanna