Being Your Best
I had a student in my office the other day who I have known for three years. I used to need to bring him in because the school had some concerns about his attendance. Where I work when we see students falling off their norm we often have them talk to a counselor to see if there is any support that can be offered. Sometimes we talk with the parents. With this boy the mother and I had been talking, the teachers and I had been talking, the school administrators and I had been talking and the boy and I had been talking.
Now three years later he liked to drop in just to talk about whatever was going on. We liked each other and had an easy rapport. So the other day he comes in and tells me he wants me to talk about me. Then he tells me he wants to switch seats with me. We switch. He asks me questions to prompt the conversation and we had a great time together.
When I was in graduate school I did an internship at a highly regarded Children’s clinic where therapists see children of all ages all day long. My supervisor and I would meet every week and I would talk with him about the kids I was seeing and he would help me figure how best to help them. What he mostly impressed upon me was that it was my job to create a caring, open, friendly relationship with the child. They needed to learn about trust, concern and how to be honestly together with someone in a respectful manner.
The Clinic had a basketball court and one day Alex, 10 year old boy and I were shooting baskets and talking about various items. People who see children often do something called “play therapy” which boils down to playing with the child and within the framework of the game model life skills. Alex and I were playing together when my supervisor and another boy came in who was about the same age. We all started shooting baskets and my supervisor asked Alex and I if we wanted to play against them. I looked at Alex and he said yes so it was game on. One thing I should tell you is I am less than 6 feet tall and my supervisor was 6’4”. We got the ball and Alex and I passed it back and forth and then he took a shot. My supervisor jumped up and blocked the shot and sent the ball flying down the court, out the door and down the hallway of the clinic. Alex looked at him with a wide open mouth. The other kid ran over to the supervisor high fived him and then the two kids ran down the hall laughing after the ball.
I asked my supervisor if that wasn’t a bit extreme. He said he did not believe so. He always did his best. That is what he was showing the kids. He told me when he first played ping pong with his boy he beat him 21-0. While the boy was discouraged my supervisor got him to play again and gave him a 20 point handicap – all he would have to do is win one point and he would win the game. Over time he told me that kid had gotten to a 5 point handicap. It was reality and within that reality the boy was able to see himself grow and learn to trust both his ability to learn and the honesty of my supervisor.
I have not always been able to live up to his standard. But when I switched seats with that student and we had an open conversation and I could see first hand how he was handling and holding himself I thought I was doing my best and so too was he. I liked that I did something a bit out of the ordinary and in taking that chance I realized that boundary pushing is something I like about me and when I do it I often feel my best.