Popularity contest?

Created using Typorama
Created using Typorama

A young man in my class very nearly reduced me to tears today.

A lovely boy, sometimes a bit of a rogue, usually full of beans and sometimes full of mischief, you can’t help but smile at him. He’s found life a bit tough at school recently though, as a good friend left the school. I hadn’t really realised what an impact this had made on him though, until he opened up to my job share partner last week. Everyone in the year group had noticed a change in his behaviour, but no-one knew why.

Today, we found a few minutes to sit down and talk about how he was feeling, and unexpectedly, he talked really honestly. He comes across as a bit of a lad: not one to talk about feelings. He closed up last week whenever emotions were mentioned. Today, however, he was brutally honest. He talked about feeling lonely, about having no-one to play with. We went through the normal chat of what we could do about it: identify people he could play with, tell an adult if he was in need of a chat or help to find someone to play with. We agreed to get a small group of boys together to explain the situation, and for them to act as buddies for him. And that’s when he almost floored me. As we went through the boys in the class, some were approved, others not (there are some very different personalities in my class, and some combinations would never work). I gave him a few names of a group of lovely boys and he replied “I can’t play with them, Miss. They play with the popular kids and I’m not one of the popular boys.” I could have cried for him.

So where has he got this idea from? Certainly not from the boys themselves: I know they would be really upset to think that he felt he couldn’t approach them. And not from the rest of the class. This young man has just as many friends as the group of boys. It can only have come from his own perception. He is one of the popular boys – just as much so as any of the others in the class, but he obviously has such a low opinion of himself that he sees them as almost a higher status than himself. How long has he been going through school and seeing himself as inferior to the others in the class?  I hope that it’s just a fleeting view brought about by his close friend leaving, rather than a deep-seated belief.  What on earth would that do to his self worth? His chances of success in his work will seriously suffer if he continuously compares himself to the rest of his peers – it seems he is a boy who finds it difficult to recognise his strengths.

Had we not found a few minutes to talk today, I would never have seen this view, and I wouldn’t have been able to understand his change in behaviour. I can do everything possible to try and build his self esteem, by praising him, by making sure the others are aware when he is on his own and approaching him, and by giving him the confidence to approach them on the playground. This young man shows that we can’t take any of our children at face value: to anyone watching him, he would appear a cheeky young boy who sometimes goes too far to get attention. Clearly, he’s crying out to be noticed. It’s my job to ensure he gets noticed for the right reasons.


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