While Victory, Marwa, and Shade’ were teaching the grade 1, 2, and 3 students, I noticed a boy in the back of the room, holding a small jug of milk and trying to blend into the shelves. This boy was beautiful: dark brown skin, round bright eyes, and a big white smile with a fresh cut above his left eyebrow that had just begun to scab over. But as those eyes dodged mine, I knew he was up to something he shouldn’t have been.
I approached him and asked where he belonged and he responded, “Principal office, mom”. I nicely but firmly told him to return to his seat in the adjacent principal’s office, but no sooner had I returned to the class, then I heard a commotion through the doorway and saw the boy going at it with a girl that had been invading our class all morning. I went into the office to see what was going on and with a forced tear in his eye he said that the girl and her buddies were picking on him. So I squatted down and tried to get him to talk, but all the girls in the office answered my questions before he could even open his mouth…
“What’s your name?”
” ‘im name Ricardo”
“What happened? Why are you in the office?”
” ‘im too rude, miss. Erryday ‘im chucked from de class.”
After the peanut gallery’s responses, I pulled Ricardo outside to chat. I soon found out he was excused from class for foul language and that he truly did hold a season ticket to the principal’s office.
Now my first instict was as expected… “trouble, steer-clear,” but there was something about Ricardo and how very sad he looked that made me want to be nice to him, even if it meant appearing to reward bad behavior.
“Would you like to join our class?” I asked. Ricardo mumbled a “Yes, mom” in response, but his face showed that he was much more excited than his tone let on.
I brought Ricardo into the classroom and put him to work, cutting out pictures from the “School Days” worksheet. When he sat down, the girl to his right pulled away from him in disgust and sighed, “Oooh no, no ‘im!”, but judging by Ricardo’s response, he seemed to expect expect this and he certainly didn’t let it stop him from trying his best. He rushed to catch up with his peers and worked hard to ignore the sideways glances he received from his neighbors.
At lunchtime, Ricardo found me at the kitchen door. Later his arms were wrapped tightly around my waist as I talked with some of the other students. By the stairs, he ran over to report abuse he’d suffered at the hands of a 5th grade girl who promptly denied any wrong doing, with a sly smile and a sideways glance.
Every game he entered, he was forbidden from; every child he approached, pushed him away.
Ricardo seemed truly alone in a courtyard full of students, but I couldn’t for the life of me understand why. He displayed no obvious challenges or imperfections. In my eyes, Ricardo seemed 100% loveable, but not to his classmates. As we left the school for the day, Ricardo ran over to me and wrapped his tiny arms around me, tighter than ever. I planted a kiss on his forehead, ignoring the sweat that left it shiny, and I felt a pang in my heart for this child that no seemed to like, but me.