So, I work in a grade school (JK through 6). I’m an educational assistant. This can and does mean many different things, depending on the day or even the time of day. The first month or two I spent at my school, I was in a kinder class focussing on a particular child. As his behaviour stabilized, more or less, I began spending more time with the grade school kids.
My first day out of the kinder class, I was pointed in the direction of a grade 2 student, let’s call him Randall. Randall was refusing to participate in an outdoor activity and was out of sight of the teachers. The principal asked me to bring Randall in to the office. I wandered over to Randall and asked him how he was doing. He growled at me and climbed in to a bush. “Tough morning, huh?” Another growl and some thrown leaves. I Introduced myself. “I’m Mr. Geoff. You might not know who I am cuz I’ve been hanging out in the kindergarten classes.” Hissing and then a growl. “Hmm. What’s your name?” Silence. “Listen boss, you don’t actually have to tell me your name, but it’d be a load easier for having a conversation.” Silence. “Don’t want to tell me huh?” A very low and small “No.” “Totally ok dude. The only problem is that I’ll have to make up a name for you if I can’t find out your real name.” I explained that having an invented name for him would be better for me than simply referring to him as “that kid in the bushes.” “So, yeah… not doing so well this morning, I guess.” Silence. “Anyways, the boss asked me to walk you to the office. I guess you don’t really want to be doing all this fun stuff so we figured you could use a break.” I told him he could have a minute to think it over. When the minute was up I tried to get him to come out of the bush. “Come on Steve. Seriously, aren’t there mosquitoes and stuff in there?” “My name’s not Steve.” he tells me. “Oh, I know that Steve, but you won’t tell me your real name, so I’m stuck calling you Steve. You kinda look like a Steve.” (He doesn’t actually look like a Steve.) “Anyway, Steve, we should head in. The principal said to me “Mr. Geoff, go bring Steve in.” So I think we should go. I hear they have a very nice office here, we should check it out.” He came out of the bushes, trying hard not to laugh and looking rather confused, and began to walk in the other direction from the office. Of course, I walked with him. “Where we going Steve?” Silence. We wandered the yard for few minutes and then her pipes up, “My name isn’t Steve.” I agreed with him and again told him that I didn’t want to be rude and call him “Hey You.” That got a smile. “Look Steve, we can check in at the office and let the principal know that you’re with me and that you aren’t missing and then ask her if you can just head to class, I mean you did get out of the bushes and you are letting me call you Steve, so you know…” I began to walk towards the office and Steve followed.
Just before we got to the main office, he turned to me and said “My name’s Randall.” “It’s a pleasure to meet you Randall, but I still think you look like a Steve.” This got an actual laugh to go with the smile. By this point, all the anger that he’d had, seemed to have faded away. We talked to the principal for a minute and then I walked him to class. Once there, I said “It was pleasure hanging with you Steve. See ya later.” He threw me a wave and said “See ya later Bob.” I laughed my ass off.
That was around October. Every day I’d greet Steve and he’d call me Bob. We confused the hell out of his mom whenever she’d drop him off in the morning. One day she took me aside and asked “You’re name’s not really Bob is it?” I told her it was Geoff. She was relieved because she’d been sure that my name was Geoff and though she’d been calling me by the wrong name. I told her the story of why Randall calls me Bob and why i call him Steve. She nearly cried, she loved it.
Today was the last day of the school year. Randall is one of my faves (yes, we have faves). He and his mom came up to my office and presented me with a little gift to thank me for hanging with and helping Randall this year. It was one of those gifts that you don’t see coming and though I kept my composure at school, writing this is plucking at my heart strings. Other than the bottle of wine one of the parents gave me, this is the best.