I was walking down the hallway toward my mentee’s classroom when I made eye contact with her. She was clearly upset… a faucet of snot dripped from her nostrils, her doe-shaped eyes wide and glassy. “Are you okay?” I bent down and asked. She blinked, causing tears to run down her pale chubby cheeks.
“How come? Why are you crying?”
“Because I sat in timeout twice. Not once, twice!”
She fumbled over her words explaining that she had been moved to the ‘yellow zone’ for hitting Jack, all the while zipping her Barney-colored jacket up to her neck. Then in the midst of her explanation, she expressed the pain (“Ouch!”) of her hair getting stuck in the zipper. Damn, this kid, I thought. My inner spirit rolled her eyes.
I motioned for her to hair flip like a diva and she awkwardly bobbed her head in imitation. Her soft blonde hair slipped easily out of her jacket collar.
“See? Now your hair won’t get caught,” I said with a smile. “It doesn’t feel nice to be hit, right?”
“… Yeah. But Jack told me to hit him!” she persisted.
“But just because someone tells you to do something, doesn’t mean you have to do it.” Judging by the pondering look on her face, this seemed to be a new concept. “In the end, it was your choice to hit Jack,” I elaborated. “You get to choose what you want to do, right?”
“But the yellow zone is only for when you get two [warnings] and I only got one! It’s not fair I get time out everyday for hitting people.”
Shit, you hit your classmates everyday?
“Well, you shouldn’t hit people. It’s not nice to get hurt, right?” I said.
“Next time someone tells you to hit them, you don’t have to do it,” I said. “You don’t have to do something because someone tells you to. It’s your choice. Let’s find a tissue and get your cleaned up, okay?”
I patted her head lightly and she followed me like a puppy into the cafeteria. I wondered if I was being a hypocrite. A woman asked her what was wrong. Tatiana repeatedly said, “I don’t know” to every question the woman asked. She seemed a little embarrassed. I explained the situation.
“If I asked you to go up on the roof and jump, would you do it?” said the woman.
Whoa lady, that was 0 to 100 real fast. Tatiana seemed to have a hard time imagining the hypothetical situation and unsure of the ‘correct’ answer.
“No, you wouldn’t,” the woman said. “You wouldn’t do that. So next time someone tells you to do something, you don’t have to do it.”
I slipped off without saying a word to Tatiana, afraid I was late to see my mentee.