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I work as a Preschool teacher in a rural community in Australia. I have only been in the industry for a year and was lucky enough to be offered a position at the centre I volunteered at during work placement. The children are aged between 0-5 years but I work predominately with the 5 year olds. We’re currently teaching school readiness because they’re starting Primary School next year and it’s beneficial for the children to already have the basics down pat before they go; letters, numbers, writing etc.

I love working with children this age. It sounds silly but kids are these tiny humans who have their own personalities and thoughts and feelings and desires and I feel fortunate to help shape them into the best they can possibly be. Some kids are harder to work with than others, sure, but so are adults. The difference with kids is that while they may feel the same emotions as us it’s much more difficult for them to process and communicate it. They may not even understand what they are feeling, or why. It is our job to help them recognise what’s going on and give them the tools to work through it. For some kids it’s as simple as acknowledging their worries or giving them the words to express themselves. For other kids no amount of talking or cuddles makes them feel any better, in fact it sometimes exacerbates things. But then there are the children who seem to slip under the radar; they are neither the kids who need constant attention and reassurance, nor the kids who throw tantrums and act out. These kids do as they’re told, rarely cry or ask for help, and don’t seem to react to situations as other kids normally do, like having a toy snatched from them. They don’t react at all. They’re just silent. They generally play by themselves and when asked if they’re having fun they just elicit a simple “yeah” and carry on with what they’re doing. I really try to connect and bond with these types of children because it worries me. Not that there are many of them at the centre.

There is one child like this who seems to have connected with me. This is great considering the short time I have been there and the time it takes to build this kind of rapport with them. He is a small boy in the 3-4 group, has short brown hair and big brown eyes. He is very gentle with the younger children and makes it his mission to save any insects or small animals that find their way into the playground. Oh, and he loves dinosaurs. Everything he owns has a dinosaur on it and he can tell you anything about them. It’s the older children and adults that he finds trouble empathising with. He just doesn’t seem to interact well with them.
This boy, let’s call him John, lives with his father and from what I can tell their relationship is pretty solid. His father commented on how important it was that he has a strong female influence in his son’s life and was happy with how much we were bonding. It was a good feeling to know that I could make a difference in this boy’s life.

That good feeling has been short-lived.

It started when I noticed an older boy (5 years) trying to kick children in the playground. It’s not uncommon for children to get physical with each other but with this boy it was. He is very sensitive and wants everyone to like him. This behaviour was out of character. I watched him and picked up something peculiar; after trying to kick another child he would run back to the cubby house and hide, then remerge and do it all again. The cubby house is the only private place for the children to go, not private enough that we can’t see them but good for the kids who want some space. I stood behind the cubby listening in to the whispering inside.

“Good job, Benny. Now go and kick the other one in the stomach.”

I was stunned to realise that the voice belonged to John. He was manipulating Benny into hurting the other children while he hid and watched. It made me feel nauseous and I alerted the director as to what was going on and she said she would take care of it.

I steered clear of John for a little while, I would like to say that it was because I was so busy with the 5 year olds but truth be told I was actually a little frightened. During nap time John asked me to pat him and I obliged. Tickling his back to lull him into sleep I felt silly being afraid of the boy. He curled his arm around my knee and looked up at me with his beautiful brown eyes. All of my fears melted away instantly. John motioned me in to tell me something so I leant in with my ear to his face. Normally the children aren’t allowed to talk during nap time but sometimes they ask to go to the toilet or for their comfort toy if we’ve forgotten to put it on their beds so I make sure I listen before reminding them it is quiet time. John whispers in my ear, arms still curled around my knee: “if somebody cut your head off with a knife, lots of blood would come out and nobody would help you.” I drew back, shocked. I quickly whispered back, asking him why he had said that and if he had seen that in a movie but he insisted that he hadn't seen it anywhere. Before I could question him further my supervisor told him to shush from across the room. I notified my director after I had gotten him to sleep and she said she would speak to his father again.

What bothered me was how coldly he said it and the look of joy in his eyes when I pulled back, as though he knew it upset me. I took a break to use the bathroom and stood over the sink, patting my face down with cool water. I reminded myself that children are sponges and take in lots of information, it’s plausible that although he doesn’t know where the idea came from it could have come from a movie or game that he wasn’t supposed to see. And it wasn’t a threat directly; I think he was speaking generally, that it could happen to anyone, not just me.

The following week I was surprised to see John playing a game with some older children. It looked somewhat like a game of tag but if someone was caught they had to lie down on the ground. I noticed the only person who was ‘in’ for the entire game was John. Pretending to watch some younger kids playing in the sandpit I slowly walked over to where John was playing and kept an ear out for him. “I killed you-you’re deaded.” He said as he caught one of the girls. She huffed unhappily and laid down on the softfall. She was completely oblivious to what it all meant but I was sure that John wasn’t. Now I’m used to hearing children get their tenses muddled up with words they haven’t mastered yet and it’s usually pretty cute but something about the word “deaded” sounded off.

Then last Friday he came out with something that really bothered me. After a few requests I set up a painting activity outside during free-play time, letting the children who were interested come and go as they please. Eventually it was just me left and I considered packing it away when John came over and stood at the edge of the table.

“Would you like to paint something?” He nodded.

I pulled out a chair and set out some paper and brushes for him. He was only interested in using the red paint even though I knew green was his favourite colour (‘dinosaur green’, he’d call it). The interesting thing about children’s drawings is that they don’t draw people according to height or weight; they draw according to importance. For example, their mother might be shorter than their father but if you had never met the parents and went by the child’s picture you would assume that the mother was feet taller than the father. Now John had painted a male and a female. The male towered over the female and I figured it was because he was more involved with his father. I was wrong.

“This is me,” he pointed to the male.

“You’re so big!” I exclaimed.

“And this is you,” he pointed to the female.

“Oh, well look at my lovely long hair!” I laughed. “What are we doing?”

“It’s a surprise but you’ll find out tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow is a Saturday and we aren’t at school on Saturdays.”

“I will be at school tomorrow, waiting for you.”

“I’m sorry John but I won’t be here.”

“Yes you will. And I will be here too, hiding and waiting. Then I’ll get you.”

“John please, enough. Let’s hang up your painting to dry, okay?”

“Okay,” he shrugged. “But tomorrow you will be deaded.”

That was enough for me. I took the rest of the day off and called in sick today. I’m due to go in tomorrow to take Cecilia’s group while she’s on holidays. Cecilia runs the 3-4 group; John’s group. With one staff member down there’s no way I can call in sick again, but the thought of taking his group alone makes my stomach churn.

Wish me luck.

by reddit user flyherc via: 


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