This test doesn't involve number 2 pencils or bubble sheets. This test comes without warning and you may have to prove yourself more than once. You may not even know you've been tested until it's over.
In the 6+ years I've been mentoring, I've never had a student resist their pull-out time with me. I'm used to being met with smiles and excitement. The first week I saw the frown, it never crossed my mind that it was because of me. Kids have good days and bad days, so even though it caught me off guard, we went to the library as usual and when our session ended, I smiled and said as I always do, "I can't wait to see you next week!"
As I entered the classroom a week later, I saw it again. My student- my buddy of 2 years- asked their teacher if they "had to" go with me. I have to admit, this broke my heart. I looked to the teacher and told her that they didn't have to come with me if they would rather stay in the classroom. The teacher was as surprised as I was. Quickly composing herself, she said we should go to the library as usual and afterward she and I could talk about what to do next week.
Ultimately, the teacher decided that the best course of action was to continue meeting as always and so we did. I didn't see the frown again, and it wasn't until yesterday that I realized I had been tested.
Yesterday I was met at the door with the same shy smile that I've looked forward to seeing for 2 years. As we walked from the classroom to the library, my student was happy and we talked about the math game we were going to play. We sat down and without any prompting, my usually shy and quiet student began talking about their weekend. They told me about something that made them sad. They looked into my eyes and I could see that they were not just happy to be continuing our routine, the resistance of the past few weeks was completely gone.
Just like that.
The teacher and I spoke later, and that's when we realized that the resistance wasn't because my student didn't want to see me. Ironically, it was just the opposite. My student may be young, but they've already experienced loss and abandonment. They've been hurt deeply by someone they cared about and they're living with the void left by that person.
My test came when my student began to fear that I would also abandon them. We're in the final stretch of the school year, and my student is strong and smart and resilient. They know that in a few more weeks our routine will be interrupted for the summer. What's the best way to control the pain of loss? Push someone away before they can leave you.
When you're the one being pushed away it feels confusing and sad. It's hard to know how to respond because suddenly instead of being a source of joy it seems you've become a source of frustration.
Stay the course and trust your instincts.
Ironically, the kids who push you away are the ones who need you the most. Quietly respect their boundaries and never try to make them feel guilty. When they're ready, they will stop testing you and you will know that you've passed.
It's not the easiest thing you'll ever do, but I promise that it's worth it.