It came to me as a sleep-filled message.

One of my current charges is a real behavioral headache. This child has witnessed more trauma than anyone should, let alone anyone who is just 9 years old. And, as you might expect, the child has many behavioral tics that get in the way of his — and everyone else’s learning.

Even when he has taken medication, prescribed for ADHD and PTSD after behavior modification just didn’t seem to be the answer, he has difficulty knowing boundaries and behaving within our classroom norms and ground rules. If one student gets some attention from me he immediately seeks the same. He is an intelligent student, one for whom mastering third grade standards is not a problem.  Yet this need for validation  is exhausting for both of us — for him, to constantly feel the need to find validation from his teacher.

With just two days left until the school year begins again, I have started churning what I can do for my students to redirect them, to make our classroom engaging. For this student, I already felt the dread and pressure of continual interruptions for me to drop everything and give attention – something that needs to be resisted. And the answer came to me: with firmness and consistency, teach the student to self-reflect, to look at his own work and decide for himself if it is his best.

If I can do this, and I must succeed to really be this child’s teacher, he will take with him wherever he goes. We all need to learn self-reflection; we need to look at what we’ve accomplished and decide for ourselves if it is or is not our best effort. And isn’t that a lesson far more important than anything else I can give him?