Listening Ears Lead to Joy for Jandry

By Robbie Murdoch, Quito Dump Program

From the beginning, we struggled with Jandry in our Quito After-School Program. If he did something to get into trouble, he would often compound the problem with rather explosive behavior. He used to shout over any teacher who stopped to correct him. If he was asked to be quiet for a second, he would respond by kicking or punching something before storming off.

What Jandry lacked was a space to be heard. When he felt like he was not being respected, he had a hard time respecting others. So we set aside a special time when Jandry could sit down and speak with a teacher every day at the end of the program. In the heat of a difficult moment, the teachers would simply say, “We’ll talk about this at the end of the day,” giving him a chance to cool down and reflect.

These post-program sessions always started with Jandry being asked how he did that day. He could talk about his successes. He could lament his failings. The whole time, the teacher would listen and affirm what he did well, and thank him for admitting what he had not done well. Even though the conversations often resulted in some sort of consequence for his poor decisions, Jandry would leave the office with a smile on his face. He valued the opportunity to sit down with a teacher, all by himself, and just talk.

Jandry no longer has to meet with his teacher following the program – and he was sad to see the practice end! But he is making wise decisions now, and he is quick to apologize when he has erred. In general, he has changed from being one of the most challenging kids to work with, to being one of the biggest pleasures. In a world where he likely has received little encouragement and been expected to do as he is told without question, it’s no wonder Jandry was so frustrated. We’ve made a regular practice of listening to our kids in the After-School Program, with four more kids currently involved in this endeavor.

It’s amazing to see how much effect just stopping to listen to a child can have!