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Plastic Fish

February 1, 2012

Photo by Laura Slotkoff

By Laura Slotkoff, Corps Member Proudly Serving at Reed Elementary School

One of the students in my fourth grade class has had a very tough year. I’ve hardly seen her since November because she has been in and out of the hospital, but finally she returned to school yesterday. She gave me a big hug and got right to work in class, keeping up remarkably well with her classmates. Still, being back at school is going to be a hard adjustment for her.

She gave me a little toy plastic fish, of which she has several, and asked me to hold onto it for her. We played with them together for a little while. I told her that the fish were friends, and that her fish has a lot of friends looking out for her that want to help her. I also mentioned that groups of fish are sometimes referred to as a school of fish. We laughed about that.

When she started to get stressed towards the end of the day, I pulled my fish out of my pocket and she took out hers. Suddenly her tears dried and were replaced by a smile. She was able to pull herself together enough to get through the rest of the day.

Today she got a little overwhelmed and upset during math class. Some of her classmates, in an attempt to be helpful, pointed out things around the classroom that they had put together to help learn math concepts. “These are the Mr. Gallon Men that show how many pints and cups are in a gallon! We all made them when you weren’t here.” I watched apprehensively as her eyes clouded over, knowing her silence was the calm before the storm. Then it came: “I want to go home, I want to go home, I want to go home!”

We went for a little walk to take a break. I tried every comforting thing I could think to say or do, every ounce of encouragement I had in me to get her to stay and continue learning. Then she asked if I still had the fish she gave me. Surprised, I took it out and she took out hers. We played with the little fish and once again, it was like they had some kind of invisible power over her. She was able to get a handle on her emotions, go back to class and continue on her math problems.

I never would have thought something so small and seemingly meaningless as my keeping her little gift could have such a strong effect. Who would have thought a little toy fish could give a troubled child so much inner strength? It really made me think about how the little things we do can make so much more of an impact than we realize. While she will need a lot more than a toy fish to get her through the hard times ahead, all the friendship, comfort and hope it symbolized was, in that moment, enough.


One Comment leave one →
  1. February 3, 2012 3:05 pm

    Thank you for sharing this impact story. As an office based SCM I often lose perspective on the importance of the work that we do. Hearing about your efforts in the school house with this students inspires me to continue on strong. Thank you.

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