I was teased mercilessly as a child. It started in first grade when some older kids at church made fun of my hair (always up in two tight braids) and my clothes (my mom was very much into the matchy-match). The routine was this: after juice and doughnuts, the kids would gather around me and just barrage me with insults until I started crying. And once I started crying, they high-fived each other and called me "Crybaby." That, of course, caused me to cry even more.
Anyway, I could go on and on, but this post wasn't originally intended for me to talk about my past so much; it was meant to set the tone for talking about Isaac's school. Everyday after school he plays kickball with a group of older boys, and I am always so surprised and impressed by the way they treat him and the other younger kids. They make sure everyone has a turn, they cheer the little ones on, they patiently teach the rules to new players, they are conscientious with people standing nearby who don't want to get hit by balls. They do all this while still acting like normal boys their age: their chests involuntarily puff up when girls their age walk by, they hoot and holler when they get a good shot, they can't seem to keep their paws off each other as they jockey for position, and they don't talk to each other besides what is absolutely necessary to play the game.
One time, Isaac caught the ball and an older kid walked over and took the ball from him. The hairs on my neck stood on end: what is going to happen now? Then the kid pointed towards the ground and said, "Hey tall first-grader, your shoelace is untied. I'll hold the ball until you tie it." And sure enough, he handed the ball back to Isaac after he was done.
I sometimes hear things about the girls, that there already are cliques and queen bees, but at any given time there is always a group of warm-hearted girls to hang out with who don't play that game. I don't see absolute rejection or individuals being singled out.
From what I can tell, these kids seem on the whole well-adjusted, healthy, and happy, and it feels amazing to be a part of it, because I know that's not the case in other schools. Something about this school is working, and it gives me hope.