“No” could have been Sam’s middle name. During group activities, he was the child running around the classroom and crawling under tables. He’d swear, throw things on the floor and have violent tantrums.
Difficult as he could be, his Childhaven teachers stuck by him and showed him that they understood why he was behaving the way he was. Once Sam calmed down after a tirade, he would talk.
He and his younger brother were neglected and possibly abused by the various people their mother left them with. After she died of a drug overdose, Sam told his teacher that he didn’t care, that his mother wasn’t really his mother because she didn’t take care of him.
Underneath the anger, Sam really wanted to please, but with so many caregivers in his life telling him different things, he didn’t know whom to trust.
He finally grew to trust his Childhaven teachers, becoming particularly attached to one. Seeing him day to day, that teacher didn’t notice his gradual progress as much as the volunteers who hadn’t been to her class in a while. “Wow, Sam is a different kid!” they’d tell her.
Toward the end of his time here, Sam stopped refusing and started trying. After successfully completing something, like writing his name, he would sit and smile with pride.
He loved Childhaven and his favorite teacher so much that he didn’t want to leave. His behavior got a little worse the closer that inevitable time came. He wanted nothing to do with graduation and wouldn’t practice walking across the stage.
The morning of the big day, his teacher took an anxious Sam aside for a heart-to-heart talk. “I’ll do it for you,” he told her.
And he did. He paused for a moment when his name was called, but he accepted his diploma and the applause. Afterward, he was smiling.