The first day of school for first-grader James (not his real name) was a total horror show for his teacher, parents, and the other kids in his class. He physically beat up three of his classmates and assaulted his teacher with a wooden pointer resulting in a suspension from school. Children went home traumatized, and worried parents contacted the principal with demands that James be removed.
The teacher was my wife, Rona Bresnahan. When we got home at the end of that day she was exhausted and troubled by the experience. Her day was prolonged by the necessary reports and meetings with parents and school officials, so by the time she came home she was mentally, physically, and emotionally drained.
Frankly, I was grateful that her principal immediately suspended this boy. I am always protective of my wife and kids, and in this case I felt protective of the kids in her class who were severely traumatized by James. As far as I was concerned, James was now someone else’s problem.
In the weeks that followed, Rona put in a great deal of extra time to meet with school officials, behavior experts, and the boy’s parents. She learned that this was a broken home, and James was really a victim, not a perpetrator. She met with the special ed team and the school district psychologist and others on numerous occasions. She and the principal established a plan to give James a chance. It was trying for her, and difficult for him. My concerns were heightened when I learned about the plan, and I wanted assurances that failure on the boy’s part would not be tolerated. Rona was firm, but loving in her efforts to nurture this troubled young man. Success would only come if the rules at school were also the rules at home, so it required loving efforts to work with the parents to get their support.
The parents were not enthusiastic, at first, and wanted to place blame on the teacher and school officials. Through Rona’s efforts, and the great support of the principal, the plan was agreed to by which James could return to class and stay only if he met certain very rigid conditions. Boundaries were set, and he was on a day by day contract to which all parties agreed.
On the last day of school before the Christmas school break, I went to her classroom after the kids went home to help her get it ready for the start of school in the new year. Doing this on the last day would mean she would not have to give up any of her school break to go in and get things ready for the first day back. When we finished I helped Rona bring many gifts and presents out to the car that came from her students. As we drove home she told me about her best gift already received.
James has completely turned around. His behavior is controlled, and he is academically one of the best students in the class. Rona told me that she received a note from the parents to let her know that James behavior in school is now also his behavior at home. The trouble and stress previously experienced in that family has been greatly reduced or eliminated, and blessings are being experienced.
Rona did not give up. She could have easily put her foot down and refused to allow such a violent child back in her class, which was my advice to her. Instead she took the time to prayerfully consider what she could do to bring about positive change. We are only half way through the school year, but the progress that has already been made in the life of James will mean his life, the life of his parents, and the resulting impact on all the students in the class will be lasting and meaningful for many years to come.
I am grateful for her incredible example, and her diligent effort to seek and then follow the promptings that come from the Gift of the Holy Ghost. She saw a young boy’s cry for help, and knew she could not do it alone. She went to Heavenly Father and together they blessed many. How grateful I am to be married to such an incredible woman.