King of the Classroom
Every group of school kids has its strict social hierarchy and there are always one or two at the very top. Eliav definitely wore the crown in his 10th-grade class. He was very sporty and was always picked first for the soccer and basketball teams. Popular and good looking, with a huge smile, he liked to wear tight clothing that made his muscles look even bigger. He was extremely laid back, was always the first to crack a joke, and he made everybody in his circle feel good.
Eliav’s school, however, was not so impressed by him. His homeroom teacher wasn’t fooled by Eliav’s charm or his confidence, nor was she interested in his sporting triumphs. The teacher was much more concerned about Eliav’s terrible test scores. He was late every single day and rolled into school clearly exhausted from late nights out in town. In addition, there were rumors about his addiction to marijuana. The teacher recommended that Eliav join his school’s Kav L’Noar group mentoring program.
There was only one person in the room who didn’t particularly like Eliav.
Eliav was a helpful presence in the group. His charisma and social status made the other students feel better about being there. He made everyone laugh during tense discussions and his relaxed contributions were a calming influence. There was only one person in the room who didn’t particularly like Eliav. Unfortunately, that person was the group’s Kav L’Noar mentor, Udi.
Udi felt very guilty about his private feelings about Eliav. He told his Kav L’Noar supervisor that normally he has no problem getting on with everybody. “There’s just something about this boy that rubs me up the wrong way. I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s because I’m naturally more drawn to the ones who need more help, who are less sure of themselves. Growing up, I was never one of the cool or popular kids myself, consequently I always resented their power over the rest of us.”
The supervisor replied, “It’s interesting that you are also experiencing Eliav as being sure of himself, as having the power. Eliav is in the group because he’s not as together as he wants you to think. Things are not going well for him, things are breaking down. Maybe you would connect better if you saw that other side of him. You need to make him trust you enough to show you that he’s not always on top. Maybe you’ll have to be the one to trust him first.”
It was the first hint of vulnerability that the popular Eliav had ever shown.
At their next one on one meeting, Udi told Eliav about the time he’d failed to get a job he wanted. “It wasn’t just the rejection. The Director told me that I was totally unsuitable, that he didn’t even understand why I’d applied. I felt so humiliated.” Eliav nodded sympathetically. “That’s like how I feel in class half the time. Everybody else is on top of the material whereas I’m so behind. The teacher must be wondering why I even bother to turn up.”
Udi was shocked. It was the first hint of vulnerability that Eliav had ever shown. Udi immediately felt all his caring and protective instincts kick in. Thoughts were whirling through his head about how he could reach out to Eliav’s teachers and find out if they had considered assessing him for extra support. But for now, he just smiled ruefully back and put his palms out in a ‘what can you do, we’ve all been there’ gesture.
That small moment of camaraderie and shared trust made all the difference. Eliav kept his popular role in the group and was still most comfortable showing off and acting like everything was exactly as he wanted it to be. But now Udi was alert for the small moments in between, where the real work could take place. Now he was truly committed to helping Eliav in any way he could.
*All names and identifying details have been changed to protect client confidentiality.