I have a newish student. He is clever, reads well, loves to talk, and enjoys attention. In addition to that he is manipulative, has a hard time following directions, and frequently does the opposite of what he's asked.
Today, within the first 3 hours of the day he managed to make poor enough choices that he ended up in the principal's office and had to spend the remainder of the day in another room. As the final bell rang, he walked into my classroom to return the work he had done. He had his head down, didn't want to look at me, and looked angry and sad. He tried to sneak out without looking at me or saying anything. I stopped him, put my hand on his shoulder, looked him in the eyes and said "You are a good kid." He had a strange look on his face and I repeated myself. He was looking at me so intently and then his face transformed. He got a HUGE smile on his face as he left.
It was simple. It was just a few words. It didn't take long for me to say. But to him it changed his whole mood. As I think about his reaction, I realize that he doesn't hear those kinds of words often enough. He is really good at stirring up trouble and seeking negative attention, so I think he is used to being chastised and receiving negative attention. It made sad to think that those may have been the kindest words he has heard in a while. (And maybe he has heard them recently, I just don't think he gets that enough). Making that tiny difference in his life, that made my day.