Elementary school can be a breeding ground for bullying. If you’re even a little different, some kids won’t hesitate to poke fun at you for it. With that in mind, it’s no wonder 8-year-old Dean “Dino” Shuffield was nervous about shaving his head. He had enough on his plate, and didn’t want to open himself up to being made fun of.
But shaving his head bald was quickly becoming the only option he had left. Dean suffers from alopecia, an auto-immune disorder that causes your hair to fall out in large patches. Once baseball caps and bandanas weren’t able to hide his disorder any longer, Dean was torn as to what to do next.
Dean’s mother, Teresa Shuffield, told the Orlando Sentinel that Dean was worried he would be the target of endless ridicule if he shaved his head.
“He was really worried that kids would make fun of him,” Teresa said.
After Dean’s third-grade teacher, Ehren Steiner, learned that his student was struggling to make the difficult decision on his own, he wanted to make it easier for him.
“Hey man, I’ll shave mine too if that will make it easier,” his teacher told WESH2 News.
Steiner encouraged Dino to think about it for the rest of the school day, and by Friday afternoon, Dino told him he was going to shave it.
True to his word, Steiner shaved his head and showed up on Monday morning completely bald.
The students were in disbelief, but none was more surprised than Dino himself.
“My jaw dropped, and I’m like, ‘he actually did it!'” Dino said in disbelief.
Steiner wasn’t sure if Dino was going to show up on Monday with a bald head, but wanted to follow through with his end of the deal anyway. He says he shaved his head with the hope that it would make Dino more comfortable with his classmates in school.
“I just think, to go through things on your own, you know, I just think if you have someone to walk through something with, it makes life more enjoyable,” said Steiner.
While the students would have normally zeroed-in on Dino and his being bald, Steiner has helped divert some of that attention. The two of them are referred to as “bald bros,” and because of Steiner’s act of solidarity, the other students have remained respectful and refrained from saying anything hurtful.
“I think it’s all really helping him to deal with it in a positive way,” his appreciative mom told the Orlando Sentinel.
Steiner took the opportunity to educate the class and help Dino communicate his condition to his peers in a safe environment. He said the students were encouraged to ask questions, but being bald helped break the news to them in a simple, fun way.
Dino’s mother said she was moved to tears by the gesture, and that it has made her son’s life much easier. “It’s out there. Everybody knows. I think it just cleared everything up all at once,” she said.
Nobody was more appreciative than Dino, though. When asked what he thought of his teacher, Dino’s response was touching.
“He’s really supportive. Best teacher in the world.”