What do you do with a student who see kids as targets? You know she’s angry. You know she has issues. You know her home life is not what you would wish on any adult let alone a child. You work with her, that’s what you do. You hear your father’s voice say over and over in your head (because you heard it over and over as a child), “Every kid deserves to be loved because they are a kid.” And then you try to put those words into action.
This is a student who screams at kids for touching things on her desk and then touches everything on my desk; including the scissors she was using to stab said desk. She put them down immediately after I told her to…by throwing them behind her back followed by kicking them around the room. This incident was the second time I’ve had to evacuate the classroom in 15+ years.
She has no trouble sweeping everything off my desk while looking me in the eye. She will pick it up later, but an action like this is enough to make sure the other kids are afraid. She has drawn pictures of me that looked like I was a snakelike devil with venom and blood dripping from my fangs (she used both green and red to make sure I knew it was both venom and blood). I have no idea how many hurtful things she has said to her classmates.
When she told me that her mother was sending her out-of-state to live with her father but it would take a few weeks because he had to get the money together I am ashamed to say that my first thought was, “I could start a Go Fund Me page on Facebook”. What I actually said was, “Really? That should be very exciting for you. I will miss you.” Seldom have I seen a more beautiful sight than the glowing look on her face when she told us she was staying. Unlike several other kids she was incredibly happy to get to stay.
Fast forward to Monday, i.e. roughest day of the year that included a new “Triple D” plan. If she’s Defiant, Disruptive or Disrespectful she gets a think sheet and goes to a buddy room. If she does those things in the buddy room or refuses to go to the buddy room, someone from the office comes to get her and calls home. Three times was the magic number. That’s how many times she went to the office.
Tuesday morning conversation looked like this;
ME: I really need your help this morning. I want to have a good day and I need you to help me with the other students.
ME: We are going to have a great day. Everyone is going to get along and we will get our work done and we will all be happy.
ME: Remember, we have to choose how our day will be. It’s a choice about the day you will have.
ME: Promise we’ll have a good day today?
If there was one brilliant, glowing quality she has, it’s her honesty. And her smile. Her smile is pretty amazing.
As is turns out, Tuesday was a pretty amazing day. And so was Wednesday. Two in a row and right before Spring Break? Are you kidding me?
Aaaaannnnndddd now it’s Thursday. Enter Jim (not even close to his real name. I suppose I could rearrange the letters in his name, maybe write it backwards and pretend no one knows who I’m talking about…). Jim picked his nose in PE today. Then he rubbed his finger in HER hair. I thought, “Two days was pretty good. I should be happy about two days”.
She didn’t do anything. Until after lunch. Jim also has issues. Jim likes to yell at people when they look at him. Jim likes to cry if someone says anything he doesn’t like. Jim and our friend have been instructed to NEVER go near each other. Remember the target thing? Jim is the biggest target I’ve ever seen. She tells me, with Jim close by, how nasty and disgusting he is. He starts to cry. She turns to him and rubs her eyes like she is crying like a baby. Complete with sound effects. I asked her what happened and reminded her that this is not how we treat each other (in spite of boogers in the hair).
We go inside and proceed with our day. Did I mention that I wanted to take a sick day and rest to hopefully get over this cold? No sub. Anyway, our day continues with Jim putting everything into his mouth and spitting it out; pencils, Kleenex, random things he finds on the floor…
The day is finally over. Clean up is done, chairs are stacked, the bus riders are lined up to go home when someone (I’d make up a name, but can’t remember who it was) hands me a little piece of paper. I examine it and it appears to be a book that someone has written. The cover says, “I called you nasty names”. I groan. I’m thinking, “So close”. I open the book. “I had no right to do that. I’m sorry.” I gently put the note into my pocket and get the bus riders ready to leave. As I shake HER hand and say goodbye I pull her out of line. All the bus riders are gone and the walkers are in the classroom. It’s just us. “Did you write this?” “Yes. For Jim.” “I’ve never been so proud of you.”
This is what I have learned: children do not want to be bad. They want to be good. They want to be accepted. They want to be loved. They deserve to have the chance to be good and be accepted. Most of all they deserve to be loved. Thanks Dad.
I am lucky enough to be in a position where I spend most of my days in a school as a parent volunteer. My eyes have been opened, seeing the “Behind the scenes” of what goes on. These teachers, our teachers, work hard. I am able to see first hand how much they care about these kids, our kids.
I have personally had parents come to me, to complain, to complain about the very teachers that put their all into these kids.