One of my favorite quotes about teaching is: the kids who need the most love will ask for it in the most unloving of ways. This should be posted at the punch in clock for every teacher to read at the start of every day! It is so true. It also happens to be my motivation to teach. I have a special place in my heart for the “troubled” kids.
When he arrived at our school, it was his second time in 6th grade. No matter what happened he was going to be pushed along to 7th. Straight A’s, doubtful, or straight F’s, more likely due to his past, he was being promoted in June. Teaching him reading skills was not a priority to me. Making a connection was on the front burner. He sat slouched in the chair as a result of being taller than his classmates. He didn’t talk much to the others kids due to the fact that he was more mature; his classmates seemed like little kids to him. That year, he made friends with other “troubled” kids. They connected like magnets. I didn’t ignore him. I cajoled him as often as I could while his other teachers nagged him. He didn’t receive passing grades, but he went on to 7th.
All that next year, he was the center story for administration and disciplinarians regarding his behavior, lack of efforts, and drug use. Again, he never made the honor roll, in fact he missed a lot of school. Yet onto 8th grade he went.
I moved up to teach 8th grade reading the year he moved to 8th. Once again, I wasn’t there to teach him his reading skills. Now it wasn’t so much a connection, it was to be there for him so he could graduate. His name was notorious in our school and he was only 14. All the makings for a self-fulfilling prophecy. He is only a kid, a child. I wasn’t going to assume he was a “bad” kid.
During his class, I continued “selling” books to all the kids including him. “This is a great book about a teenager struggling” or “The action in this book will hook you!” He took the bait and he read while in my class. He discussed the books while in my class. He even acted out Shakespeare in front of the class. However, I used class time for other things. I devoted some of class to talk with him and the others. He was open with me. He had strong opinions about marijuana. He both smoked and sold it. I didn’t judge. All the other adults judged. I listened and gave advice. That’s what he needed. He never gave me a hard time. At the middle of the year standardized test, he met and even surpassed his goal. The principal summoned me to the office and hugged me. She was impressed with his and all the other 8th grade test scores. I am helping make a difference!
He had some trouble this year. He was suspended a few times. I continued to be a listening ear for him. At one point he mentioned that it would have been better for him if he was in my homeroom. I knew I was making some little impact. I wish I could have done more.
In May of this school year, during the school day, I received some very upsetting news. I was visually upset. Swollen red and wet eyes. I tried to hide it, but couldn’t. He saw me as he passed by in the hallway. He approached me. He stood so close to my face and looked me right in the eyes. In a gentle and kind voice he said, “What is wrong? Are you ok? What can I do?” I saw in him what he never showed anyone at our school. He was a sympathetic and compassionate person! It melted my heart. These past 3 years at our school, I tried to be the teacher to be there for him. What a glorious and ironic result, he was there for me!