Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Warm Fuzzies and Well, Just the Fuzzies.

I've had two students say really cool things to me in the past couple of days... both are special ed (read learning disabled) students and both are etremely challenging to have in class behaviorally. One of them is a guy who spends much of his time in ISS. He told me that he didn't have any other teachers who seemed to care about him like I do, and that he appreciates what I do for him while he's in class. I about fell over. You never think these kids actually listen to you... The other one is a girl who've I've had problems with from the first day of school. I'm constantly on the phone trying to contact her parents. Yesterday she came up to my desk and said, "Miss, how come you never yell?" I said, "Dear, it clearly doesn't accomplish anything and there are better ways to express yourself." And she said, "I like that. You are the only teacher I've ever had that doesn't yell at me and at my class." I though, Yessss! I'm doing something right. And I made it a point to let her know it wasn't that I didn't FEEL like yelling, because Lord knows most days I do, but we have to make better decisions with our words and with our emotions. That's a good lesson to learn. Maybe she'll pick it up.

Then there was today. My kids were practicing using short story elements and writing their own narratives (stories). I had a kid turn in a paper about a young boy whose father came home drunk, threw the boy into the bathtub so hard it gashed open his head, and then scaled the boy with water in the tub. Then the dad commences to beat the hell out of mom and then the boy again. He ended the story with, "Now my mom is in rehab for drugs. I can't stand her and I'm so mad at her because she disappointed me."

I called him up to my desk and asked him if it was a true story. And he said, "Yep. That story's about me." And he immediately followed with, "I HATE my mom." (And us rational adults are thinking, Whaaa? Your dad was the a-hole, right?) And I said, "Yeah, that much is clear. You were very honest about your feelings in your story. Thanks for being so honest." And he said, "I think that's why I'm so angry all the time, because I'm mad at my mom." Sensing that he must really want to talk about it, I said, "Yeah, I understand that. It's hard when you want mom to be there and she's not. Especially over something as stupid as drugs. That must be really hard." He looked down and said, "Yeah." So I told him, "You're a smart guy, you know that? Not many people can figure out why they feel angry so much of the time. And what you've gotta remember is that you can't change anybody. As much as you want to be mad at your mom for not being at home, she's not going to change until SHE decides to change. And what you need to do is keep making the good decisions you're making every day. Be that good example to her." And he smiled at me and said, "Good idea, Miss." (And this kid is special ed too.)

Who would have known that my hardest kids to deal with in class, the most disruptive, and sometimes the most disrespectful would be the ones who actually ARE paying attention. Maybe not to the lesson, but to what really matters-- to our relationships, to the way we treat each other.

On the hard days, it's difficult to remember-- but this is why I took the job in Dallas, the place no one wants to teach...