I have a student who has been on my mind lately and I’m not really sure if I’m doing everything right with him. He came in the middle of the school year. When I met him I had a bad feeling about him. I felt so guilty about my bad feeling that I tried to push it aside and really really think positive about this student. After all, it was just a feeling. He’s proved himself to be an all around good kid, with some difficulties in reading. I rarely catch him doing the wrong thing. Part of me feels like he’s almost TOO sneaky to get caught. But, alas, I just almost always see him doing the right thing. He is very popular among his peers.
He did get suspended once for getting into a fight in Spanish class. Then he was suspended for telling me that he was going to get his mom to bring a gun to school and shoot me.
When I meet with his parents they are incredulous when I don’t say anything bad about him. They literally demand to know what is wrong, and when I tell them that he struggles in reading, but is doing well in math, that he is well liked among his peers and that he is a leader in the classroom (and that he made the honor role) they are very suspicious.
His behavior has been so good that I selected him to go ice skating with me last weekend. When I picked him up from his house I was shocked. I mean, I knew all my students did not have much money, but I was not prepared for his house. Every window that I saw was boarded up. There was a building across that street that with completely destroyed in a fire and has beams literally hanging down in the exposed interior of the building. It was filled with brick rubble and only a flimsy, falling down chain link fence surrounding the property.
In the car on the way ice skating he bragged to me about how he had been kicked out of 4 schools already. I said that I hoped he wouldn’t get kicked out of our school because I would miss him. When we get to the ice skating rink he had a blast and didn’t want to leave. He was so helpful and held little girls hands while they struggled to get their ice legs.
I asked him later what he was going to do over winter break. He said that he would probably throw some eggs at houses. I told him that wasn’t such a good idea and that he could get in trouble. I asked what else he would do and he said that he would try to break his brother’s neck instead.
Then, on Monday he brought in a dollar to get his picture taken for the holiday fundraiser that we are doing. He said that he wanted his picture taken with me. Not a classmate or a friend…me. He was the only student who selected me to be in their picture with them.
So sometimes he can be adorable and then he will do things like not leave the classroom when we are having a fire drill…just because.
He has never been selected to be student of the week yet. He’s on my short list as he generally does an okay job, but he will always pull SOMETHING that takes him off the list. When he is not selected he throws a fit. Last week he refused to get ready to go for the day, and repeatedly hit his head with his binder for about 20 minutes until he had a big read mark on his forehead. I can tell it would mean a lot to him to be selected, but he can’t be such a sore loser when somebody else gets the chance.
Then, today, he decides to get into a mood and refused to listen to my directions when we were working on our craft for decorating the hallway for school contest. Since he wouldn’t follow directions, he was not allowed to participate. This spiraled into one of his “moods” and he wouldn’t sit down, was extremely defiant and just tried to push my buttons. So I sent him to another teacher. In the other teacher’s classroom he made a vulgar gesture mimicking an action not appropriate for an 8 year old to mimic. He will likely be suspended for this behavior.
I know that I need to keep my boundaries with this child. I know that I need to hold his behavior to high standards just like everybody else. But when I do that he just spirals out of control. It would be easier if I just let him get away with things that aren’t hurting anybody, but I know that creates a dangerous precedent for the other students in the class.
I just don’t know how to maximize my time with him. It is obvious to me that I am perhaps the first teacher even making any sort of a connection with him. He is the student who I have felt the deepest affinity for. I can see so so so many things going wrong in his life. I can see him falling victim to statistics. He has so many hurdles to overcome. But I just don’t know how much of an impact I can make. He’s 8 years old and life only gets more difficult as he gets older. He’s not even in double digits yet, let alone a teenager. What is a realistic impact that I could make?