As I reflect on this last challenging week, I can’t help but feel hesitantly triumphant. Life is about overcoming challenges and this year, my class is, well, difficult to say the least. As teachers, we are constantly reassessing our craft, changing and molding to meet the needs of our sprouts, but sometimes, you feel like the toolbox is running out of tricks.
I wrote about this earlier, but the thing is, I’m not in the business of embarrassing or shaming kids. Mrs. D. and I have had many conversations about this… it’s one of the main reasons we work so well together. Problem is, when I ask around, it seems the advice I get is to do just that… put someone in a corner, treat them like a toddler, let them know you mean business… you get the idea. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about being firm when I need to, but it’s the exception, not the rule.
This year, I have one particularly difficult student… I’ll call him Fred. He’s one of the most defiant children I’ve ever dealt with. He refuses to participate. Whatever we do, he ‘doesn’t like it’ or ‘doesn’t want to do it.’ I am not exaggerating when I say, if I told the class we were going to make ice cream sundaes and take unicorn rides on a roller coaster his reply would be, “I don’t LIKE ice cream sundaes, unicorn rides OR roller coasters!”
I’ve tried reasoning with him. I’ve tried reprimanding him. Nothing works. I always end up feeling like I’m arguing with a five-year-old and I don’t like doing that. He has fits. He has temper tantrums. He throws himself on the floor. He screams. He shakes his fist in my face. He called Mrs. D. something I won’t repeat because I’m a gentleman.
As I’ve been trying to figure out Fred, I recalled something Mrs. G., a third grade teacher and dear friend of mine said once about a difficult student of hers: “No matter how rude, mean, or disrespectful he is to me, I’m going to be kind, caring, and loving to him. No matter what.”
Bingo. So that’s what I’ve done. I am nothing but kind, caring, and loving to Fred. It’s not always easy, but whenhe gets in my face, raises his voice, and shakes his fist at me, I take a breath, doing all I can to stay calm, and tell him, “Fred, I like you and no matter what you say or do, I’m not going to stop liking you or being nice to you.”
Friday, for the first time, as we stood in a circle dancing and jumping, I noticed Fred bopping his knees slightly… just a little, but it was the first time he’d participated yet. I looked over at Mrs. D. and we both shared a celebratory look… it was just some slight knee bending, but it was a step… I’m going to love the crap out of that kid… no matter what.