I have a student, let's call him Joe, who is... unique. Joe has a very distinct voice- slightly nasal, loud... piercing actually. Joe also makes a scene when he enters a room. Whether it's loud walking, dramatic backpack dropping, extreme sighs, singing... you just never know. Joe also has a physical disability. I don't know what it's called, but it effects his writing because his arms are shorter than would be proportional and he has less than 5 fingers on each hand. He's obviously learned to adapt well, in my opinion, when it comes to this part of his life. However, he has also been labeled as having a learning disability, according to his IEP (individualized educational plan, for my non-teacher friends out there). I'm not sure whether Joe is actually "learning disabled," to be honest. But that's kinda besides the point because he's been treated as learning disabled and allowed to slack off, so he does. Reinforcing the cycle. Anyway... back to the point. So, Joe. Joe has good days and bad days in choir. He can be really enthusiastic. He seems to enjoy being the center of attention (who doesn't, though?) He likes singing (although the distinct voice makes for an interesting choir sound). He can be as negative as he can be positive. With the flip of a switch, or one too many rude jokes from an ignorant peer, Joe will lose it. (Side note - I've noticed a culture of needing to have the last word among my students. It's extremely irritating. More on this another time.) I talk to Joe a lot one - on - one. He drops his stuff off in my room 7th period (my prep) while he eats lunch, to return for class 8th period. He occasionally pops by to say hi or I see him in the halls. I talk to him after class sometimes to discuss how the class went that day. Joe is VERY aware of his behavior. He'll say things like, "Ms Cook I had a bad day in math and I was angry and I know I was taking it out on you in choir and that aint right." For someone who can act so immature, he is much more aware of his thoughts and behavior than other students I have.
As a personal policy, I try really hard not to write students up. It sends them out of my authority, almost as if to say "I can't handle you... they'll deal with it." I pretty much don't go there, except for the non-negotiables in school policy (refusing to submit cell phone upon teacher request or cursing someone out, etc...). I've only written a couple students up this year so far. Success. But the other day, Joe was so out of line, I had to write him up. Kinda. I talked to him after class back and forth and explained that while I try to be patient, I will not tolerate disrespect. We discussed that no matter how disrespectful students are to me or each other, I never disrespect them (more on that another time). Anyway, Joe was not happy about this write up, but I was frustrated and felt like I was out of options.
After Joe left and I had silence to myself (rare at school - or in life really), I realized I might have acted emotionally. I try not to do this with students, but I do. The problem was - if you threaten, you have to stand by it... right? This is my theory... 99% of the time. However, I'm not perfect. So, what a dilemma. I was starting to wish I hadn't told Joe I was writing him up. I was replaying the scenario over and over in my head. I decided to just put the writeup in the trash. Was this the right choice? I don't know. The next day, Joe was silent. Didn't sing. Didn't talk. Didn't make scenes. Just sat there. (moping, immature, sulking, yes.) The following day, Joe was back to normal, enthusiastic Joe but not disruptive. I saw this glimpse of a student that I see like twice a week (that I try to constantly reward and give positive attention to). I don't know if he assumed I didn't send the write up in. Or if he thought I forgot. Or if he forgot. I really have no idea. I still don't know if I did the right thing either.
Today, Joe was a little nutso but not off the charts. I could tell this other student was bothering him and so after class I asked him about it. We talked about how some people just say things to get a reaction (which is why I "wait" for silence instead of reacting or yelling... more on that later). At the end of our conversation, he asked me if I thought he should take an anger management class. He asked it quietly, like a secret, even though there was no one else in the room. This student, who can drive me absolutely up a wall (though I try to never let on), who is a complete psycho on unpredictable days of the week, who is a ridiculous jokester, who can be hilarious, who writes with 3 fingers and tells it like it is... this kid asked me for serious advice. He really wanted to know what I thought. And he wanted help. Teacher moment? yes. I went on to point him to Jesus (he said he was a Christian) and we talked about controlling reactions, reacting emotionally, strategies, etc... We concluded an anger management class might help with strategies for reacting to negative situations and that a faith-based class would be the best.
Sometimes I miss the little ones. I miss their cute questions and funny stories. I miss their weird presents and pictures. But when I get to have a real conversation with a teenager who needs help in life and I can point him to Jesus... in a public school... then, yes. I love working with the occasionally psycho, sometimes brilliant, and unpredictable adolescents.
A teacher in the making...