Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Doing the Right Thing? (aka opening a can of whoop-ass on yourself)

Ooof. It was a tough day. It is the birthday of my good friend and colleague's son, who was delivered stillborn one year ago today. I have been profoundly touched by this sweet baby; I was there when he was born, and it forever changed me. If you have never been touched by the grief that surrounds the death of a child, there is really no way to explain the utter depth of pain and sadness. There just aren't words.

Here's the other sad half of my day:
I confronted a 5th grade student today about an incident on the bus. It involved one of my students, and no one messes with my firsties. What I should have been prepared for was a) complete and total denial b)what to do if the student walked away from me while I was talking and c) the possibility that I would not be the worst thing that had happened to this kid today. This shows you how sheltered I am in the community I teach in. It's so easy to pretend that your kids have problems, when it really all just depends on your lens.

So now I have a problem. I kept my spines straight (so, so hard) and demanded respect. I know you can't demand respect, but what's the alternative when you are talking to an angry, defiant kid who knows how to run? I was as kind but as hard as I could be back. I did the proverbial "escalate tactic" of getting in his face. In the end, I had given him a choice: he could make it right by coming and helping me during one recess, or he could go to the principal. Guess which he chose? The easier one, of course; the one where he knew exactly what to expect and was nothing new. I gave him until the end of the day to decide, even though he told me he had already made up his mind.

Here's the rub: no one else saw what happened on the bus. It is the word of a proven honest and non-exaggerating 7 year old against the word of a proven liar and repeat offending 5th grader. But to be fair, and we must always be fair, I can't punish him for something that I have no proof of. Besides that, I need to him to know that I will not walk away and ignore him for the rest of the school year. That's what everyone else in his life does, I won't be a part of that. What he needs, more than anything I think, is for someone to have his back. What on earth can I say to this kid to let him know he has value, he is important, and he matters? What on earth can I do?

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