Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The one

Spent a part of my weekend fretting about one student. For three days last week, ever since he showed up, he was a virtual tornado of destructive, negative energy. Every teacher knows about that one kid that can ruin an entire class. This one blindsided me, and I wasn't sure how to handle the situation.

Should I assert my authority and come down swiftly and powerfully? Should I try to reason with him? Is he capable of reason? Should I threaten to quit if he's not removed from my classroom, and, preferably, the school?

I stayed late on Friday, trying to gather info on him. Let's see: He's in my English III class, so this must be at least his third year. In that time, he has compiled a 0.05 grade point average; in fact, he has passed only one class. Was I going to let him take down an entire class with him?

Saturday evening, driving to dinner, I saw him walking down the street. Blood pressure shot up. Here he was, invading my weekend! For a fraction of a second, I wondered if I'd be punished or rewarded if I accidentally lost control of my car and rode up on the sidewalk. Can one student truly be so evil as to inspire evil thoughts? Yes.

Got into work early this morning. Picked up a stack of blank referral forms. You want war? I thought. Fine, I will write you up every single day until you are suspended for a day, five days, the rest of the semester.

Filled up a referral form with all the infractions I could think of: Persistent tardiness. Use of profanity. Defying school personnel. Constant disruptions. Inspiring thoughts of vehicular homicide on the weekend.

"Say one thing out of line today and you're going down," I said. Out loud. Yes, I was now talking to myself. I should add that to the referral form.

Of course, as anyone who has ever taught could probably tell you, this kid showed up on time today. He sat quietly. He did his work. He politely asked for clarification. At the end of class, when the bell rang, and I still had no reason to turn in the referral form, I had no choice but to approach him as he walked towards the door.

"Hey, hang on a second," I said.

"Yeah?"

"Good job in class today."

He looked at me, probably expecting a sucker-punch.

I continued: "Let's have a good week, OK?"

He left. And I was left wondering: Is there hope? For a good week? A good year? Is he worth the effort? Can he be saved? Is he the one?

5 comments:

Christian said...

I've got one of those this year too, except I'm still waiting for the good day.
Isn't it amazing that we can sometime s put so much mental energy into these confrontations. . .and then nothing happens.
I guess that one thing you learn from teaching is that each day is a new one.
(Glad you didn't run over the kid)

FresH20 said...

Man, now that I'm in a PhD ivory tower, I actually miss some of those "ones." Even the one that caused a riot on the homecoming football field.

middleson said...

LOVED this post.
i enjoy reading your experiences that parallel some of my own.
thanks.

appopt said...

Thanks!!
Speaking of parallel experiences, one of the main reasons I'm writing this stuff down isn't because I think I'm unique in any way. Quite the opposite. I think that most teachers could probably relate to a lot of what happens in my classroom. And then again, very few non-teachers could imagine any of it.

bluekayak said...

The art teacher just requested that when my class comes to art, my ‘one’ be accompanied by an adult because she is “scared of him”. I’m not even sure how to respond to her request beyond staring blankly and furrowing my brow. Sure, he’s bitten three teachers, two principals and kicked several recess supervisors. (And I fully confess, my unbitten, unkicked and uncursed self, I have I taken a secret and unprofessional delight in each and every time he thoroughly trashed the principal’s office) But scared of him? He’s six years old. Where does he go from here—the art teacher is scared of him, the principal’s best suggestion is that someone “crack his butt” and he’s been suspended eight of the twenty days we’ve been in school and he writes me love letters in his journal during his free time.