The ugliness I had been warned about arrived Friday.
The day had started in a promising fashion. But before class started I read an incident report from the week prior to my arrival that I couldn't believe. it detailed a litany of almost nonstop disruption whose high points included a warning to another girl that he would put something in her vagina and objects thrown at other students.
I'm told this was the day that led to my ongoing participation.
I would soon get my own taste of it.
But first, we had an assembly of all classes in the gymnasium at a little after 9 a.m. The rednecks and crackers who think of Massachusetts as "librul commies" would probably be shocked to see the beautiful ceremony that honored a dozen military veterans, a few of whom looked like they were WWII or Korean war combatants.
It was respectful and inspiring. The children sang "This Land is Your Land" and I had to smile; the more subversive verses were left out.
There was also a pledge of allegiance and a rendition of "My Country Tis of Thee." No flag-burning, though.
In fact, the pledge and the song are daily occurrences in these classrooms. So much for the idea that New England children are being polluted with anti-Murkan brainwashing.
But then the day went downhill. When we got back to class, he just didn't want to participate at all. At snack he had a juice bag and some cereal. He then wanted some sport drink the teacher had brought for him, but at that time he'd had a lot to drink. Told no, he erupted. He went to a corner of the classroom and started knocking things over, screaming and being destructive.
When he calmed down a bit later, he was still a defiant PITA, saying "blah blah blah" as the teacher tried to lead a lesson. He uttered apparently (fortunately) to no one in particular "I'm going to kill you."
I mean... what the fuck is he seeing and being exposed to that created this monstrous behavior?
I don't believe he is a bad kid, and I don't believe he is capable of doing much damage. But he clearly needs help. This is why I am here, but this was bigger than me.
A bit later he was supposed to go with the rest of the class to music. He said "I hate music" and stopped down in the hallway in an open locker seat. I sat beside him and tried to talk him off the ledge and on to music class.
After more than 15 minutes of coaxing for the 30-minute class, he relented. Once there, he was engaged.
The rest of the day there were very few problems. But those were more than enough to ruin the vibe.
I did come up with an effective strategy toward the end of the day after talking with the teacher. I devised an incentive for this guy that began on Day 2. He and a lot of his classmates like Pokemon. I didn't realize that Pokemon was still a thing; I can't believe that didn't die out 10 years ago.
So he collects, and like many of the kids he has a binder full of Pokemon cards. Starting on Day 2 if he hits his incentives I have given him a card.
After the awful morning, at lunch I told the teacher I didn't know how it would be possible for him to get a "win" for the day. I told her I felt like I had to find a way to convey to him that behavior that extreme was never going to be acceptable.
She agreed, but understanding how tentative his progress had been and how this card incentive had seemed to have some payoff, could there be a way to incentivize his behavior for the rest of the day?
I suggested having him "own" his behavior and cop to it; What if I could get him to apologize? Not throwing himself on the mercy of the class, but speaking with her?
Later in the day, with about 20 minutes left in the class, I had some isolated time with him to pitch the idea. "This wasn't your best day. I know you can do better. But we all have bad days sometime. I don't think you have earned a card today but if you could apologize to Ms. Teacher I think that might be a way to save the day. What do you think?
He turned and went to her.
A few minutes later I asked her how it went. And she gave me some positive feedback about our plan to let him save face.
Will it work next week? Maybe. But this week he had a reduction in incidents, in their severity, and we started to build some bridges. Ms. Teacher thinks she sees him trusting me more. I hope so.
Without having a clue what the future holds, all I know is that theoretically it holds 19 more days of working with this troubled boy. Coming so late in the year, I worry about pouring so much energy into just five weeks at the end of the academic calendar, and having it all undone by a family group that clearly has issues. The report of the horrible day before I came on reveals that the night before the boy had stayed up as a party raged in his house, arriving at school at 10 a.m.
Note to parents: You're fucking PARENTS. You don't get to have blowouts on a school night, you selfish dickheads. Grow the fuck up and don't ruin the lives of your innocent children just because you have no goddam sense or self-control.
Talk about someone needing a cunt punt.
Let's close with something great.
At lunch, one boy from another class noted that my folder looks like an iPad.
Another instructor who I've hit it off with sidle up a few seconds later and said the student is obsessed with iPads. She told a story of how the boy had broken his mother's iPad.
And had done so on purpose. The educator had asked if it had been an accident. He said it hadn't. He'd broken the iPad in hopes of freeing the Angry Birds. Because, he said, they may be angry because they can't get out of the iPad.
The purity of the young mind...