Thursday, June 13, 2013


An interesting set of days, to say the least.

This whole thing has been unpredictable from the get-go; the last few days have been no different. I've been alternately frustrated and encouraged, sometimes on the same day, sometimes within a short time span.

On balance, I think this week has been encouraging.

The past couple of days there have been at least two instances each day where he got volatile. Only once has it gone truly over the line, and by comparison with instances early in this period, this one incident was relatively tame. No one was threatened.

What's been encouraging is the way in the past couple of days I've been able to talk with him when he's been ready to erupt. In every case the last two days, he has let me talk to him, worked through his resistance and frustration, and in each period emerged willing to attempt the work. In every one of them, he actually did the work.

Today the first big frustration came with a math project. He didn't want to do it. The front page was nine questions featuring numbers in the teens and up to 20; the work was to find the number minus one. The opposite side of the page was numbers plus one.

After getting the first two correct, he missed the third one. And when told so and asked to try again, he started to dig in, instead went on to rush through other questions and get them wrong, and then started to wad up the paper and raise his voice.

My method was to encourage him, to tell him that I knew he could do the work, and that he needed to not get frustrated but just try. I have to admit to a certain amount of surprise that he opted to unfold the paper, we smoothed it out (literally and figuratively) and he tried again. And with a little help, he got every question right. The teacher was pleased.

It's been like this steadily the past two days. The moments of frustration now have managed to be defused and he's attempted the work. And generally done OK.

He's clearly still got a long way to go. But at least right now he's managing to get past the frustration and give himself a chance.

This isn't about me and has never been about me. I'm just the person detailing these experiences. But I am very proud of the work this kid has put in the past few days. Calming down and conforming isn't something what comes easily for him. There are things in his head we don't know about and he's dealing with things as best he can, with as much support as we can give him. Although I don't think it's as much support as he should be getting.

The last two days he has let me read to him and paid attention. I wish there was more of this in his life. I have my doubts that he's being read to often enough. It's not just the sharing of knowledge that reading brings that matters. It's also pretty important that a kid knows someone is interested enough in him to take that time and really invest in it.

Today we read a book about soccer, and I thought he'd get bored with it pretty quickly. We read the whole thing.

Tomorrow the whole thing could invert and it could be an awful day. There are still so many issues to overcome. But lately, things have been looking up and I'm happy for him.


Amusing anecdotes I want to share before I forget them:

  • There's one black kid in the class. Today as he and another boy played a game, another alpha boy started to sing "Afro Circus" but left out the word "Afro." I watched the thing unfold and was amused that he seemed to make a connection between "Afro" and the other boy's skin color. But better was that he also seemed to understand that saying "Afro" could be perceived as offensive. It was an amazing display of maturity. But then when the black kid picked up on the song instantly and used "Afro" the tension was gone and they all sang it.
  • I've been allowed to conduct the morning meeting the past few days. It's been a nice experience and allowed me to run the show a few minutes while the teacher hurries to complete some year-end housekeeping.
  • One girl told me how she ran a lemonade stand that raised $122 for the One Fund. Wow.
  • This morning the pre-K kids put on a "play" for the kindergarteners. Goldilocks, and the Three Little Pigs. Afreakingdorable.
Only six more days to go.

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