Almost two hours later, I sat at a table in the dimly lit teacher's lounge, staring blankly at a wall. Or maybe something else. Actually, I don't know what I was looking at, I just know I was lost in a thought-void.
The classroom aide had sat down next to me a few minutes earlier. The normally upbeat and cheery young woman ate in silence and had that same thousand-yard stare.
I turned to her: "I wonder if this is what shell shock feels like."
She responded, unsmiling: "Yes. It must be."
"I'm totally drained."
He was back to his regular schedule of being two hours late today, and Wednesdays the students are released 70 minutes earlier than regular school days. So basically he only had to get through a little more than three hours of school, half of which would include recess/P.E. and lunch. Not to mention the fact that we're basically kind of treading water as we near the academic year finish line.
He slacked through 10 minutes of computer center time, then moved toward the second center, where the students listened to a book on tape, then had to draw an image of their favorite part of the story.
No challenge at all, really.
But he didn't want to draw the picture.
OK. NBD. There are alternative strategies that are in place and I turned to them. The first was to draw a "thank you" card for the fourth-grade "Big Buddies" that visited the classroom once a month to interact, mentor, read and mingle.
He didn't want to make a card.
OK. We've got yet another option, although this one is designed to ratchet down any rising stress. This one involves taking a break of five minutes (or sometimes 10-15 minutes, whatever it takes). We go to an adjacent room so as not to distract the students, but it isn't a "Get Out of Jail Free" card. It's a way to get him refocused and do some simple work that encourages more cooperation and participation. It's worked several times in the past five weeks.
So now we were at an impasse, and this week the protocol was if there was any escalation, to call the mounties. So down came the behaviorist. The teacher got the other three students who had been at the table to move away.
I sat next to the boy at the center. The teacher was to my right. The behaviorist came in and sat across from him.
When we all recounted the process that had led us to this point, she took over.
He was on the ledge.
She pushed him off.
"You have been given these choices and refused to take them, so we are going to have to leave the room, OK?
"NO! I don't want to! You better not mess with me, I know karate! I can't read! I don't wanna do it!"
He stood up and stepped slightly toward her, still just to my right.
"Don't fucking tell me what to do! I'm not gonna do it!"
He stepped back and with a quick swipe of his arm pushed a round orange desk caddy loaded with crayons and pencils over. I stood up. He stepped back and grabbed a children's chair and quickly hurled it in front of him, over the children's table and into the back of the teacher's desk.
The teacher said "That's it" and told the kids we were going to go outside. "It's like a fire drill." I was to go with them. Everyone lined up and left quickly and orderly out of the room, into the break room and through its door that led to a playground.
As I walked across the playground toward the field, I looked back. He sat looking out the window. I didn't let our eyes make contact.
After the playground, the kids went to lunch. When we came back, the loose items in the room where he was now sequestered with an unknown crew of observers had all been removed and placed in the hallway.
At some point his "mother" came and took him home.
I'm not sure what the value was of poking this guy with a stick today, but that's how it seemed to go. I'm not the professional so second-guessing is probably unfair, and maybe totally wrong.
Having said that...
Since I started working with him, before today his serious incidents had steadily decreased, his minor incidents had been worked through, and today was the first time I heard him say anything worse than "butt crack."
He had become less of a distraction in the classroom, more willing to attempt the work, and doing more of it.
But you know, that's just the view of the only person who has spent every moment with the kid at school since we met late last month.
Clearly there is trouble at home. Those words and that anger aren't emanating at the school. Was the motivation for pushing him today to elicit this response so to escalate larger action? I don't know, I'm not privy to that strategy.
I think the kid needs love and patience. I don't think he got much of that today.