Everyone knows the setting and how my/our students get to us at the day treatment facility, IEPT etc. Most young folks who end up with us have some kind of back story and it is often horrific. A Dickens story of neglect, abuse coupled with some learning issues and typically some really negative school experiences. No magic fairy tales here.
I must be the sorceress turn the key, welcome the student back into the fold of learners. I need to conjure some born again event to seduce them away from their anxiety and fears.
I have a bag of tricks that I use in efforts to access the “shut down” student. If they have “quit” the system I must first figure how to get them back on board.
Recently I got a new student. She at 10 is so much herself. She wears animal prints and wears her hair like a curtain that she peeks from behind. She is lovely, but ever more so as she is the only girl in a testosterone filled habitat.
Oppositional or defiant are words that have been used to describe her school behavior. When she first showed up in my class she refused to write even a sentence or glance at a book. Of course if she wins she loses. So I must win. “Pick any book you want for your chapter book.” I said. She found nothing to her liking. In frustration (yes mine) I tossed her some fairy tale about a princess who was cursed with obedience. At first she balked but came to love the book. Feat accomplished! Until of course I asked her to move on to our next activity. Tears and temper followed. So we struck a deal, 20 minutes of class work and she earns 8 minutes of her book. And through some enchantment is eased into learning. Or perhaps the obeying character if her book inspires her to obey.
I call her to my desk for a side bar, so I can check more books out from the library. “What do you like?” I inquire. In a whispery, embarrassed voice she tells me “I am a computer geek” She is already in a dynamic vibrant learning environment where she has been working on learning Japanese. She can say, “Mustache” She has somehow gleaned information about the catacombs of Paris. She is the new self made man, learning what stirs her, traveling to what beckons her. This is what she hides behind the silken sheen of her hair.
Today I asked each child to write on their purpose. At first she refused then pleaded with me not to have her read it aloud or tell anyone what her purpose is. I acquiesced. She trusted me with her aspirations of purpose. I looked at her heavy penciled script. ” My purpose is to let people know that everyone is different” That is her purpose.
Me, what can I ever do for this dearest of souls if I ask her to check herself and her skills and her story at the school door.