-One of my students who is classified as Emotionally Disturbed wrote his essay about how he doesn't believe in violence and nonviolence should be the way of the world. He talked about how there are people at our school that he would like to hurt, but doesn't because he thinks first and doesn't "attack" them. Yeah. Tough spot to be in. Of course we all have this urge at times, but when it comes from a student that is classified as E.D. I can't just brush it off. The wonderfully courageous thing here is that this student--who is severely withdrawn in two others of his four core classes--feels safe enough in my classroom to write his feelings. That's a beautiful and strong thing and a huge step for him. But it of course also places me in a tough position as I had to bring this to Guidance's attention. I want him to keep writing his feelings, and I don't want to stifle that creative outlet. I don't know how this all is going to pan out yet. They want me to talk to him, and while I believe this could leave his trust in me and my class intact, I'm not sure I'm the person who is qualified to do this. I'd love to hear all of your thoughts on this one.
-And on the violence tip, one of my more volatile students had a second episode of somewhat-justifiable outrage. Well, the outrage is totally justifiable, but the actions not so much. This is a student--one of the minuscule few in the Land O'Plenty--whose family moved out of a working-class neighborhood and who has actually seen (not lived in, but seen) poverty and the effects of it first-hand. His demeanor is one I know too well--the boys I grew up with from the blue-collar families around my were are as pride-filled and full of strong ideas about what it means to "be a man." I know the attitude--and I know the shortcomings and short-changing that comes with it. But it is what it is, I suppose. Earlier in the year, he pushed another student who had placed his hands on a girl--an act this student found absolutely unacceptable, an act the violated one of the maxims by which he lives, and who can disagree? He was awarded by Guidance for his acts that day, and I'm not sure I can find it in me to take issue with that reward. He came to the violent rescue again this week when an incident occurred in which a white male student said to a black female student (one of mine, and one of four black students in the eighth grade class), "What, do you think you're cool because you're black?" Again, my student--who is white--was angered by this injustice. It's tough, because I'm angered by the injustice, too. In fact, I'm infuriated by that comment. It's a sad example of how far we have yet to go as a country and, honestly, how much work we have to do as a school community that likes to claim it is full of tolerance and diversity. And how do you punish someone for trying to help someone else? For being offended by a terribly offensive comment? By the same token, he can't go around saving the world with his fists. Interestingly, this is the same student who was entertaining the possibility of writing the following belief for his essay: "toughness comes from the heart, not the fist." A sort-of victory for sure.
-One of my students has Asperger's and faces difficulty with socially connecting with other students. He's so smart and so funny. He's come a ridiculously far way since September and can be seen laughing and joking with students in my class. He raises his hand often and does not seem encumbered by the same crippling shyness and awkwardness he feels in other parts of the school. His mom and I have been in touch since September and this is one parent who has said some of the kindest, warmest things to me--remembering them makes me truly feel like a real teacher helps me weather some of my darkest moments of doubt. Lately, though, this student has been having a tough time during lunch and--according to mom--has been coming home watery-eyed even though he tried to be brave and say his day was o.k. I'm trying to devise some plans to have him and another boy who is kind and might be a friend to him come to my room a couple times a week during my extra-help lunches just to have them help out and hang out. It just breaks my heart that he's having a hard time lately and I hope we can find a way to ease the anxiety he feels. Think about how brave this boy is to just wake up and come to school each day. This about what a feat it is for him to step into a building that makes him feel such strong unease. And think about him the next time you start feeling sorry for yourself. I do.