Can’t find your ask, but I’d love to hear about 76. Love a “difficult child”. :]
Fan mail is the only way to contact me. Most asks don’t come through to me, Tumblr thinks they are all spam. I disabled asks in order to encourage people just to use the fain mail because no matter how much I posted that they don’t come through, people kept sending them :-)
*Note: The term difficult child is not meant as judgement, or even negatively. Read the story, and give me a chance to show you how I feel about “difficult children.” I use the air quotes intentionally here.
Before I even student taught, “difficult” kids — defiant, angry, tough kids scared me. I would have nightmares about a kid standing on a chair and screaming and when I asked them to get down telling me “no.”
I have always believed that “difficult” kids have a reason to be difficult that you probably don’t see on the surface. That being said, the idea of working with “difficult kids” made me feel inadequate as a future teacher, and I didn’t feel like I had been taught how to work with them. Sure, we had discussed possible scenarios and case studies in class — but what if the “solutions” didn’t work in real life, what then?
I dreaded having to teach difficult kids, not because I have a biased towards them, but because I thought I’d suck at it and their presence might make me an ineffective teacher.
Now, I’m not 20 anymore, and I realize that I shoulder the responsibility of being effective. But, if I am being honest with you all, that’s how I felt.
Backing up just a little bit, I was horribly bullied in junior high. The fear my fellow students put in me, prevented me from doing a lot of things, caused social anxiety, and even though I was always successful in life, I feared trying a lot of things. I feared failing and being laughed at for who I was.
So, in college, I was worried about being made to feel that way as a teacher by “difficult students.” I was worried about them laughing at my attempts to reach out, teach, shut down bad behavior. But by the time I was in college, I had learned it was better to face my fears head on and figure things out. So, love a difficult child was added to my list. I believe I am successful in teaching when I develop strong relationships. In field experiences, I said I fell in love with every class. But those kids were not the “difficult children” I was imagining in my head, they came later.
Before I landed my first full-time gig, I was a substitute teacher. I even had a kid stand on a chair and scream. He told me no when I asked him to get down. I’m not sure how it was resolved, but it did get resolved, and I remember feeling a boost in my confidence as a teacher.
I had no idea when I accepted my first full-time position at a charter school just how many “difficult” children would be in my class and just how much I’d love them all.
My first full time teaching position was at a charter school. I knew very little about the school before I interviewed, because there wasn’t much on the internet or in the papers to read up on them. I knew their program was geared towards kids with AD/HD, but that’s about it. I figured these kids came from good homes if their parents had sought out a school that specialized in AD/HD.
As it turned out, the majority of my students did not have AD/HD. They had autism or were classified as Emotional Disturbed (a terminology that I hate), lived in the projects, were homeless, were abused (as I later found out and had to report). They were angry, and in the beginning, violent. They didn’t know how to process emotions good or bad.
If I called home, some parents didn’t want to hear it (and I called for good reasons more often than bad), they just thought of school as a relief from their kids. I know they felt that way because they told me. They weren’t at that school because their parents searched for alternatives, they were there because the parents expected to be called less than at public schools, and in some cases the public schools didn’t want them (this was rare, but we did have one principal who brought families to our school to meet with our principal because their school district just didn’t know what to do with certain kids).
They lived in a town that has been in a long economic depression, long before the rest of the country due to plants closing down (the main source of employment in the area). I really thought I was in over my head, and almost quit the first week when a kid scratched me so badly it bled through my band-aid.
I have to present the bad first, so that an outsider understands how awesome the good in those kids was (is). I always say to people that are judgmental about kids that are angry and violent at such a young age —- Well, some of my kids didn’t have a bed and slept on the floor. Wouldn’t you be angry in the morning if you didn’t have a bed to sleep in?
My students were some of the loving, most hilarious kids I have ever met. They stood up to older bullies picking on a heavy-set kid in my class, and reported it to an adult without stooping to that kid’s level. They beat the entire school in the Martial Arts Tournament, and graciously accepted when the judges decided to give the 6th graders a “re-do” and they ended up taking the trophy home (actually they took it better than me). They worked hard, loved each other, and did it in spite of a lot of really shitty (yes I swore) circumstances. Sometimes they threw chairs, or spit on the floor, or told the principal that demons were going to get him (all were the norm for our school, and my class actually had the least office referrals or major behavior events). But man, did they improve, did they work hard to use the behavior strategies I gave them. I couldn’t have been more proud of them, and I loved them more than I imagined possible.
Eventually I lost that job due to budget cuts, and when I cried, I cried because I wouldn’t be able to see them grow up. I wouldn’t be there as part of certain kids intervention team (when they got heated). I wouldn’t be able to keep my promises. Leaving them broke my heart a little.
But boy did I love those kids. They taught me so much about teaching, and now the “difficult kids” are my absolute favorite. There’s always a reason why they are difficult. Don’t pity them, they don’t need that. But listen, be compassionate, and help them move towards their goals.
Ok, now I’m done with my big speech.