“The way we talk to children becomes their inner voice.”
Kenny had white blonde hair he styled in the shape of a Mohawk. He was skinny and stylish and had a smile that could light up a room. Kenny loved to draw and would leave kind notes and origami creatures on my desk. Yet, when he got angry, it was as if a tornado would hit the room. He tore anchor charts and posters off my wall. His desk would go toppling over and papers would heave onto the floor. One time he got mad at recess, started running for the main road, and jumped the fence. He ignored my screams and pleads as my parapro gathered the rest of the children safely inside. Kenny returned almost as quickly as he left. Yet, after assembling all of my students back inside our classroom and calling the principal, I stepped into the hallway. As my principal rushed toward me, I started to sob uncontrollably as she embraced me.
I remember his dad picking him up, looking at his younger brother, and saying, “Don’t you ever turn out like Kenny. He’s a bad boy.” When Kenny would have a good day and he would tell his parents, they wouldn’t believe him until I started going out at the end of each day to tell them. I encouraged them to let him take on more responsibilities at home. “Could he help you cook dinner so you could spend time together?” “No, we fry a lot of food and it’s easier to have him out of my way.” Other teachers didn’t like Kenny either. Once, the fourth grade teacher (who was a true bully herself) pulled him out of an assembly and berated him in the hallway. As she told me, “This young man is so disrespectful,” I felt like telling her, “Have you heard yourself lately? What child wouldn’t be disrespectful with your cruel words dripping off your scornful lips inches from his face?”
Kenny was suspended that day but even with all of his crazy behaviors, I don’t recall him being suspended many days that year. I had this crazy notion that the best place for Kenny was with me. I kept him close and smothered him with love and kindness. I set boundaries, had clear rules and high expectations, and constantly thought, “I WILL NOT LET YOU FAIL.” Kenny was not certified. I look back and think that he could easily have qualified for EI but the thought honestly never crossed my mind. Kenny moved to Kentucky the next year so I’ll never know what happened to him. It may sound egotistical but I sometimes think that perhaps just that one year in my class helped to give Kenny some hope. Perhaps, it helped him believe that he could be loved, that he was worth it, that the people in his life were not just managing an inconvenience.
Why do I tell this story? This week I put an article in everyone’s mailbox about the effect of zero tolerance policies in schools. I have done a lot of reading on this topic lately. I can say that Terry and I both feel strongly that inflexible zero-tolerance policies harm children. It is important to look closely at the whole child, weigh family opinion when warranted, and try to keep students in school as much as possible. What are your thoughts? We’d be happy to hear them!
“Remember you are not managing an inconvenience. You are raising a human being.”
For the week of February 17, 2014
Monday: LEADS meeting (Terry) 8:00
5th Grade Variety Show practice 3:45-4:45
Tuesday: IST 8:00
6th Grade Variety Show practice 3:45-4:45
Optional PD 5th/6th Grade Narrative Reading Units @ Riley 4:15-5:45
Wednesday: EPT 8:00
Planning Team 3:45
Thursday: 6th Grade Whalers field trip
DAC (Terry) 11:00
Extended Staff Meeting 3:45-4:45
Tennis Club 3:45-4:45
Friday: Twin Day
Megan Daniel PD “How to Use Google Docs with Students”
5th Grade Teachers 11:15-12:00
6th Grade Teachers 12:15-1:00