We all have that one. That one student that pushes all of your buttons. He maxes out your patience and uses up all of his chances. As my grandmother would say, he works your last nerve. Grinds it to dust and sprinkles it on the classroom floor before he leaves each day. You greet him politely each morning. You say regularly, tomorrow is the day. I am going to do whatever takes to reach this kid. This kid will grow. This kid will leave this classroom changed, even if it’s just a tiny bit.
I had that one. Now, he’s in middle school. I spent the better part of a year trying to reach this kid. I went to baseball games. I let him have special classroom jobs. I hugged him. I let him slide on homework assignments because they were too “hard” and I tutored him. I made him feel special. I let him visit the principal for positive reasons and serve as a reading buddy with first graders. I reached out to his parents. I paid for his field trip when he couldn’t afford it. I started a behavior plan for him. I invited interventionists in my classroom. I let them critique me. I took ownership of my part in this lack of relationship. I loved this kid. I will always love this kid.
Our last track in of the year arrived, we had about 20 days left in school and I resolved to just survive. Put on my big girl pants, smile and nod, kill him with kindness. If he didn’t learn anything else, or grow in any other way, he would leave knowing I loved him, someone cares. Maybe that would impact his life in a much grander way than apparent. Testing came and went. End of the year activities were fast approaching. Students were excited and busy and his behaviors were spiraling out of control. Any progress made had fell right out of the meter and pooled on the floor. We were stepping in the mess of him everyday. Students were treading carefully around, not wanting to set him off. I ignored his puddled and let him sit in his bubble and soak. I admit, I quit.
The last three weeks of school, I planned to allow my students to demonstrate their learning by completing a Passion Project. They could choose anything they wanted. My requirements were very simple and let students take ownership of planning, executing, and producing a project they were passionate about. Day one brought about groans and whines and frustrations. He went to the office. He read a book. He told other students their projects were dumb. However, my best teaching day ever was the next day. Day two brought excitement. Day two greeted me with a hug. Day two told me I was the best teacher ever. Day two taught me that he loved hoverboards and aircraft. Day two showed me that he had learned how to research. He had listened. He had learned. He could apply his set of skills acquired in my class. He absorbed the environment. He recruited a friend to work with him and the two of them created an interactive, animated PowerPoint slide. They also built their own hoverboard using what he had learned in my magnetism and electricity unit.
….to be continued.