Thursday, May 3, 2012

How To Help Wreck A Kid

Lance was one of four siblings at our school.  He was the second oldest.  Rumor had it that there were at least three different fathers.  Mom was a decent lady but young, uneducated, and despite offering quality lip-service was basically hopeless in terms of affecting change in her children.

All the children were behavior issues.  The youngest was beginning to fall behind, and two of the older one's were already special education students.  But Lance was bright.  His grades wouldn't tell you this, but he passed his standardized tests every year, and always came up above average when we examined data per RtI.

Lance arrived in 4th grade, and was certainly on the lazy side.  He didn't work hard in class, and then didn't complete his work at home.  On a daily basis, he would start his day off with being scolded by his teacher about not completing homework, followed by a call to mom.  He regularly had his recess taken away to complete work.  The work he did bring back from home was rarely at the level of his peers who came from more supportive households.

These measures did not increase the amount of homework we got back from Lance.  Mom became annoyed with the calls and stopped answering the phone.  By about midyear, Lance was also starting to have enough.  So he started accelerating his misbehavior so he could get kicked out of class quicker so he wouldn't have to listen to it.  The issue now became teacher disrespect in addition to failure to complete homework.  Despite failing most daily work, Lance still passed his classes because he was able to pass tests without doing homework or being in the classroom half the time.

By the time Lance reached fifth grade his reputation was solidified as a trouble maker who wouldn't work.  He spent the remainder of his years at our school getting kicked out of class, doing nothing, and being yelled at.  When he was asked by the social worker what he wanted to be when he grew up, he responded that he wanted to be like his mama and get paid to do nothing (receive welfare).

His teachers honestly tried.  They communicated with the parent.  They provided him the materials he needed.  They attempted to hold him to a high standard.

Soon after Lance got to junior high he'd become a known drug dealer.  The family later moved when mom got a new boyfriend.  I wouldn't be surprised if he's incarcerated right now.

Lance had opportunity and he failed to take advantage of it.  His mom didn't honestly support his improvement or truly partner with the school when issues arose.  However, I believe on some level we need to take some responsibility.  We battered him with homework and projects on a regular basis.  We did this despite knowing that he had no kitchen table at his apartment.  We did this knowing his mother couldn't (or wouldn't) help.  We did this despite knowing his siblings had behavioral problems which would prevent even a motivated student from getting anything done in that environment.  We did this and justified it as 'teaching responsibility' or 'because all the other kids in the class had to.'    We failed to differentiate.  We failed Lance.

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