Friday, May 15, 2009

To a T

Poor T. He's been having a rough time of it lately. I'm usually not one to feel much pity for chronic behavior problems, but in this case, I'm really not convinced that it's all his fault.

T's one of the few kids I've taught for two straight years. I got almost all new kids this years, but T and I have a bit more history together. Only once in two years did I ever have a problem with him in my classroom; he threw an eraser at a kid who said something negative to him, and I wrote him up for detention for that and called his mom. (His mom is a great lady.) The next day, he was pretty reasonable about it. He apologized and seemed to accept that he had a detention coming for that. I let bygones be bygones, and we went back to our usual pleasant working relationship.

T was suspended two weeks ago for getting into a fight with another student. I already forget the details because I wasn't there. But T is a great big boy and the student he fought with is a lot smaller--he could have done some serious damage, though he didn't. I wasn't terribly shocked when this fight transpired, though. The student he fought is, shall we say, a tad on the irritating side, and has a terribly deceitful and unpredictable streak as well. I'm not surprised that T was moved to slug him. Not that I'm defending the fight, particularly because of the mismatch in size, but I chalked it up to boys being boys.

I've talked to his mom and she doesn't know what's wrong. She says he's been taking his medication and that nothing is wrong at home, and I have no reason to not believe her. Indeed, I thought he had settled down since his suspension. Today, for example, he asked if he could come to my room during lunch to work on a project, and I said he could. I was waiting for him when my phone rang.

The lunch aide asked if I had given T permission to come to my room.

"Yes," I said. "Did he give you the note?"

He had, she explained, but he was also supposed to have detention. (Detention at my school means eating lunch in the main office with the secretaries or a school aide.) Was the project due tomorrow?

"I don't know," I said. "It's for another class. I just said he could come to my room if he needed a quiet place to work."

She deliberated for a minute or two and hung up. T never made it to my room. When he eventually returned for class in the afternoon, he was downcast and sullen. I knew he'd probably been upset that he couldn't work on his project and had probably gotten himself a few more days of detention.

Later, I asked how long T was supposed to be in lunch detention. The principal's secretary sighed. "How many days of school are left?" was her answer.

"How long has he been in?" I asked.

"Since before spring break."

Doesn't punishment kind of lose its effectiveness after, I don't know, a couple of days?

Also, am I wrong for kind of feeling bad for T?