Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Why are you such an angry little man?

In the grand mystery of teaching, some times you have students who are awful and make your days basically the most challenging things ever and then one day they just stop. They simple cease being bad. In my world, when one ceases another begins.

I don't really think my poorly named SPED student will actually cease having classroom management problems, but at least for right now he has had a good week. Jose, on the other, has not. Jose is a challenge because, like the other student, he is just unbelievably angry. Ridiculously angry. I have had kids who I genuinely didn't like. I have had kids who were just mean, frustrating people and pretty much planned on going to CEP the day they walked into the classroom. The thing is, Jose isn't this kid. He's just not. He's a total creep and today I wanted to hit him in the face (and I thought he was going to hit me in the face), but there's something about him that makes him different from Brian and Jimmy (my CEP boys from last year). There's something in all that anger that is just different. It hurts me to see him that mad. It drives me crazy that I can't figure out why he's that mad. It makes me want to fix it, fix something, for him. If he'd only stop being such a jerk.

We've had good moments, me and Jose, he's interested in the mentor program I'm starting. He's responsive when he doesn't come in in a bad mood. He smiles when I tease him about missing him when he's absent. But then he shows up like he did today with a chip the size of Mexico on his shoulder and the attitude to boot and I am at a loss. From observing Jose with other teachers, I've noticed that his defense mechanism is to piss you off so you will simply stop pushing. He does anything and everything to make you mad. He does it very well. My current plan of response is to do everything in my power not to get mad. I will out will him. I was a stubborn 13-year-old once, I will channel that girl. I'm not going to let him push me away.

I find it fairly amusing that all of my special cases often turn out to be boys. I like teaching boys. Even bad boys. I think this is because, for the most part, middle school girls simply annoy me. They are what I hated about what I was at that age. Self-conscious, insecure, mean and ashamed of knowing anything that would make them "smart." I suppose I should be channeling my old self and using that time in my life to help these girls, but I struggle with this. In many ways I struggle because my bad girls, unlike my bad boys, don't do anything. Literally. They won't work, they won't speak, they won't try. My bad boys fight against everything and you fight back and eventually you can crack through that wall of anger and angst and you've got them. It's such a satisfying feeling. It's not the same for girls, it's harder.

I don't know what's to come of Jose, I do know that no 13-year-old should be this angry. And like most anger, there is a root that doesn't have much to do with my classroom or verbs.

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