Just a couple of years ago, I had THAT kid in class. Do you know the kid I'm talking about? He wore the same scowling expression as Pete from The Juice Box Bully.
He had me thinking about walking away from teaching.
He brought me to tears in my classroom after the kids left each day (sometimes during recess breaks).
He's the reason I avoided blogging for months because I couldn't put my emotions into words or find joy in teaching the other 24 students.
He's the same kid that could turn a calm and quiet atmosphere into one filled with anxiety, tears, fear, and chaos even with FIVE TEACHERS present in the room.
Have you had THAT student?
He's the reason I bought The Juice Box Bully. It was the first book about bullying (one of many) I would read to my class that fall.
I couldn't wait to start read aloud that first day. I wasn't reading the book to him or for him, but to show the other 24 students that I was fighting for them, whether they could see it or not. Right away my class learned what the word bystander meant:
Whenever I have the bullying and harassment talk, I have one major rule: No Names! We started talking about examples and non-examples of what bullying was. We talked about which situations students could solve on their own and when they should get an adult (in this particular case, it was best to get an adult involved each and every time, no matter how small the issue was).
Once my students had a grasp on bullying situations, it was time for a book extension. We made juice boxes and wrote a promise not to be a bystander and what we would do instead. Here's the example I had made:
Did reading The Juice Box Bully and completing this book extension solve my problem? If it were only as simple as waving a magical fairy wand. But seriously, here's what DID happen:
I was documenting every second I could. I had a second adult in my classroom for 4 hours a day. I had a radio in my classroom to get my administrator or school counselor to my room pronto. My class had a quick evacuation plan in place. We had meetings 1-2 times a week to discuss behavior and incidents. The student was suspended more times than any other student I had previously had. The parents made frequent doctor visits and medication changes.
Two (very long) months into the school year we sat down at the table with the paperwork for the behavior program on the table. There was an opening in the program and my student was at the top of the list. It was time to make a decision and I'm not going to lie - the decision was harder than I imagined. Every fiber of my being wanted to just sign the paperwork and move on.
But I couldn't. The child was actually making progress (academically and behaviorally) and becoming a better version of himself. Was he perfect? No. Were the other students in constant fear everyday? No. In the end, we decided to let him stay because he just wasn't the same kid he was in September anymore. The documentation proved that the incidents were becoming minimal. He was becoming your average second grader (behaviorally).
Did I leave that room questioning whether I had made the right decision or not? Absolutely!
So how do I know my team made the right choice?
Was it because he learned to read? No.
Was it because he started writing? No.
Was it because he memorized his addition facts? No.
Those things are important, but here's how I really know we made the right decision:
He made friends and earned the respect of his peers. In fact, if you had walked into my classroom at any point at the end of the year, I don't think you would have figured out which student he was. I guess you could say he's become one of those teaching success stories.
So if you ever have THAT kid in class, you are not alone!