Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Apr 16 2011

Welcome back every day

This kid is nearly impossible to handle. He tests just to test and pushes just to push. He walks out of class just to see if he’ll be stopped and yells at teachers just to see what the consequence will be. He got ISSed and then cussed out the ISS teacher just so he’d get OSS. He’s difficult almost all day every day and it’s exhausting to have him in class.

The problem is that I’m super attached to him. My classroom was a safe space for him last year, where he used to come calm down when he was having a hard time. He helped me clean my room at the end of the year and was the only 7th grader to learn my age because he was there when I told my kids at the end of last year. (He still hasn’t told anyone yet.) I think he always finds teachers like that (who don’t actually teach him, so there’s no consequences involved), because he lacks female figures in his life and needs the love. And that’s really it… this kid needs love like most kids need breakfast. And he doesn’t get much of it, so his defense mechanism is to just push everyone away as hard as he can.

Now that I’m his teacher, he’s pushing me away too. He cusses and sneaks out of class and talks while I’m teaching. At least I know him well enough to know that there’s a super fine line you need to walk with him: you need to be firm when he does something wrong, but not too firm that he reacts back and you can’t show signs of giving up on him. You can’t kick him out of class, or he’ll keep misbehaving just to get kicked out again. I understand the line in theory, but I work so hard to show him that I won’t give up on him that I often err on the side of being too lax with discipline. He also takes advantage of that, so it’s pretty easy to fail with him. Have I mentioned he’s exhausting?

So I know I’ve messed up a lot with him this year, but I did get one huge win this week. After testing yesterday, he asked to go down to the ISS room to hang out with the ISS teacher (notice the need for female teachers and safe spaces) and he had her permission so I let him. It doesn’t hurt to have him out of the room while other kids are trying to silently finish testing, anyway. About half an hour later, she called to ask if he could come back. Like I’m always careful to do with this kid, I told her I’d love to have him and he was welcome back any time he wanted. I found out later I was on speakerphone.

It turns out all the other kids in the ISS room had asked to return to class, and one by one she’d called teachers and they’d told refused to have them back. My kid asked her to call me too, and she said there was no way I’d let him come to my classroom. With full faith in me, he insisted that she call me anyway. She bet him a bag of Skittles he’d have to stay in ISS. Then I got on the phone and told him he was welcome back anytime.

He came back to my room nearly bouncing with delight… for winning the bag of Skittles, at least.

8 Responses

  1. forthesprings

    I poured every ounce of energy I had into a kid like that last year. It was the most exhausting experience on top of my first year. Equally so, is the reward you feel at the end of the day that maybe, possibly, you impacted him/her and that you made a difference. Such an awesome emotion…

  2. Wess

    Ahhhh, you say this so well.
    I think I can really learn from your third paragraph.

  3. Wess

    Props for the faith he had in you! One of the biggest battles is convincing them you’ll always be there for them or that you’ll never give up–you’ve obviously convinced this one.

  4. With your permission, we would love to feature your “What To Do” post on the Teach Like a Champion Facebook page.

    You can let us know by replying here or you can send a Facebook message to Alex-Uncommon Schools.

    We’ll be happy to attribute the post to your blogger identity or real name.

    • mathinaz

      You’re welcome to use it!
      (Please just attribute it to my blogger identity.)

      • Great! The post is scheduled for Thursday evening.

        Have you considered Uncommon Schools as a possibility for your next step? If that sounds interesting, drop me a line on Facebook, and I’ll connect you to a recruiter. Or visit .

  5. I see you’re attempting to post things in a more positive light :) I love your blog even if it horrifies me sometimes so don’t stop being real…but it certainly is uplifting to hear about this kid.

    And I love Skittles. I can see why he’d be so happy :)

  6. Have you met my dad? | mathinaz linked to this post.

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