Mrs. S came to see me today with a pressing issue; it seems Robert had gotten himself in a little trouble in class that resulted in her writing a referral, and he hadn't handled it well. Normally-mild-mannered Robert stomped around, pounding on desktops, and spewing angry declarations about his teachers hating him. She asked for my support. I went down to my room, where Robert was sitting alone at a desk that was wet with his tears.
[Robert had made a "Kick Me" sign and placed in on the back of another special needs student (who already has enough problems without adding that kind of thing.) On the surface of things, this might seem minor, but you'll have to trust me that it was appropriate under the circumstances.] I'm telling you this so that you realize that this referral was something Robert (or any student, really) should have just accepted and let roll off his back.
Robert, however, was crying. I pulled up a chair and gently asked, "Did you make a mistake, Robert?"
He sobbed, "Y....es." This was followed by full-out bawling, complete with hiccups and hyperventilation.
I'd never seen him like this! He was really worked up!
"Robert, please take a deep breath through your nose." I modeled, and he followed suit. "Again."
"Robert, I understand that you got written up, but I'm confused about why you are so upset about it. Can you tell me why you are so upset?"
He took a shallow breath and replied, "Because...hic hic....I'm....hic hic....gonna get in a lot of trouble....hic.... at home."
Hm. I had no idea; I've had a working relationship with his dad all year and never pegged him to be overly punitive. Judging from his inability to stop crying, I feared the worst. Would he be beaten? Verbally abused? With trepidation, I asked, "What kind of trouble?"
Robert gained some composure but still hiccuped, "Usually... I'll have to (hic) do extra chores (sniff) and probably not [hic] get to go to [sob] baseball practice."
"So, you're upset because you are worried you won't get to go to practice tonight, right? Not for any other reason?" He nodded.
Seriously? This kid was bawling because his dad was going to hold him accountable? (I can't tell you how relieved I was.)
I let him catch his breath again and asked if he was ready to call his dad. [Mrs. S. had told him that he, not she, would be calling his dad to break the news. Isn't that an awesome idea?!] He nodded, and I gave him some space, but not so much that I didn't hear him greet his dad's voice with a torrent of tears so loud and hard that he couldn't talk for at least 15 seconds. (I felt sorry for his dad, who was probably wondering who had died.) Finally, Robert was able to talk, and I heard parts of his end...
"Dad, I made a mistake." "I just wish I had thought before making a bad choice." "I'm sorry dad."
His dad managed to talk him down, and they hung up a few minutes later with, "I love you, too, Dad."
I asked Robert if I could do anything for him, and he said, "No thanks." He could breathe by then, and he said he was ready to go back to class.
Feeling a little sorry for his dad, I called him after Robert left. When he picked up, I opened with, "You've really got to stop beating that kid!" and we both laughed. Then, I thanked him for being a great dad; Robert had been so upset, not only because he would miss practice, but because he couldn't bear the thought of letting his dad down.
Something tells me he's going to be on his best behavior til at least the end of the school year.
Three weeks left...