Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Day 104- Kevin*

We weren't supposed to get along.

Kevin was a disruptive student who showed up to class every day with nothing but a bad attitude.  Literally nothing else.  No pencil, no book, no paper.  I suppose, to be fair, that I could say that he brought his iPod to class too, and he would listen to it loudly enough that I could tell which song was playing at any given time. 

I was frustrated with him on a daily basis.  He seemed like a nice enough kid, but he simply refused to give me anything but dirty looks and back talk.  Because I knew that Kevin had a difficult home life (and because this is my mission with all kids), I decided early on to tread gently with him and to do everything I possibly could to try to reach him.  However, I can only make accomodations, not excuses.  Kevin was the first and only kid I have ever had to kick out of my room and give a detention.

He took it personally.  He decided, instead of looking at his own actions, that I simply did not like him and that this would be a long semester with no hope.  I don't give up so easily.

I began practicing kindness to the extreme.  I would greet him with a big smile and a hello every day, praise him for anything I possibly could, and express interest in everything he had to say.  No excuses, Kevin.

Little by little, I saw changes.  First, he showed up to class with a pencil and his folder.  Next thing I knew, he actually OPENED the folder in class.  After that, he started to stop by during his study hall for passes to go to the lab to finish his work.  He stopped arguing when I asked him to take his hood off, and then he stopped even trying to put it up altogether.  Today, he answered questions in class... thoughtfully, politely, and correctly.  As if I wasn't proud enough, he turned in his research paper.  I'm not going to lie.  The paper was late and had obvious errors at first glance.  However, even though I'm optimistic, I'm also realistic.  I expect improvement, not perfection.

I told Kevin how proud I was of him during and after class, and he accepted this with such enthusiasm and pride that I was grinning for the next ten minutes.  I expressed my delight again when he handed in his paper.  As he was walking out the door, I remembered something and called for him to come back.  Kevin left my room the proud owner of an actual gold star.  Holler, first grade rewards!  I don't think you can ever be too old to appreciate a fine compliment and a shiny sticker.

Kevin used to annoy and frustrate me on a daily basis.  He is now a daily reminder of why I do what I do.  I'll never be too old to appreciate that either.

Thank you, Kevin, you made my day.