At the end of my third day as the new teacher in Room 102, I heard the news of the Sandy Hook shootings. My first thought was for my daughters, home after school, preparing for their big show. My second thought was for Marcus (name changed), the little boy I had struggled with all day long.
Marcus has “issues.” From what little I could tell in my three days with him, he has a mother who loves and cares for him and wants to see him succeed. He is well fed, properly clothed, and goes to bed in a warm, safe place each night.
Still, Marcus spent the day testing me. I was the latest in a long line of teachers his class has played host to this school year. Each teacher did her best to provide what these students needed, and by many measures, each did just that. Half of the kids are reading above grade level and their most recent Math benchmark tests showed good progress.
But, no matter how good their intentions, those temporary teachers couldn’t give them everything; they couldn’t give Marcus what he needed most.
My first day with Marcus was fine. He needed a few reminders, but for the most part, he was on task. Day two, however, a new Marcus walked in to class. He brought his attitude, and it was not good. He refused to complete work, refused to stay in his seat, refused to acknowledge rules even existed. He got on every one of my nerves, and I raised my voice more than once. I was glad to see that day end. But, the following day was worse. I was thoroughly annoyed with him.
Then, a crazy person shot up a school, and all I could think of was, “What have I done today to help Marcus choose a different path than that?” I did not like my answer.
I am a human being. I make mistakes. But, Marcus can’t afford for me to make too many more. I need to find a way to work with him, and he with me, so that his anger and frustration with school doesn’t turn violent.
Yes, it’s a long way from misbehaving second grader to psychotic grown up, but it was so clear to me that day how the little things can build up. Right now, Marcus is a troubled kid; the way I treat him has real consequences.
And yes, I understand that I am only one influence in his life; that there are many factors determining his future and many of them are much more influential than I. Still, I’m one. And that’s a responsibility I take seriously.
This week after the shootings wasn’t much better with Marcus. But I am slowly learning what I need to do; slowly building my patience and learning good strategies. My end goal for Marcus is that he see himself as a valuable citizen; see himself as a positive force in the world. What I do each day needs to support that goal.