Teachers can spot the kids that are going to be a challenge within seconds of them entering our classroom. It's like radar. Sometimes it's really obvious (swinging from the light fixtures is often a big clue) and sometimes it's something as subtle as how they make eye contact.
With Pinball Boy's case, it was the fact that he appeared to be physically incapable of sitting still for more than five seconds and his mouth was in constant motion. I've only had one other kid this hyperactive, and he was a kid who'd come out of a meth house in a neighboring county and had more issues than ADHD to deal with.
When I got the information sheet back from his parents, I noticed several things. One, he'd failed math and science last year. Not good. That means he has to pass these subjects this year in order to be academically promoted. Second, he was diagnosed with ADHD. And third, he was not on any medications. On the positive side, he had two parents in the home, they appeared to have jobs, and even had email. That's good.
On Monday, our newly minted teacher Miss Language, had a rough day with Pinball Boy. He'd pulled an attitude on her when she told him to get out his punch card as he couldn't sit down and be quiet (we're working on a reward system using punch cards - I'll explain in another post one of these days). She came to me asking for advice on what to do with him.
I decided to do some research, so I pulled his discipline file (no surprise there that he had one), and his academic records. One thing I discovered is that he has the potential to do well academically. His problem, obviously, is that he can't focus. The other thing I discovered was that he had 245 (!!!!) discipline points last year, was in alternative school for 30 days, came back, and was expelled in April.
However, I wanted a bigger picture so I went to talk with the Guidance Goddess because she knows everything. I discovered that biological dad was remarried and living in another city, biological mom was remarried and there was a step dad at home. I also discovered that he was the oldest of five boys, all one right after the other - there's one in 6th grade, one in 5th, another in 4th, and the littlest is in 3rd. Mom has a fairly good job managing a local restaurant, but that also means long hours. And if all the boys are anything like Pinball Boy, they're probably pinging off the walls competing for attention.
What this kid needed was a lot of attention, and some strategies to help him focus. He needed "Mommy Time."
So, he got moved, on Tuesday, to the seat right next to my teacher station - my "right hand man" seat. Since he's in my homeroom class and the isolation seats are full, (not because kids need it, but because I'm out of lab tables) Pinball Boy didn't see this as a negative. He was thrilled to become my "right hand man". (I might add that he's kind of small, has braces, a huge smile, and glasses which he often forgets.) He is now in charge of my light switches which need to go on and off during the class as I'm using the document reader or my LCD projector. He is the first to get asked to hand out things and to collect things. Anything to give him a chance to get up and move a little bit.
And then I gave him the squishy ball. I asked him what he wanted to do this year and he said he wanted to pass all his classes and stay out of trouble. I told him that I knew he really was a good kid, and that I wanted to really help him with that so I was going to try some tricks that may seem a little strange - like holding a squishy ball in his hands and squeezing it during class to help him focus. He said he'd try it.
It worked like a charm. This child, who'd had write up after write up after write up for disruptive behavior, was my model student last week. He'd come in, ask for "Squishy", and sit at his seat and fiddle with the ball, but at the same time, he'd take notes, he'd jump up and turn the lights on and off when asked, and he was quiet. It was amazing. I see this group of kids three times a day - homeroom, 3rd period science class, and for fifteen minutes at the end of the day to check agendas, announcements, hand out papers, and all that. Every time he came into the room, he asked for Squishy and sat down and did what needed to be done.
On Thursday I called and left a message on his mom's voice mail, primarily to introduce myself, but also to brag on what a great job he was doing. I wanted her to know that I knew he had issues but I was going to see what I could do to work around them.
On Friday, as the kids were being dismissed to the buses, Pinball Boy ran back and gave me a big hug.
"My momma said you called and it scared me at first, " he said, "But then she said it was a good call and I've never had a good call before."
"Well kiddo, you earned it," I told him.
"Yeah, I did, didn't I?" he beamed. "I love you!" he said and then he was gone.
Dang. It don't get much better than that.