I have a student in one of my classes we'll call a Stroll Boy. Stroll Boy never moves faster than a stroll, and that pretty much plays out in all aspects of his life. He's famous for doing nothing. At all. He's turned in maybe 2 assignments (classwork) this grading period. He fails every test. He won't bring his book, a pencil, a binder, a work ethic. If you pull his records you'll find that he's being raised by grandparents and biological parents are non-existent in this kid's life. His grandparents are feeding him, giving him a place to live, but don't seem to be all that interested in seeing that he's a success academically. They probably are overwhelmed at having to deal with a 13-year-old when they'd rather be retired.
So, Stroll Boy is mad at me because I took his locker away - again - because he won't bring his book to class. (This is a pretty much standard practice in the seventh grade - no book, no locker.) He's also mad at me because I have higher expectations for him than he has and doesn't want to hear the cold hard truth that he's not going to be playing in the NFL if he doesn't make the grades to play on his high school team in a year or two. Last I looked, he's not such a phenom that the scouts are already lining up to sign him. In fact, considering his work ethic and lack of speed, I doubt he'll even make it to the high school team.
His method of "punishing" me, is to be tardy to class. Now, we're not talking tardy by a second or two. We're talking a kid who comes in, puts his books on his desk, and then "goes to the bathroom", and shows up five or more minutes late to class. He just strolls in, ambles to his seat, and spends the rest of the period trying to look somewhat busy (without moving too much or making much of an effort). I actually find this kind of funny because all I do is write up a classroom referral for a tardy, tell him to get his pencil out (usually doesn't have one) and off we go with class. If he thinks he's punishing me, he's far off target. Rather, he's just showing me how sad and lost he is. This kid has been through every intervention program we have at school for at risk kids and he's one we just haven't been able to reach.
Anyhow, after the second tardy in a row, I managed, amazingly, to contact his grandparents and told them about the tardy issue, the missing book issue, and how I was worried about how he was probably not going to pass science if he didn't turn on the jets here shortly. I got a very non committal "Okay," from both, and tried to get them to schedule an appointment for a conference with no luck. (At this time I was lucky to even get to speak to someone considering our lack of success in the past). I figured, well, I made parent contact, they know what's going on, and we'll just keep doing the referrals and he'll end up in detention or something. No big deal.
So imagine my surprise when I get an email from one of the front office secretaries telling me that Stroll Boy's grandparents had sent down his uncle and he'd like to sort of spy on him and see how he's behaving in class. No Problem! I love it when I get parent/uncle/significant adult observers. I email back that that would be great, and to let her know what time to send him down.
Classes change and Stroll Boy walks in, drops his books, and takes off. I'm doing hall duty and don't see The Uncle, but figure he's found a place to observe (most likely guidance where they can watch all the cameras). The kids run to class, the bell rings, and I start class.
No Stroll Boy.
He walks in five minutes later.
And three minutes behind him there's a knock on the door. The Uncle. (Who saw that Stroll Boy was late, I found out later.)
I open the door and there stands The Uncle...and this guy is HUGE. He's nicely dressed, his braids are pulled back, but he's HUGE. I introduce myself, he introduces himself and I wave him over to a spare chair which happens to be by the lab group that Stroll Boy is in. And then I wonder if the chair will support him. Because he's almost twice as tall as most of my students and quite a bit heftier.
Stroll Boy's jaw drops and he looks like a deer in the headlights. He obviously wasn't expecting his Uncle, especially his Big Huge Uncle from the Hood (as we often call the neighborhood The School is in because, well, that's what everyone calls it). It was amazing (and really kind of funny) what a model student he was during this period...he had his pencil, he snapped to whenever I gave directions, he participated, he did a great job. He looked like a candidate for National Jr. Honor Society.
And then I noticed something.
This is my sixth period class, my largest class, and a class with a lot of unruly kids (every isolation seat is occupied) who have a lot of issues with self-control. They are loud, they tend to talk all the time, and they aren't the most academically inspired kids I've ever seen.
But on this day they were perfect.
Absolutely perfect. They didn't talk out. They raised their hands. They were polite. They participated. And we had a great time.
And then I realized why. Sitting in the corner of the room, was a Big Huge Dude from the Hood. A Real Big Dude from the Hood. And they weren't about to do anything out of line with the Dude from the Hood sitting Right Over There.
After class I talked with the Uncle from the Hood and had a nice conversation with him. He knows his nephew needs to get motivated and with the program, and he says he's going to work on that. Good for him. I hope he does. But in the meantime I invited him to sit in my class whenever he wanted. Seriously. I'd take a Big Huge Dude from the Hood in my corner any day.