Last year I had a seventh grader we'll call Auburn Boy (because he is obsessed with Auburn University). Auburn Boy started off the year really rough. He didn't do any work, would saunter in whenever he felt like it (which meant that he was pretty soon visiting with administrators due to tardies), and generally was a little turd.
The second nine weeks, after much prodding on my part and a stint or two in ISS for tardies, he decided getting to class on time and doing his work was not going to kill him. He was in my little class of 16, and loved to talk and could be a royal pain, but I really liked the kid. For one, he was funny. He also seemed to need a lot of attention, especially in January when Mom had twins and suddenly he was the oldest, by quite a bit, and had four brothers and sisters below him - the newborns, a 3 year old and a Kindergartener. He was starved for attention (although he wouldn't admit it) and he would do everything he could to engage me in a conversation regardless of the time or circumstances.
However, a conversation with Auburn Boy could be a challenging experience. He got mad easily, would pout, stomp his feet, throw up his hands and act like a frustrated and annoyed teenager. A typical conversation would go like this:
"Hey kiddo, get your homework out now, we're going over it."
"Jeez, lay off, I'm getting it out now...stop being so darn pushy."
But here's what's weird. I couldn't get rid of the kid. He acted like he hated me most of the time, but he wouldn't go away. I didn't have him until sixth period, but he'd come by in the morning, claiming he needed a pencil. Then he'd come by a little later with another excuse (usually another pencil although when he sensed I was getting annoyed with the pencil bit, he'd ask for paper.) He'd show up sixth period for class, and then after seventh, he'd show up for afternoon homeroom.
Except he wasn't in my homeroom. He was in Mr. Dobbie's (as in Dobbie Gills...long story) room. But Mr. Dobbie kept letting him come over, and after a while he just came on his own and I'd send Mr. Dobbie an email letting him know he was there. Auburn Boy and his mom and I got to be quite good friends as he'd text her (from my phone) about staying after for a club or something and she'd answer back. He became somewhat as permanent in my room as some of the furniture.
So today is our third full day with our kids and I'm there doing my thing sixth period when I look up and there is Auburn Boy, now an 8th grader, standing in my doorway with a pass around his neck (which meant he had permission so there).
First words out of my mouth? "Do you need a pencil?"
He smiled. "No, just thought I'd come by." My seventh graders are quiet and looking over at him. It is, after all, a real 8th grader.
"Really," I said. "Are you sure?"
"Yup,"....I walked over and we proceeded to have a conversation, but he never would say (or admit) why he was there. He just wanted to be there I guess. I told him he could stay and sit in the back and watch, and he said no, he just wanted to check in.
And then he left.
I had a friend tell me once that being horrible, for some kids, is a way of letting you know they love you. Maybe they're right, because Auburn Boy and I had our share of battles last year. But he just kept coming back. And now, it looks like he's still coming back.
And I'm really happy about that.