Sunday, November 29, 2015

Doing the Unexpected...and Watch Their Heads Explode

One of the things I've learned over this year is I tend to see the same 30-40 kids over and over.  Of course, once in a while we'll get a newcomer, but for the most part it's the same crew.  What this means is that after a while I get to know them fairly well.

Mouthy Girl has only been with us twice but she likes to drop by for breakfast in the morning just to chat, so I see her quite a bit.  And she's pretty much a hot mess.  Mom has gone to court to file an unruly teen petition against her and she's spent time in juvenile detention.  But she seems to like me and I rarely have any issues with her.

Until about a week ago when she was escorted to Our Happy Little Portable by Mrs. Sparrow, one of the administrators.

It seems to our 8th graders had the traditional field trip to the local University that particular Thursday.  This is a TWO HOUR field trip, so it's not like it's a great big adventure or anything, but the kids look forward to it because it's something different and for many of them it's a huge slap in the face.  They realize that they're almost in high school and they get the "Holy Crap We Need to Start Thinking About Our Future" wake up call.  So it's not like it's an all day trip to the zoo or a museum or something.  It's TWO HOURS.

Mouthy Girl had apparently turned in her permission slip but for whatever reason, her mother called the front office and said she did not want her to go on the trip. Chances are it was mom's way of punishing Mouthy Girl for something.  Who knows?  In any case, Mouthy Girl was called in her homeroom and told to come out to ISS (she was assigned there anyway, to report after the field trip to the University) as she was no longer allowed to go on the field trip.

Apparently, instead of heading our way, she walked to the front office and demanded to talk to her mother about why she was no longer allowed to go.  One of our amazing secretaries (bless their hearts, these women See and Hear It All) called mom and what ensued was apparently a tirade on behalf of Mouthy Girl who threatened to kill her mother if she didn't get to go on the field trip.  Much yelling, cursing, and screaming ensued until Mrs. Sparrow was able to wrestle the phone away from her and haul her off to a conference room for a discussion on How We Behave When We Talk to Our Parents.

At this point I'm trying to track this kid down, she's supposed to be out with me, she hasn't shown, etc., and I finally get wind of what happened.  A few minutes later she appears with Mrs. Sparrow, slings her backpack down the aisle and stomps back to the very last station and sits.

"She's a little angry right now," Mrs. Sparrow whispers."You heard what happened?  I'm going to have to give her a few more days up here with you due to that display in the front office."

"No problem," I answer.  I'm used to kids arriving mad.  It's part of the job.

"Well good luck," she says and off she goes.

So I let Mouthy Girl sit there and fume for about fifteen minutes, and in the meantime I had my seventh graders and six grader sit up front with me so we could work on some assignments.  They kept looking over their shoulders at Mouthy Girl, wondering what she'd do next.

After a bit I went back to where she was sitting and said, "Hey, kiddo, I need you to move on up to station 5 and get your backpack unpacked."

Apparently that was NOT the thing to say.

"I'm NOT moving to station five and I'm NOT emptying my backpack and you can leave me the fuck alone!" she screamed.

At this point, most kids when they curse like that to a grown up, whether it's a parent or a teacher, are used to getting screamed back at.  Which is probably what Mouthy Girl expected considering the relationship she and her mother had.  But that wasn't my first response.

I laughed.


"Well, alrighty then," I said as I giggled and walked back to my desk where my other kids were sitting silently with their mouths hanging open.

"Aren't you going to do anything?" one of them whispered.

"Well, yeah," I said, "I'm going to write her up.  But other than that, no."

"Really?"  They all looked at each other as if I'd lost my mind.  What was this?  An adult not yelling at a kid for cursing?  What the heck was going on here?

I love watching their heads explode when I do the unexpected.

The end result?  Mouthy Girl eventually calmed down, on her own, and moved to station 5.  She unpacked her backpack, got to work on assignments and was the model student.  She did get three extra days with us for the display in the office and the f-bomb, but that wasn't a bad thing because she got caught up on her missing work.

There's a lot to be said for having a wacky sense of humor.


angie said...

Good for you! Sometimes it's the unexpected response that does the job!

Denise said...

I was once filling out a "Turnaround Slip" (the "Turnaround" room was a place to send kids who hadn't quite hit that level of office referral, and just needed someone to talk them down and return them to class. Seldom effective, but worth a shot to keep a kid who just needed a timeout out of real trouble) for an 8th grade girl. I was calm, collected, unaffected by her outburst, stood next to her while filling out the form and speaking to her respectfully and calmly. Her reply: "Don't talk to me like I'm one of your f***in white trailer trash b**** friends." My response: "Okay, that's a different form," switched to the office referral form, filled it out, handed it to her, didn't react in any other way. Like in your case, my reaction stunned both her and the rest of the students, and de-escalated the scene instantly. And it was pretty fun for me!