Moving forward (I think?)

About twelve minutes after I posted yesterday about how I’d been bailed on by the Charmer’s mom, my phone rang. (Apparently me whining on this blog is like magic; the universe listened. Hey, universe, I am feeling discouraged about painting my living room. I wish someone would show up at my door and do it for me. ….No? Nothing?)

The Charmer’s mom was calling to apologize for missing my call; she’d had a tough night and a tough morning (I don’t know what that means. I asked if everything was okay and she said she thought so, so I didn’t push it). I asked if she wanted to reschedule. She said yes, as soon as possible, so I drove over.

When I got there, I saw the Charmer walking down the stairs. I called a greeting, and he looked over. After a moment, he muttered, “What the hell…..what’re you doing here?”

Ah. “Your mom invited me…she didn’t tell you I called?”

“No. Why’d you call?”

I headed toward his door. “C’mon in. Let’s talk.”

When we got inside, the Charmer disappeared into the back of the apartment. I heard him yell, “Mom? My teacher’s here. WHY is my teacher here?” They came back a moment later, and we all sat down to chat. I explained to him that I was worried about him, that I think he’s smart and funny but that he pushes teachers’ buttons, that he’s at the time of life where he could either choose to succeed or to fall apart.

His mom jumped in to say that I was there because I thought he had a lot of potential and that he should appreciate me seeing that and be grateful that I wanted to help him. He listened, asking the occasional question.

I said I wanted to keep mentoring him, trying to help him, but that it had to be up to him. If he wasn’t down, we wouldn’t do it. He didn’t say anything for a second, then said he wasn’t sure. Fair enough.

We moved on to the specific areas that concerned me most – grades, attitude, mouth. My friend here failed two classes and got Ds in two others in the last trimester. That’s crap. He’s way too smart for that. He was shocked to hear this (apparently he never got a report card mailed home – probably owed the school money and they hold report cards as an incentive to get fines paid) and claimed he had no idea how his grades were so bad. Which is bullshit, but our current grading system can’t be accessed outside of the building or by anyone other than the teacher (we’re switching to an internet-based one that anyone involved can access anywhere), so we couldn’t go far with that.

Then we moved on to attitude, and mouth. Which are linked, but different. The Charmer has a really hard time treating people with respect if he doesn’t feel they’ve earned it, which I get, but….kinda doesn’t matter. I’ve talked to him repeatedly about how it doesn’t hurt a teacher if he gets an attitude with them and gets kicked out of their class, it hurts him – they have a job, they’ll still have it, and they can just get rid of him and not deal with him if he causes problems. Same thing with a future boss – he’ll have bosses who suck, but if he gives them attitude and gets fired, again, he’s the one who gets hurt.

At one point during this conversation, his mom said something that he disagreed with, and he told her so in no uncertain terms. Voice raised, challenging posture, language that wasn’t particularly polite. It was the perfect example. I interrupted his tirade, “Hey. That right there. That’s what I’m talking about. You can talk that way to your mom because you guys have been building a relationship for the past thirteen years [although, seriously, still rude, but that’s his mom’s issue to deal with if she so chooses]. But you talk that way to teachers and administrators and you don’t have the relationships with them to be able to get away with that. That’s exactly the sort of thing that gets you in trouble, and you have to stop.” He shut right up, and I think it actually made him think.

Mouth…ugh. The Charmer is smart. He’s popular. He’s funny. He’s good with language. He’s a thirteen year old boy. He comes up with very clever things to say or do (as I have experienced to my chagrin a few times) that are incredibly inappropriate. I mean, wow. It’s almost impressive how he has absolutely no filter, but not in a good way.

As I explained that, I tried to dance around the specifics as his little sister was in the room, saying that he says things that offend people, that aren’t school appropriate, that go beyond how he should be talking in front of adults, but I could tell his mom wasn’t getting just how inappropriate I meant. She was agreeing with me and telling him he shouldn’t be cursing or calling people gay, which, yeah, also true, but it’s way more than that. Finally I asked her if she minded if I gave two specific examples. She agreed. I asked if she wanted her daughter to leave the room. She said it was fine, so I asked the Charmer if he remembered some of the things he’d said at the year-end kickball game.

He got defensive. “Yeah, but that kid called me Asian so that’s why I called him a --- ”

I cut him off. “Not what I’m talking about [though I will remember that to address another time].”

“Oh, when I said that kid was gay?”

“Also not what I’m talking about. But this is interesting – what else did you do that day?”

Finally he realized that he was screwing himself here and shut up. So I shared the teabagging and the balls in the face stories. His mom was horrified, or at least acted like she was, saying she was offended by that one as a woman.

To that he got defensive. “No, I did not say that. I know exactly what I said. I said—I said ‘Balls in her face!’”

I shot back, “And that’s not any better. She got hit by one kickball – singular. You said balls, plural. You knew exactly what you were implying by adding that ‘s’ to the word. It changed the meaning and you did it on purpose. That’s the kind of crap I’m talking about.” He actually blushed at that.

The conversation lasted for a little over an hour. Toward the end I asked again if he was okay with having me mentor him. He hemmed and hawed for a minute, not saying anything real. I waited. Finally he looked at me and blurted, “You know I’m not going to say no to you.”

I said, “So you’re cool with this.”

He said, “I guess.” I was okay with that as a response, but his mom wasn’t. She made him say that yes, he was cool with it.

We’re meeting Tuesday. I’m not totally sure how this will work; my guess is we’ll hang out, talk, play cards maybe, I’ll bring up stuff that I want him to think about, and periodically, when something’s bothering him, he’ll bring that up. It’s pretty much how our lunches this year went. Not that those were so terribly effective (two Ds! Two Fs! Double-you-tee-eff, seriously), but I’m not sure what would work better. If anyone has any suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

Either way, though, it was nice to get to know his mom (she’s a lot like the Charmer and clearly loves him a lot and wants what’s best for him, even if she’s not as involved in his education as I think she should be; I do think it's interesting that she didn't tell him I was coming over, though....any thoughts on what that's about?), and it’s nice to have a direction to go with this. Now (hint, hint, universe) if I can only get the Eyeliner Queen to call me back…

(Photo credit to y_davechen,


OKP said...

Sounds good! Keep it up! It takes guts to be a mentor and a good example.

teachin' said...

Hopefully it'll actually do's so hard to tell if anything I say or do has an impact sometimes.

"I'm a dreamer but I ain't the only one Got problems but we love to have fun" -K'naan, "Dreamer"

I teach eighth grade Language Arts at an urban school. My kids kick ass and will change the world. I want everyone to know.
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