I made a kid cry today. Kind of out of nowhere, honestly.
It started in the cafeteria. He and another student were wrestling over a container of bubbles, and he bit the other kid. I've pretty much had it with biting (I can't believe I'm saying that, but it's true - we've had a minor biting epidemic. Yes, middle school. No, not three year olds. It's very weird) so I sent the two to the office to be dealt with up there.
Later I stopped in the office to ask about a separate issue, and ran into the administrator who'd dealt with it. Except that they'd both denied any biting, and she'd sent them back to class. When I pointed out that I'd seen the bite marks and could verify, she called them back up.
The first to arrive was Shortstop. He began by again denying the biting, to which I pointed out that I'd SEEN the bite marks and he'd SAID he'd bitten the other kid. He AGAIN denied it, at which point my administrator got annoyed and asked if he was calling me a liar. After a bit, he finally admitted to biting but said he hadn't meant to. And then my administrator got even more annoyed and pointed out that it didn't matter if he'd meant to or not, he'd been lying when he said he hadn't bitten anyone, and that they were going to be calling mom, and he was in trouble now. And that's when he welled up.
This is the Antagonizer's best friend, and he's a pretty tough kid. He and I don't always get along (I find his attitude annoying - he complains about accommodations that kids in special ed get and would rather do just about anything than do his work), but I didn't want him to think I was out to get him. Because honestly, that's how it would've come across to me if I was in his shoes. So I asked if I could talk to him for a minute.
I told him that I wasn't out to get him. He shrugged. That I know he thinks I don't like him - he nodded - but it's not true. That I think he's a smart kid and I wish he'd focus more in class, that I think he could do better than he does, that he could try harder, that he has a lot of potential. He shrugged. I said I was sure he'd heard all that before, and he shook his head.
He hadn't heard that he's a smart kid? That he has potential?
No to both.
I couldn't believe it. What kid hasn't been told that at some point? I mean, seriously, does that happen?* And maybe he was lying again...but I don't really think so, because this is when the tears were slipping out more and more.
I talked some more about how he can do better if he tries (though he does okay), how I'll help him, how I hope he'll get over being mad at me but he doesn't have to, and he nodded. I asked if his mom had told him when I'd called home earlier in the year (one of my positive parent calls). Nodded. Did he like that I'd done that? Nodded. Would he like me do it again? Nodded. Okay, then, give me a reason. Show me I should call. Nodded.
Shortstop's not my favorite kid. His attitude frustrates me. But I left the whole thing feeling....well, just really bad for this kid. Probably the tears were because he didn't want to get in trouble, and he shouldn't've done what he did, but...to never have been told that you're smart. To never have been told that you have potential. That's.....that's terrible.
I'm going to focus on being nicer to this kid. On helping him do better in my class. On seeing him. Because I'm not sure any of us at my school really do right now.
(Photo credit to Mike "Dakinewavamon" Kline)