I've had this idea for a couple of weeks, and today I just decided to give it a go.
We have a student at school who is, shall we say delicately... edgy. She's been suspended several times and was out of the building for several months last year - I can't remember exactly why. She seems to have a hairpin trigger of a temper, and she seems to be very sensitive (as we know, that can also sometimes be a hinderance in life), is easily offended, but is very smart. Schoolwork comes easily to her when she decides to do it. Let's call her "Rose."
Rose is in the grade that the AP I work with is in charge of, so she has been in my office a few times both when she's been in trouble or when she's serving a detention, and we've had some pleasant conversations. The last time she was in, she told me, "See, I can have a conversation with you, and you give me respect, and I give you respect, so why can't these teachers give me respect?" (I thought, if I tell her I'm actually a teacher, too, will she turn on me like a rabid dog? I kept that piece of information to myself for the moment.) I tried to explain to her that they weren't meaning to disrespect her, but they are very focused on getting their job done, which is trying to teach her and others, so it's possible that she perceived disrespect when none was intended. I said that they were trying to get her to do her best work. I'm not sure she was ready to hear that, but I think my comment got scooped up for possible digestion at a later time.
Since then, I've been thinking, this girl needs to see herself do really well at something. She needs to take pride in something she's done... see herself in a different role. I am going to be the set designer for this year's school play, and it occurred to me that she might be interested in working with me to create my sets. I've rolled this around in my head for a while... She might be interested, but then again, she might rank on me and think I'm trying to buy off her good behavior. (Oh well, nothing ventured, nothing gained). Worse, she might accept and then behave attrociously when she's under my watch. The could be a problem, but then, that would be the last day she'd be helping me.
Today, as typically happens with Rose's freak-outs, I heard her from way down the hall. Imitating the adults who were trying to talk... cursing like a sailor... refusing to come in the room or sit down. Other kids were in the office at the time, so they finally sent her to sit down and cool off in another location.
About 15 minutes later, I thought, well, it's not like I'd just LOVE to hang out with her now, but if she has something to look forward to and maintain good behavior for, maybe she'll be able to get herself together. I proposed my idea to my AP, and he brought Rose over and put the idea to her. "You know, we want to see you have some positive experiences, be successful at things. You know my secretary," he gestured to me, and she nodded. "She knows that you're interested in art, and she wants to know if you want to work with her to make the scenery for the play." She looked stunned. Almost speechless, actually. Did I detect some wateryness in her brown eyes? "I thought you might like to help me. If you're interested." I said. She nodded yes. "Great!" I said. This should be a learning experience for both of us. Wish me luck.