Some of you may remember that I asked a student at school, “Rose,” if she wanted to help me make some of the scenery for the school play. She is a student I’ve been worrying about all year. She seemed to like arts and crafts, and I thought if she participated in something like the play, she might begin to see that she can make different choices for herself.
Well, she did help out, and she seemed to enjoy herself. She came a few times, and once after helping, the next day she told me, “When I got home and told my aunt that I was at school helping out with the scenery on the play she said, ‘YOU?’ and I said, ‘yeah, I know.’”
Once the play was over, I began to worry again about her grades – would she be able to pass her classes this year? She was holding her tongue and temper, and therefore, not getting suspended (a miracle in itself, when compared to last year), but would she pass? Whenever she stopped into the office, I offered to help her with her schoolwork if she needed help, but she always refused the help, even though she knows I can actually help her. Then last week when she came into the office, I was finally able to see the big picture.
She plopped into a chair just inside the door, looking tired, and a little angry.
“Hey, haven’t seen you in a while, how are you doing, what’s up?” I said.
“Mr. ____ sent me in here.”
“Oh, are you in trouble?”
She shook her head no.
“Did you just need some space?”
She nodded. This teacher really gets her. He can tell when she’s about to freak out, and he gives her the space she needs to cool off so she doesn’t get herself in trouble.
The infamous temper started bubbling up… “He gave me work to do and I wasn’t doing it cause I just didn’t feel like doing it, and he said, ‘so you’re just going to take a zero for the day?’ and I was like, ‘yeah, I guess so.’ I felt like telling him, ‘you know what, I don’t give a sh__ about your work; I just don’t feel like doing it, you fat f___!’”
“Well, I’m really glad you didn’t tell him THAT,” I said. “Well, you can sit in here for a while and chill out then, that’s fine with me.” After a few minutes I asked her, “How is it going in your other classes?”
She shrugged her shoulders with a fatalistic attitude. “I’m gonna fail” she said. “I’m gonna go to summer school. It is what it is.” Still in my old mode of thinking, I wished for her that this wasn’t the case.
“How is it going at home?” I asked.
She shook her head negatively.
“Why? What’s going on?”
“My father was shot.” I was momentarily at a complete loss.
“Is he gonna be ok?”
“They don’t know.” Then she shrugged and said nothing more.
“How do you feel about that?” I tried to pry gently. She had told me on a previous occasion that she hates her father, he is not a father to her since he was in jail for most of her life. “…cause I know you have mixed feelings about him.”
She considered. “On one hand, I don’t care, cause I hate my father, but on the other hand, he IS my father, and he’s the only family I’ve got right now.” That’s because shortly after her father got out of jail, her mother went to jail.
We talked some more. He had been shot seven times. Yes, another relative was staying at the house with her and her sisters. She was bored at home. She did nothing but eat and sleep. She missed her mom. She left my office, and worried about her, I made sure the social worker knew about her situation, but Rose was already down there talking to her. Thank God. And then it dawned on me. For her, summer school is not bad, but good. She probably still doesn’t realize this herself, but it is. Summer school is not the problem – vacation is.