Thursday, February 3

The Angry Boy



I’m tutoring a first grader who is struggling in school. In order to protect his privacy, I won’t reveal too much. Suffice it to say, there is a two inch binder filled with the various testing results and a cacophony of other professionals who are working with him as well. My role: improve his reading.Let’s call him Dan.

I’ve rarely seen so much paperwork on a 6 year old. I’ve sat in on a number of team meetings. His parents are supportive and passionate about providing Dan with everything he needs. Dan is one angry little boy.

Due to the number of support services that Dan receives, I work with him after school in my classroom two afternoons a week. By the time he gets to me, the poor kid is exhausted not to mention the ADHD medicine is wearing off. I’ve noticed that our sessions are inconsistent and I’ve pulled out every trick I’ve learned in 29 years. It is a challenge to say the least.

Yesterday we had a late arrival due to an ice storm. Then, the schedule was adjusted and then re-adjusted and overall, the day was chaotic. When Dan arrived for tutoring, I had a sinking feeling that it was going to be rough session. My instincts were accurate.

Dan was belligerent, uncooperative and downright mad! I’ve established a routine of tasks so he knows what to expect when he works with me. I had to do some quick thinking.

First decision: throw out the routine.
Next, I pulled out new things from my box of materials to entice him to learn/work. No success.
Second decision: stop trying so hard and wasting time. He wasn’t buying anything I was selling.
Then, I thought we would have a “talk.”
Third decision: Stop asking questions! Angry kids will shrug more and not share when you keep asking questions so stop!

Just when I was ready to throw in the towel and make the call to the parents, I had an idea. I remembered what I do when I’m frustrated – I write it down.

So Dan and I wrote a story. We called it “The Grouchy Boy.” I did all of the writing and only
provided small transition words as prompts. I would say, “Next…” or “Then…” His story unfolded. I tried to make little eye contact and kept writing everything he said. Dan described a little boy who was frustrated and tried everything to escape. The little boy in the story finds his powers and takes control of the people and events around him. By the time we finished, my arm was cramping from trying to keep up with him. Dan was laughing and talking and reading with me. I have this “habit” of re-reading and I was struggling, so Dan helped me.

Now, Dan and I have decided to turn this story into a book. We discussed adding more characters, details and illustrations. Dan stated at the end that when the book is finished, he wants to share it with ALL of his teachers. He said, “ I can’t wait to work on our book again.”

I think Dan has great ideas.
I sure learned a lot from Dan yesterday.
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