The “Other” Kids

Lucky for me, my duties as Acting VP include a teaching load of 40%.  This is comprised of teaching one period a week of the following:  grade one, kindergarten (5 classes, all at the same time, no joke) and a “Special REM” class.  This “Special REM” class consists of 8 kids, all boys, who having had a history of displaying various misbehaviours, were removed from mainstream classrooms.

So here I am – grade one teacher, tinkering with the idea of being a Vice Principal – and I tell myself, I can handle the little ones. Even 5 classes at the same time. But older boys with behaviour issues?

I then proceeded to have a minor freak out, which was followed by more self-talk: Kids don’t get placed in “Special REM” classes because they have one too many “time outs” or because they get into a playground fight.  No, these are boys with serious baggage. I’m a little scared, I’m not trained for this, and I have no idea what I’m going to do with them.

I can honestly say that the first time I taught this class, it was the longest 45 minutes of my life.  Sensing my paralyzing fear, the boys ate me alive.  I had expected it, but since then I had knots in my stomach each time Tuesday afternoon rolled around.

Thankfully over the past couple of weeks, trust has been building brick by brick, and our relationship has gotten better.  The other day, this point became crystal clear to me.

I wanted to get at the root of who they are as individuals so I asked them to pretend they were 80 year old men looking back on their life.  What would be the highlights? What advice would you give yourself as a child, now?  I asked them to write or draw just 3 thoughts, in silence, for 10 minutes.  They blew me away…

THESE were the same kids who didn’t fit into the mould of the conventional classroom; the same kids who supposedly had issues with anger.  Truth is, these are kids who are… just kids.

We ended up having one of the most candid, sweet and eye-opening conversations I’ve ever had with a group of students. We talked about their dreams and we talked about the magic in writing those dreams down.  These young men have hopes and aspirations like any other human being on the planet.  They’ve just been dealt a rough hand in the short number of years they’ve been here.

I was worried about what I could possibly teach these boys and it turned out that they were the ones who taught me the lesson.  I am fascinated and inspired by the clarity in their vision and the love in their hearts – which is why Tuesday afternoons are now my favourite time of the week.

(image 2, via)

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