I have a student on my caseload that I've been really struggling with lately. He is a really cool kid, but very different than most boys at our school. He's a total punk rocker, complete with green Mohawk. So not the typical hip hop jock that are our norm. He's super quiet, respectful to me, but does a whole lot of nothing. Then he disappeared for almost a week. When I called home to see if he was OK, Dad was confused. He's been at school all week he tells me. Um, no he hasn't actually. Turns out our boy was leaving home every morning and "going" to school. Only he wasn't making it here. Dad was pissed, rightfully so. But I didn't make a huge deal out of it with Dad because he came across as very straight laced and had the whole machismo thing going. I got the hint that he would be plenty hard on him without my egging him on.
The next day, when he came to school, I made a deal with our boy. If he did what he had to do here at school, I was going to hook him up with a friend of mine that owns a skateboarding company. We talked about possibly getting him a tour, a goodie bag or maybe even a chance to meet a pro skater. Either way, this kid was stoked, he wasn't quite believing me, but stoked. He signed his contract promising he was going to do his best and I signed it promising he had a pretty cool goal to work towards. I felt like I was finally getting somewhere with him. I found his motivation, his soft spot. He smiled, he talked to me and actually started to open up.
We then had Spring Break and I saw him yesterday after our week off. He didn't forget our deal and was actually putting forth some effort first period. He told me that he was staying with his older brother because he was still fighting with his dad about his disappearing act.
Then I saw him this morning. He didn't look at me. He had the hood of his sweatshirt low over his face. He put his head down. He ignored the teacher. He refused to do anything.
I asked him to step outside. When I met him out there, there were tears in his eyes.
What happened? Nothing. Are you OK? Silence. What happened? Nothing. Are you mad? Yes. Why? Shakes head. Did something happen in class? No. At home? Yes. With your brother? No. Your dad? Yes.
It was like twenty questions, only not nearly as fun.
Did you get in a fight? Yes. Did he take something away from you? No. Yes. No. I don't know.
I looked at him, studied his face trying to find a clue. Then I noticed the hood. Why did he have the hood?
Did he make you cut your hair? Yes. He shaved it off.
What? Why? Because it was the only thing I liked about myself.
My heart broke. I wanted to scoop him up and help him, fix him. But there wasn't anything I could do.
I understand consequences and I wish I dealt with more parents that actually provided consequences and discipline for their children. But this was too much. That green Mohawk was him. And he just took it away.
I talked with him. I tried to comfort him, tell him that his hair will grow back. That it wasn't the only thing that made him who he was. He is still him, still punk rock, still the same cool kid. I know I was just some stupid adult to him. But I hope something stuck. I hope he knows that I care. I hope he knows that I am trying to understand, that I won't write him off.
Most of all, I hope tonight, he is OK.