The Sort-of-Scientific Method

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Mar 04 2013

Silver Linings

Day 108: Sixth period sucked. One of the few times all year when it felt as if behavior got in the way of learning. Actually, once we started class, things were fine. As predicted, kids got into AIDS (we were learning about the immune system). However, we had to leave and re-enter because we were too damn loud, and then once we re-entered, we weren’t much better. I’d guess we lost about 10 minutes.

Needless to say, then, AM and I weren’t feeling like BFFs … particularly since I called her out for yelling, “I don’t like the Daily Work anyway” as she walked to her seat and took five minutes of recess. At the end of the day, things got worse. My homeroom was a mess, and the music teacher had them walk back and forth through the halls, silently. When I found them, I clearly heard AM say, “Why is he …” leaving off the last “here” but failing to stop herself (or her nasty tone) before I could hear.

I didn’t react then. I waited about 15 minutes, until she was about to leave, and asked to speak with her. I asked her what she said in line. She blew up, saying she just asked the student in front of her not to click her pen, and that this was what was wrong with me, that I was always assuming things. “What was wrong with me?” Done. To the office.

When we got there, I asked her to sit down, and she moved her chair around to the other side of the desk I pointed to. For the sake of compliance, I said she needed to move the chair back. She said she didn’t want to, and screamed “NO!” at me. For all of our disagreements, that was the first time she’d yelled at me all year.

We waited about 10 minutes for the vice principal to be ready before she spoke. She said, plaintively, “Can’t we just work it out ourselves? Can’t you just take my lunch and recess tomorrow?” And that’s when I unloaded. I said no. I said I had been nice all year, and I’d given her every chance, and every time, I’d had my kindness and patience thrown back in my face. I asked her if she knew how hard that was – saying hi every day and being kind, only to be ignored and disrespected constantly.

Eventually, we went in to see the vice principal. And for the first time in months, AM actually spoke up. She said, calmly, exactly what had happened. She said she’d rather not have her mom brought into school – which was discussed at one point – but that if she disrespected me again, that would be fair. At first, I was worried it was an act. But the longer she spoke, so calm and so logical, I let myself think something new was happening.

When we left, AM had to go to our homeroom. As she left, she walked up to me – a rarity, mind you – and said, “Goodbye, Mr. Adler.” I paused, then ran after her to give her a piece of candy. She was already across the street, and my first attempt at throwing her a piece of candy hit a moving blue minivan. Fortunately, the second time, the candy reached her.

I know, in my brain, that the odds that today, finally, being THE day when the turnaround happened are slim. But a boy can dream, and for today at least, I left with a small sense of hope.

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