One of my former students recently wrote to me and expressed to me that she was very- very thankful that I had taken the time to listen and care because she had been living on the edge of frustration, confusion, and hate. She felt that she had no-one and she was very scared. She wanted to end it all...
It made me remember the day of the breakthrough I had with her. Yes, you probably guessed that this student was someone that wasn't living by the rules and had little to no regard for her safety and the safety of others. She wasn't having it. She was going to make sure that someone paid attention to her no matter what it took. She started issues in the morning with the hall monitors and other students, while in class, while at the library, at lunch, and at dismissal. She was relentless and most always ended up at the office ISS desk waiting for an administrator to assess what happened and to determine the outcome.
She had built a reputation of getting kicked out of class and was doing everything to stay consistent with her persona. I was compelled to help her because I knew she was calling out for serious help. Once again, she had managed to end up at my office sitting there looking as if life was such a burden. I didn't quite know what approach to take with her, but I knew that I could not come off too punitive because she could close off completely nor could I be so passive because she would feel as I was no one that could help. As I spoke to her, I told her in a very serious yet caring voice, that I was sending her home and she immediately pleaded with me not to do so. She was horrified of going home. Wait a minute, I thought to myself- the obvious issue is her home life. And since I could relate to her due to my home issues when I was growing up, I became her advocate. Not to empower her and let her get away with things, but to empower herself enough to regain some self respect for the present and for when she decided to move forward. I wanted to restore some sense of dignity for her.
I established rapport with her, and from that, she had mentioned that she had been at the edge of deciding whether or not she wanted to be here anymore. Her mother and father had abandoned her and had left her with an abusive sister to help her make it through. The sister made it so obvious that she did not want anything to with her, and that she was only watching her because the mom was invested with her in a business. I listened intently and told her that I understood, but I wanted her to see things from my point of view as and administrator who is responsible for assuring that all kids need to learn.
Needless to say, I was able to convince this young lady to meet with the school counselor to go over social appropriate patterns of behavior. She trusted enough in me to have the counselor work with her and in doing so, she starting showing signs of stability after a week. Their relationship got stronger and the student stopped self mutilating and became a lot more respectfully toward students and teachers. She looked so proud in her graduation dress as she came up to receive her diploma. A moment of tears, tough to hold back. She promised me that she was going to graduate from High School and from College and wants to become a school counselor some day to help other students. Sounds all too familiar...love it!
Yes, we all cry, shout, of fight for help when we really need it, especially when we are at the edge of our last breath, but there is always help, always a different way to see your situation no matter how bleak. I often wonder what if I had never gone to work at that school- what would have happened to her? I often wonder about that phrase, "Approach life with such a passion that if it only helps one person, then you have made a lifetime contribution!" I Wonder...
But I am hoping to make it to her graduations...I'm very proud of her...