I have this guy in my non-academic English class. Let’s call him Johnny. It took him three tries to get to me, but his very determined grade eleven teacher was there for him and helped him get over the hurdles he needed to finally pass. She also got him a used bed when his father kicked him out of the house after he turned eighteen and was no longer eligible for the government check that came every month. She delivered it, and some second hand sheets and towels, to the grungy one-room apartment that he lives in by himself. The bed is one of the very few pieces of furniture in the room and he was over the moon to receive it. His story breaks my heart.
He is one of the students in the class that I am team-teaching. My partner and I have been having a great time with the students, and have spent a good part of the first weeks of the semester on relationship building, mixed in with lots of critical thinking exercises. Johnny comes every day and does minimal written work. He has a hard time sitting still and often looks for attention. But he is highly engaged in the class. He participates fully in every discussion, and is the first to volunteer when we ask for one. In short, he likes to be there and he is learning lots. We can work on the written work as time goes on.
So. Johnny has a sad back story. Johnny has had a hard time at school. Johnny has been coming every day and is participating in class. However…there’s always a however. Johnny had a girlfriend named…let’s call her Julie. Julie was upset with him one of those reasons that often cause DRAMA. She and her friend decide to jump Johnny at lunch one day and he fought back. End of the story is that he was kicked out of school for a week.
Here’s my question: is that the right way to handle his behavior? On the one hand, he used violence to solve his problem and, as we all know, violence is never the answer, and it’s certainly not an answer we can condone in school. However, this kid has little guidance in his life. He does not go home to Mom and Dad who teach him valuable life lessons and who provide consequences for bad behavior. He goes home to that grungy apartment with a bed and some used sheets. He had been attending regularly; he was enjoying school. Is it possibly the right answer to remove him from the one place where he could get some guidance?
It’s not an easy question to answer, but I think there must be some better solutions out there. If anyone’s listening and you have some ideas, I’d love to hear them.