FROM: Mr. Vaudrey
SENT: Thu 2/21/2008 8:16 PM
This is Mr. Vaudrey, Carl’s math teacher at Edgewood Middle School. I wanted to tell you about my interaction with Carl today.
Due to a field trip, I had Carl for the ENTIRE day, and he had shown by the first period that he wasn’t about to do any work. I eventually had him call his dad, after which point, he got very quiet and stayed after the bell to talk to me.
We talked for a little bit and he came out with a comment like, “I can’t do all these assignments, I’m slower than most kids.” I chuckled and said that I didn’t believe him at all. Then he lost it.
He hurled his pencil across the room and stomped toward the door, overturning a math book and chair on his way. He whipped around in the doorway and screamed at me, “I’m sorry about that and I’ll clean it up, but I’m very upset! I KNOW that I’m slower than most kids. I KNOW it! You may say that you don’t believe me, but I know it!”
I said that he didn’t have to go anywhere; he could stay here for a while. As he reached back to punch the wall, I called out “Don’t punch my wall, Carl!” He punched his other hand (which he flattened against the wall), and collapsed into a sobbing heap on the floor.
I grabbed some tissues, shut the door, and sat next to him. I guessed he was pretty much done talking, so I took the opportunity to say what I know about him.
I’ve seen students that do homework get test scores lower than him, and he does nothing. That shows that he’s smart.
I told him that he wasn’t born frustrated and thinking he’s slow. Somewhere along the line, he was told that, and he didn’t have to believe it if he didn’t want to.
I asked if he was going to lunch and found out that he spends his lunch money at Chevron before school, buying Sobe and Chee-tohs. I offered him a sandwich, put it next to him, and ate my lunch sitting next to sniffling Carl. When lunch ended, he bid me good-bye and I stopped him, asking if he had forgotten something. I went back to my desk and amended the detention form to LUNCH detention, explaining that a lunch detention is when a student stays in during lunch with a teacher, and then I don’t have to call his dad.
The last period of the day, he was pleasant and compliant. I asked him if I could tell you about it and he said yes.
Later that day, Carl went to lunch, and I went to tell his school counselor about our interaction. She remarked, “Wow, you handled that really well!”
I thought to myself…. yeah, I did. I really enjoyed it, too, as dark as that sounds. I felt more comfortable talking to Carl than any lesson I’ve taught ever. She and I talked for a while longer, and I confided that I was thinking about ditching the teaching gig soon.
Through several conversations in the last few weeks, hers being the most recent, I have concluded that I think school counseling is for me. Federal holidays, better pay, and kids screaming one at a damn time all sound pretty great to me. Also, Carl got more out of our conversation today than any of my students have gotten from my teaching thus far, I can say for certain.
In the great scheme of things, Maria will go through life and never draw another Stem-and-Leaf data plot, but if Carl spends ONE HOUR of his own time thinking, “Maybe I’m not worthless”, then I have fulfilled the duties of my job….
actually… my calling.
More to come as details unfold.