Little Chris and I have struggled to form a bond, but earlier this week, things were different.
After a professional development meeting on "dealing with difficult behavior issues"- ironically enough- I went back to the room to find Chris not doing his work.
This is common, but I gently encouraged him a couple of times, and then finally squatted down next to his desk to help him get started. I tried to get him to "race" me and see who could find a certain word first on his desk, or let him say the answer verbally while I moved the pieces into place. I joked with him, I put the pieces in front of his face and made goofy faces. He laughed a little, and eventually even got working on his own. After much intensive, one-on-one encouragement, he finished the cut-and-paste project independently.
After that, he refused to get started on the next paper (which he should have started probably an hour prior). I was a little frustrated, because I felt that I'd worked hard for probably at least thirty minutes just to convince him to do one of the things he should have been doing anyway, and then someone said something that made him upset. I talked to him for a couple of minutes, but he seemed to still be a little on edge when we split into our small reading groups.
He came back after the reading group with a principal escort. Apparently he had to be written up in his small group. I was disappointed; I had felt accomplished that I'd put this off for as long as I had. Chris rarely does his work and frequently gets upset when we confront him about it. This morning of us working together, me convincing him to work without him breaking down- it was a victory! It was a step toward our goal, and it seemed partly canceled out by his discipline referral.
In the afternoon, we started again. I was determined to build on the good parts of the morning. We took a spelling pre-test, and he decided to lay on the floor, refusing to get up and try the words. Both teachers talked to him gently, and encouraged him to get up and do his best. My co-teacher eventually asked if we needed to call his mother, which usually helps motivate him, and he got into his seat. The students know our policy is not to repeat words during the test, and when no one would repeat the first two words for Chris at that moment, he threw his pencil across the room. I picked up another pencil and came up behind him. I offered the pencil and told him to try the third word. He was bewildered (because he thought I had gotten the same pencil he threw so quickly), but took the pencil and got started.
After the test, we were sitting down for some standardized testing. I knew there was no way that Chris- although he seemed calmer- was in a state to do his best on the test. While my co-teacher got the students ready to start, I asked Chris to go in the hallway with me.
He thought he was in trouble at first, but I told him I just wanted to talk. I asked him about the test, and as it turns out, he didn't realize it was the pre-test. He was frustrated that he hadn't studied enough and didn't know how to spell the words right. Once I told him it was just the practice test, he seemed so relieved. He started to smile.
I told him that I was so proud of how hard he'd worked that morning on the contraction cut-and-paste, and asked him if we could make a deal. If he worked really hard to follow directions and do his work the rest of the afternoon, I'd give him two pieces of candy.
He went back in and did great on the test, even when I asked him to make his handwriting a little neater. In my math small group, he started to play around until I reminded him of our deal. He said, "Oh! I forgot!" and instantly sat up to get started. I praised him probably ten times that afternoon when he did things well. At the end of the day, he came up to me excitedly. "Did I do it?"
He did. And I could tell he was proud, especially because he didn't have his medicine that day. I gave him the candy, and he happily bounced into line.
It was one day, but it was progress! An otherwise rough day felt positive- and all because, for the first time, I really felt like I connected with this kid.