I have been working with a student all year and he is a great kid. He has a rough home life and he is very defensive all the time. I have tried all year to break through that hard outer shell he has put around himself. I think he has gotten hurt so many times that it is a defense mechanism for him. He doesn’t trust anyone at all—it is obvious in his behaviors and his mannerisms. He has been very rude to me and sometimes downright mean, but I have just kept trying. I have tried to be consistent with him—I don’t accept his bad behavior and don’t let him get by with it either, but I always come back.
About a month ago he asked me: “Why do you keep coming back in here to help me?” I smiled and told him “I like you and I think you’re a great kid.” I also mentioned how determined I was to break through that tough exterior of his and how I saw it as a challenge. The look on his face was one that I will never forget: It was quite sad. He didn’t say much the rest of our intervention time, but I could tell I had cracked that exterior just a little. If anything he tried even harder to see what my breaking point was and I just remained consistent and patient with him.
One day he had a writing assignment that he was working on. I really didn’t help him much on it, I just watched him work. When he was finished I told him I was going to read it and help him make any corrections that needed to be made. He was hesitant at first because he doesn’t like to let anyone read his papers, but then he handed it over and I read it. I was so amazed that a 4th grade student had written such an amazing paper! When I finished reading it, I told him that all I could say was “WOW!”
He looked down and said, “I know it’s probably that bad.”
“No!” I said telling him that it was actually amazing and that he was a very gifted writer.
The look on his face almost made me cry. “Really? I love to write, but nobody else really says anything about my writing. I always get really good grades, but nobody says anything about it,” he said.
I told him that he was very talented and he should be super proud of his grades. After that day, I cannot explain how different he is. If he is having a bad day or he gets in trouble, he talks to me about it. I can tell that he trusts me now, simply because I showed him that I believe in him and I wouldn’t let him push me away.