Thursday, July 9, 2015

Have you seen this child?

Disclaimer: If you're looking for some yuks, you're not going to find any in this post. If I ever find humor in this story, it's probably time for me to retire.

Parker was a boy in my class who had ADHD.  Bad ADHD.  His mother could not get him to take his medication, so by the time he came to me, he was bouncing off the walls.    Everything distracted Parker – a door opening, someone laughing, a dropped pen on the floor.  He spent more time turning around in his seat, twisting to see what he might be missing, than actually doing any work.  When I’d talk to him about the fact that he was failing, he’d assure me, “I just wanna get my work done, Miss.” Seconds later it was, “I can’t do this stuff, Miss. It’s too boring.”  I had him work through lessons in a virtual program for my remediation class, but Parker constantly complained about having to read “so much,” and insisted “I do better with work on paper.”  When I had him work on paper, it went untouched, because “this stuff is boring.”  When I pointed out that he hadn’t read anything on the page, it was back to the “I just wanna do my work, Miss” before trying to poke another student. 

Parker’s mother and I decided to move Parker’s desk next to mine so I could redirect him easily, and he could get his work done with minimal distraction. Parker complained strenuously about the move, but he passed the first two terms of school, thanks to our efforts to keep him on track.

Then Lonnie decided he wanted to be friends with Parker. 

Lonnie began walking with Parker to and from class, telling him he was cool and that he should hit on the various girls in the class so Parker could be a “playa.”  Parker, who for the first time was encouraged to do something he’s spectacularly bad at, proceeded to chat up the girls using highly dubious and borderline offensive lines: “Is yo mama a drug dealer? Cuz you dope!”

From there, Parker moved to trying to stroke girls’ hair, causing them to slap at his hands and scream at him.  More than once, I had to haul Parker out into the hallway for a “come to Jesus” meeting about this “new” behavior. 

“Parker,” I said wearily after one frustrating class in which three girls threatened to relieve him of his manhood, “I will have to send you to the office if you touch another girl.”

“Aw Miss, we’re just playing. It’s no big thing.”  He kept craning his neck trying to look through the classroom window as we spoke.  

“No, it IS a big thing.  Touching a girl on any part of her body after she’s asked you to stop is assault and sexual harassment.  You DO NOT touch a girl if she doesn’t want you to.  This is not fun, and it’s certainly not playing.  You may think you’re having fun, but legally, you’re creating a huge problem.”

“Naw, Miss, it ain’t like that,” he drawled with a big clueless smile.

“Did Lonnie tell you they’d like it?”

His smile began to fade. Bingo.

“Guess what?  The girls don’t like Lonnie either, so he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.  Putting your hands on a girl is absolutely unacceptable, and I will not warn you again.  I’m calling your mother about this, and if one more girl complains about you touching her, you’re going to the office.”

“No Miss, please don’t call my mom!” His eyes became huge behind his glasses.

“Too late.  Go sit down and get to work.”  I opened the door and walked him back in, just in time to see Lonnie turn and give Parker a thumb’s up. 

Parker didn’t attempt to touch anyone’s hair the next time he was in class, but I noticed that he and Lonnie were now trying to move into a new seat each day.  The minute either of them sat down, I’d say, “That’s not your seat Lonnie. That’s not your seat Parker. Move.”

“But Miss, I can’t work there!”  They’d both say.

“Apparently, you can’t work anywhere, based on what you’ve done in the class.  Now move.”

Lonnie would sometimes obey, and sometimes would just get up and walk out of the class.  I didn’t care; if he left, I could at least manage Parker.  Plus, skipping class meant he’d have to spend the next day in ISS. Those were good days. 

Parker wasn’t as practiced in disruption, so after a few days of being re-seated, he decided to refuse.

“I just wanna do my work, Miss. I gotta get to work, and you be bothering me.”  He was sitting next to Leslie, who was leaning as far away from him as possible.

“That’s funny, Parker.  Now get up before I call Ms. Drake and have her come get you.”  Ms. Drake was a particularly intimidating assistant principal.

He kept repeating that he wanted to do his work while trying to scoot closer to Leslie.  I picked up my phone and dialed the office, telling them I needed a student removed from my class immediately.  While the rest of the class intently watched the scene unfolding before them, Lonnie seemed oblivious, blithely doodling on some paper.

Ms. Drake came in immediately. "Ms. Marlow," she began, "I was in the middle of a meeting. You know teachers are responsible for handling disc---" Her scolding was cut off by a shriek from Leslie.   “Get your hands off me, Parker!”  Parker was leaning across Leslie's desk, his hand reaching for her hair. Leslie frantically tried to push his hand away. Within seconds, Ms. Drake had Parker by the arm and was forcefully escorting him from the room. I noticed Lonnie giggling to himself.  When the bell rang, he walked up to me and  said, “Miss, why you gotta do Parker like that?  He ain’t doing nothing.”

“Shouldn’t you be worried about your own performance in my class, Lonnie, or should I say, your lack of performance?”

“But Parker’s cool, he –“

“What Parker does has nothing to do with you.  I want you to leave him alone,” I said coolly.

“Miss, why you gotta be like that?”  Lonnie cocked his head and pursed his lips, in a vain attempt to look serious. It just looked pathetic.

“I suppose I could ask you the same question.  Why are you so disruptive?  Why do you refuse to do any work?  Why all the sudden interest in making sure Parker starts copying your behavior?”

He laughed suddenly.  “Because it’s funny, that’s why.”

I felt a murderous rage run through me.  This snotty little punk was ruining Parker’s chances of actually learning and getting through school so that he could be amused.  I thought about Parker’s concerned mother and all she was trying to do to get her boy to stay in school.  I thought of all the conversations she and I had had, trying to work through his behavior. All the after school help I'd given him, all so Lonnie could turn Parker into his personal clown and for a second, I seriously considered punching Lonnie in the face. 

Instead, I swallowed hard and made my face blank.  “Well then, I guess it’s good that you finally have a friend in here, Lonnie.  I know both you and Parker have difficulties in that area.”

“I don’t have no difficulties with friends, Miss.  I got tons of friends!”  He seemed tense.

“Okay,” I said blandly.  “If you say so.  I just haven’t seen it in this class, so…” I trailed off and began stacking up some of the workbooks.  Lonnie looked at me curiously for a second and then walked quietly out of the room. 

I wish I could say that things improved, but they didn’t.  Parker and Lonnie ended up in ISS the next week for skipping my class, and I had to send Parker to the office nearly every day after that because he refused to keep his hands to himself.  He never did get back on track or pass, and honestly, I'll never forgive Lonnie for that.