Monday, November 15, 2010

Emotional Landscapes

Every Monday I work with kids and this particular week I was apprehensive about going in. Normally I work with one girl every time but since more kids joined our program I had to facilitate more group work. It was ok for a little while. We managed to do reader's theatre games and counting card games together. But last week disaster struck.

I'll call her Laquishia, which is the girl's name with a different first letter. Laquishia and I have been working together for three months and she sort of picked me. Initially I worked with a younger girl in kindergarten but then L grabbed my hand one day and that was that. We're buddies. We laugh all the time and when she doesn't concentrate I tell her she is having too much fun. She loves that! She uses it back at me all the time whenever I laugh, and she even wags her finger when she says it. L is in 2nd grade but is advanced and well beyond the homework she is assigned. Often I think that all she needs from me is encouragement and attention, rather than help with the work.

Since working with L, her sister Katiana has been jealous and complains that I should be with her. K is sadly behind and was kept in 4th grade for two years. She is embarrassed of her reading ability and will take any moment possible to avoid focusing. Their brother, Daquis is the class clown. He is always yelling, acting out, doing gymnastics out of nowhere, etc. Daquis however, is extremely advanced and never has a problem with homework. He just can't sit still or have quiet. It's ok. I've never had any issue with his behavior. Until that day.

What happened was that L wasn't paying attention and playing around a little too much. She said she was upset because every time she comes in she wants to color on the board, but never gets to. I told her she can if she finishes her work. K was drawing on the board and started writing notes to L on it to disrupt us. For example, K wrote: "Be Quiet L!" So L would grab a paper and write: "You Be Quiet!" The woman working with K had to call a truce and I tried to bring L back to addition problems. Once we got to the subtraction, five more kids walked in.

One of the girls, Marlinda is the same age as L, but not the same level. She needs more help but really tries to do her best. M came to sit with us and claimed not to have any homework. I found her a dry-erase board with addition and subtraction problems on them, exactly like the ones L was working on. I figured, this should be perfect. But no.

M is really calm and quiet, unlike the three siblings. L immediately was annoyed that I gave her a board like the one she wanted to color on. I explained that it was a math board not a coloring board and that I'd like her to finish her problems. She looked over at what M was doing and started shouting out the answers to make M feel stupid. I was shocked. I told L to let M try her problems and let's go back and finish ours, but she yelled at me! She said: "How are you going to help us both?" I told her not to worry.

She became withdrawn. She asked me why I gave her 2 stars for the day a long time ago instead of three. I said because she had given up on working that day and fought with her brother. I reminded her that if she continued working she would receive her three stars for the day today, but it didn't work. She started filling in the wrong answers on purpose. Then she started to cry.

I decided that I wasn't going there. I was not indulging this, I had to maintain strength. I went over some of the subtraction reasoning we did earlier and kept talking and addressing them both. I thought by continuing on she might snap out of it. Nope!

Daquis saw her crying and came over to find out what happened. D doesn't speak unless he is screaming, so this was bad. He asked her what happened and then interrupted everyone.


Daquis, I can't give her the answers. I think L doesn't want to share her time and she is just having a moment.


The site facilitator had to jump in and scold him for yelling at me but he continued on and on. SHE'S NOT HELPING. SHE'S NOT HELPING. SHE'S NOT HELPING. SHE'S NOT HELPING.SHE'S NOT HELPING.SHE'S NOT HELPING. SHE'S NOT HELPING. SHE'S NOT HELPING.

And then Laquishia started absolutely wailing. The entire staff stopped what they were doing and stared at me. I couldn't believe how quickly I lost control. By that point another staff member took over the project with Marlinda because I had lost her too.

The siblings grabbed their things and left early. My attitude about the incident was that kids are kids. Sometimes they're brats. What can you do? But when the session was over the staff questioned me wanting to know what went wrong. I said nothing, she just didn't want to share her time and got emotional. Then they asked what I had done about it and what did I feel and how did it start and what did I do and so on. What the hell? Were they going to make me feel bad too? I left feeling extremely shaken and not knowing if I should work with L again. Maybe she grew too attached.

When I came today, I talked to the coordinator about working with another child. She said that we would see how things happened. I assumed L didn't want to work with me anyway, but when she came in she grabbed my hand again and said, "You're with me, right?"

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