There are gangs of boys like this in every school, but in other schools I think that they have a little bit less control. In this school, there are 7 of them. Only 2 are my students, but we all know all of them, as they spend very little time in class and very much time terrorizing the school. In the middle of a class, your lights will suddenly go out – and you know that one of them just walked by your room. There are 4 of them who I talk to regularly, one of whom is one of the leaders – and the other leader is one of the boys who tried to ignite the school. These boys are all taller and more developed than their peers. Most of them have facial hair, lots of piercings, and wear ridiculous rhinestone covered oversized sweatshirts.
They enter classrooms loudly, begging for attention, clapping, dancing, yelling. They are unresponsive to being reprimanded, but are easily manipulated – if you take the time to do it. Two of them are in my CTT (collaborative team taught() class, which is made up of half special ed, have general ed students, and is taught by one home teacher who stays with them all day, and then one subject area teacher. They travel from class to class with their home teacher. When they come to my class, she and I struggle to teach the rest of the class, and to keep control away from these two boys. I generally end up in the back fo the room with them, trying to engage them, but it is hard, as they feel old and intimidating even to me. They are ballsy and brazen in everything that they say and do. I have this dream of reaching them, exposing that innocent part of themselves that they deny, their youth and inexperience. And then I realize that they are past that – that you really cannot ever go back. These boys will never be eleven, or twelve, or thirteen. They grew up faster than they should have, and while it’s tragic that for whatever reason they have lost their childhood, it’s a reality that cannot be denied.
These boys are older than their years – not in the way that you are used to hearing it – with wisdom and maturity attached. Rather, they are jaded, and instead of feeling that they have their whole lives ahead of them, they feel as though they’ve already lived a whole life. They can be threatening, and it certainly isn’t helpful to have as little leverage as I do over them. For many, I’m not even their teacher, just a room in the school to torment and drop in on when trying to avoid security officers or going to class. For most of them, I would bet that teachers gave up on calling parents long ago, or that their parents are desensitized to the calls. These boys run the school – and everyone knows it. But they are 13 years old, despite their façade of maturity, not fit to run anything, least of all themselves. How do you reach them – and go beyond trying to control them to actually help them? I have to overcome my own barriers about them – the level of intimidation that they have, how far gone they seem, how disinterested and disrespectful and baiting they are.
It’s all about power with them, and that’s a much harder battle to fight than with those kids who just want attention. The power hungry will automatically do the opposite of every single thing that I say, will defy me at every opening I give them, and will take advantage of every vulnerability I expose. They do it every day, with increasing intensity. But they are young and transparent and needy – and when I get past all of that bad, I can see those other things – and only then can I even want to help.