Like I’ve said before, some days working with these kids give us a glimmer of hope, then other days… well other days I guess all you can do is hunker down, push through and be content that at least you got a good story out of it.
Yesterday, we were at our more challenging school, dealing with our most challenging section of students. The days we spend with them, we see the students in two shifts. We get half of the class first while the other half stays in the classroom with their teacher doing whatever it is they would normally do, then halfway through the period we switch.
The first half went… about as well as we expected. They generally come into the room, running and screaming and eating sugar. After 15-20 minutes, they finally calm down enough to where we can play. So we play a quick game, all through which they freak out and we have to keep stopping to refocus, then time is up. Pretty standard.
They leave, then other half comes in. whoa. They come tearing into the room, screaming at each other, throwing things, bouncing off the walls. Not really that out of the ordinary, but definitely with much more intensity than usual. At any rate, two of the boys immediately begin punching and kicking…
Side note here: One of most frequently asked questions I get from sixth grade boys here: “you know double double e?” At first I didn’t get this, I was really confused, but through some pantomiming and demonstrations, I understood “you know WWE?” Which, if you’re not familiar, is pro “wrestling”. That’s right, Thanks to the wonderful folks behind professional “wrestling” sixth grade boys here are learning that the most effective ways of solving their problems are by masquerading around in cape and communicating through pile drivers and facebusters. It’s hard to convince sixth grade boys that this is in fact NOT the most effective method.
Back to the story: They started punching and kicking. We’ve been doing this long enough that they know full well that when they are in our class, there is absolutely no violence allowed, whether it’s in a joking manner or not. So then, when they choose to participate in violent activities, then of course they choose to spend some time in the corner. So we sent those two boys to separate corners and one of them outright said “no” Just like that. So after some broken conversation in translated arabic in the corner, I noticed that other kids in the room were becoming increasingly loud and I turned around to see all of the kids engaging in violent activities.
So we got them all together in the middle of the room and sitting in a circle, but that didn’t deter them from pointing fingers and screaming all sorts of blame and insults. So we sat there waiting patiently for them to quiet down and relax so we could talk like civilized people. A full ten minutes later, they finally quieted down and we began to review our expectations for their behavior.
Right at that moment, a girl from the first half stuck her head in the door and told the group that their teacher wanted them to take another test the next day.
They lost it. Immediately every kid got up and started stomping around the room, kicking the walls, slamming doors, hitting windows, throwing chairs, screaming at the top of their lungs, some screaming to the point of tears. Boys got up and turned to their WWE inspired coping mechanisms. Each sixth grader had devolved to two year olds throwing intense tantrums!!
They demanded that we let them go and tell their teacher that they refuse to comply. Naturally, we declined their request and told them that until they could sit down and tell us like civilized people what the problem is, then they have no business going anywhere. So for the next 15 minutes, we watched them throw fits, making complete fools of themselves, until eventually their voices were hoarse and they were running out of steam. Finally we got them all into a circle and we asked them why they were angry. We asked them how they reacted when they received some bad news. Then asked them how they should have reacted… they didn’t have an answer. Unbelievable. Is this all they know? So we went back, touching on the things we’ve learned so far about listening and respect and their roles in solving problems. How quickly they forget. Eventually we let two kids go a little early to talk to their teacher and we wrapped up with the rest.
As we sent the rest of the kids out the door, the two we had sent returned, livid. They ran into the room and pointing at us and screaming at the top of their lungs that it was our fault they have to take the test again because we didn’t let them go early enough to try talk their way out of it. Upon hearing this news, the rest of the group, who had managed to pull it together a little, blew up again.
Our time ended with the entire group storming and flailing themselves out of the room in blind fury… it was an ugly sight.
I feel like one of the things that really irks me about the culture is the inability to accept responsibility. EVERYTHING becomes an argument trying to place blame or responsibility elsewhere.
I don’t mean to sound gripy, but such are our adventures here.