Sep 16, 2012

The Angry Young Man

One particular student is on my mind this week. He is in the back of my brain, nagging and pulling--like a thread that needs to be unknotted. He is an enigma to me because I have not yet seen that kernel of goodness that I can always see in every single teenager I meet. I know it's in there, but I haven't dug deep enough to find it yet.

He is angry. Oh, so very, very angry. As I try to teach the parts of speech he mutters under his breath, "Where's the real teacher. You ain't no real teacher." He tells me I'm ugly. "Stop talkin' to me. I don't want you talkin' to me." It goes on and on, day in day out.

Sometimes, though, he answers a question in class. He names a character from the book we're reading. He participates briefly. It is those moments that keep me going. I know he is in there. Somewhere. Trying to get out. There is a young man who wants to learn, who wants to care and be cared about. I know it.

Then it goes back to the muttering under his breath. Anger personified. Verbally vomiting negativity like he's been infected by a viral hatred.

You may ask, "How do you put up with that? Why would you want to work somewhere where a teenaged boy insults you day in and day out?" Some days I wonder. But most days I know...

I do what I do because children don't have a choice about what family they are born into. Children don't have a choice about how their parents treat them. I know that this boy learned his foulness from a rotten apple that did not fall far from the tree on which it grew. I know that when a young man is so skilled at issuing verbal abuse at such a young age, it can only be because he learned it at a younger age from someone else.

Is it too late to change the tide? Is it too late to teach him to be more positive? I honestly don't know. But I do know that I couldn't live with myself if I didn't try.


  1. Jen, every time I read a post about your students or your perspective on education I think how very fortunate your students and your school are to have you! If every adult made this kind of an effort to really understand "troubled" kids and to approach them with empathy rather than blame, it would make such a difference. I have no doubt that YOU are making a difference!

  2. Ellie, thanks so much for that! I appreciate it :)


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