Monday, September 12, 2011
I work with a lot of teenage boys. They are awesome in ways I never imagined. Bold. Strong. Fragile. Insightful. Forgetful.
They are dreamers, schemers and preeners.
I feel for these kids. They have had tough lives, spent years with people labeling them as stupid, dumb, just another redneck/gangbanger/poor white trash/poor black/stoner/trailer trash kid...
They are not those labels.
They are scared. They put up a tough front and that scares some people. But I choose not to be afraid of them. I talk, I listen, I praise them. They sometimes blush at the praise and grow silent. I don't think they know how to respond to kindness or positive words. They only know the negative. That they can respond to, they can get angry, they can hit, they can yell, they can lash out...
But kindness, that catches them unprepared. That throws them at times. But I don't stop. I keep telling them what they do right. I praise their efforts, I celebrate every success however small.
Today I met with two of my boys. Two boys the school staff told me were incorrigible. Two boys the staff had given up on. Two boys on probation in court. Two boys they warned me I should be afraid of because of their anger and violence.
One holds the door for me, answers "Yes M'aam", "No M'aam". The other who looms over me, waits til I am seated before he sits. In telling about a rough day, he cannot bring himself to curse in front of me, instead saying, "Ms. Martha then I said the "f" word."
Today I reviewed their grades. Both were passing all the classes for the term. Only one F for the nine weeks and that will be brought up when more homework is turned in. I praised them for their efforts. I told them I knew how hard they had worked. I said, "I am so proud of you!" and I meant it. Both blushed. One said he was proud of himself. I broke out in a big grin and laughed with happiness. This was a kid who had once said his purpose on Earth was to feel pain, and today he was beaming with joy.
I can't take the credit. They did the work. They made the effort. They were the ones who chose to change. All I did was listen and tell them the truth about themselves. They are winners, they are strong, they are all beautiful boys...