A Big Monster, Inside a Little Man
This following Monday was my fourth time volunteering at Acts 4 Youth, and each time I learn something new. Last week we started off our afternoon with football drills. Most kids at recess just play pick up games with not many rules and just to mess around, but these kids are all serious. They are completely into the game. They know every tactic; they plan out every play, and pick their players wisely. When their teacher, Mr. Antoine, calls them together he yells “HUDDLE TIME” and they all circle up. Huddle time is a time for them to come together as a group so the teachers in charge can tell the boys what they are going to be doing for the next hour. Now, being that they are boys between the ages of ten and thirteen they don’t stand there silently; this is where strikes begin to be handed out.
Strikes are handed out to the boys who are being disrespectful towards the adults when they are speaking. If they are asked two times to pay attention they get one strike; when they get two strikes they have to fill out a form explaining what they did wrong and how they can approve next time. Once they hit three strikes they have to fill out a form and speak to the principal about their actions. What I have noticed though, is that often times, now maybe this is just my opinion, but many of the strikes some of the kids receive, they didn’t deserve. Sometimes a kid telling another kid to stop speaking to them so they can listen will get a strike. Some of the kids couldn’t care less and just laugh at the teacher, but most of them get really upset very quickly. One second you see them messing around with their friends and the next second their pouty lips are out with a begrudged look on their faces. I can’t say I blame them because I wouldn’t be happy with getting a strike either. However, I do understand why the strike system is so necessary for the boys. It teaches them a sense of respect towards an adult figure that will actually give them consequences, instead of only threatening consequences.
However, this Monday I experienced something much different than usual. Yes, plenty of the boys are rowdy and out of control, they talk back to their teacher, or complain about homework, but there was a boy that did a 180 this week. My first three times working with him he was always so pleasant, he generally followed the rules, didn’t get very many strikes, and wasn’t attempting to cause problems with any of the other children. But I have to remember, I only spend one day a week with them, so I haven’t the slightest clue what they are like during the rest of the week. Well this boy, on Monday, was WIRED. He was all over the place, yelling, jumping, and throwing things. We all assumed that he was just antsy from having to stay in all day because of the rain; but I think we were wrong. He started to get very stubborn and talk back and isolate himself from the rest of the students. I usually have VERY good patience for younger kids but for some reason with this boy I just couldn’t, and neither could any of the other volunteers. I had to walk away from the situation because I knew if I stayed I might have taken a lot of the things he said to me personally, even though he is so young. From this point on things got worse. He was yelling at all the volunteers, telling us to watch out backs, saying how much he couldn’t stand us and couldn’t wait for us to leave. Even some of the other students, who often times do not behave themselves, were in shock at his behavior. This boy started pulling pencils, pens, and markers out of his bag and breaking them in half, he was ripping his papers, and using every excuse possible to make large amounts of noise.
Then, the most shocking thing of all happened. The teacher in charge of this group of boys called huddle time, having them all face forward in their seats and listen carefully. This one boy I am telling you of was being disrespectful and the teacher said, “I’m sorry buddy but I’m going to have to give you a strike, you need to be quiet and listen up.” If looks could kill this man would have been dead. The boy said, “What ever man”, and then under his breath, but loud enough for all of us to hear EXCEPT for the teacher himself, the boy murmured, “bitch.” My jaw hit the floor. The other volunteers were in states of shock. And the student’s eyes were bulging out of their heads. Never in my life had I heard a child disrespect a teacher in such a way. No matter the circumstances (and I’ve seen some pretty heated arguments between a teacher and a student) have I ever seen a student say something so utterly awful to a teacher. The reality of why we were there suddenly hit me. These kids are here to learn discipline and respect for their elders and it is CLEAR that there is a lot of work to be done for so many of them.
If I had to compare this to a reading, although it is a bit of a stretch I would say this boy was easily both of a combination of Victor and the Monster from Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Just as Victor begins to isolate himself from his friends and family when he is working on his creation, this boy began to isolate himself from the rest of the class as he began boiling inside. Then, this boy became Victor’s creation; he became the Monster; not wanting to be bad but tearing up the things in his path and exploding with rage. When I left the boy was still in his mood but I think it began to bother him that we were ignoring him. He didn’t like that he wasn’t the center of attention anymore. When I spoke to his teacher about his behavior that day, the man looked at me and said, “You haven’t seen anything yet.”