I wrote this after a particularly trying time at camp where I found myself shaking and crying on the way home and I wasn’t exactly sure why. Now, I think I get it. I think I understood the abuse this child had gone through. The pain that he so openly expressed from the wounds that he had endured at the hands of adults. I think I was embarrassed and ashamed that I was overwhelmed by it and didn’t know how to handle his inappropriate actions. I was even more ashamed by the parent. I was ashamed of the way she looked at this boy. Like he didn’t deserve to be there with her daughters. Or that he didn’t deserve to be taught by me. I’m not sure exactly where those feelings came from, and I couldn’t even really bring myself to post this. But, now reading it, I think I will.
The other day I had a difficult student.
I just got finished teaching a spring break camp. This was a free camp that parents could send their kids off to for one week, eight hours a day, for the entirety of spring break. My goal was to make this one kick ass camp. Okay, so I didn’t have ponies or rope courses. Maybe our art supplies were limited to some clay and some markers and some paper. Maybe my camp was held in a deserted juvenile detention center. But, that didn’t mean it wasn’t fun.
We spent our time discussing relationships and ourselves and making art that included sculptures of faces and stress balls and even some really awesome three dimensional hands. We also worked on creating a movie that the kids acted in.
At the end of the camp the parents all filed in to listen to their wonderful kids speak about what they had worked on and what they had enjoyed. They were happy I had been their teacher, some were even sad to leave.
I had one that was a difficult student. My difficult student didn’t understand, or didn’t respect, personal boundaries. His emotions were either an overwhelming baby voice expression of love and devotion or an angry and threatening defensive position. When he stood up during our end presentation and professed that I was his mother, and that he loved me, and, “Don’t you dare say you aren’t because you are.”, one of the concerned parents asked me if I had told his mother about the way that he treated me.
But, here’s the thing, concerned parent: not all of my students live with their mothers. Not all of my students live with any kind of family at all. The thing about my program is that I have these kids that really love and are interested in art and self expression that come from loving parents that support them and encourage them and teach them how to behave. They teach them how to love and respect themselves and others. And then I have other students who come to my program because they don’t want to go home. I have students whose parents/grandparents/caretakers drop them off with me because they need someone to “please take them please I don’t understand them and I’m exhausted and I’m scared.”