Saturday, 12 November 2016

"Give the man a chance"

is something I keep hearing in relation to President-elect Trump - and yes, we should. He may prove quite different from our expectations.
It made me think yet again about the idea of giving someone a chance. I think it's important.
There was a child I taught who had already, at the age of ten, been in trouble with the law. He came from a family where others were in the same position. His father was in and out of prison. The child admitted that both parents "belted" him. Social welfare was involved. He had been given chances over and over again. He had been suspended from school more than once.  I was "warned" about him...even by the other children.
The first morning I had him he proved disruptive. It was what everyone  expected.
I kept him back at morning recess and said something along the lines of, "You idiot.  You haven't given me a chance a yet. I'll give you one if you give me one."
We eyed one another off. Then he muttered, "Nobody else does."
He walked out without my permission to leave but I left it at that.
At lunch time I asked him whether he'd mind doing something for me - something I couldn't do myself.
      "Yeah, all right." 
Over the first weeks of teaching him I asked him to do things for me several times. I didn't ask him in front of the others and I didn't say anything more than "Thank you." I didn't mention behaviour. On the third Monday afternoon the "bin monitor" was away. This boy came back in after the others had gone. He glared at me and then took the classroom waste paper basket and emptied it. I still said nothing but "Thank you."
We went on the same way. Half way through the term we shared a Kit-Kat...I didn't tell him it was a reward. All I said was, "Want a bit?" His response wasn't exactly gracious but I sensed he was pleased with himself.
His behaviour wasn't perfect - far from it - but it was within much more normal limits. At the end of the term - also the end of the year - I could honestly give him a reasonably good report. My last sight of him was him standing in the doorway of the classroom at the end of the last day of term. Everyone else had gone. I looked at him and wondered what had gone wrong now because he looked so uncomfortable and then he muttered,
     "You know something? You were okay after all."
He was gone before I could say anything. Over the summer the children were taken into the care of their grandparents who lived in another state. I often wondered what happened to him and then forgot him until someone said of Trump, "Give him a chance."
It doesn't always work - and goodness' knows how that child turned out. 
I've tried giving someone else a chance more than once this year. I know she has some problems of her own and that there are other problems in her life - and I can sympathise with them. It is difficult to go on being nice, being understanding, trying to be supportive when she doesn't respond. We both belong to the same group and, because of our respective positions in it, we need to get along. I keep telling myself that.
Yesterday a second person told me that this person had, once again, been difficult in a situation where cooperation should have been the keyword.  Another person standing there asked,
      "How many more chances are we supposed to give her?"
I don't know. Perhaps we just have to keep on trying and hoping?


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