I am afraid to ask…have you ever stopped believing in a kid?

For the second time in my career…I think I might have stopped believing in a kid.  Stopped believing that I can make a difference, stopped believing that at any moment he might turn it around, stopped believing that even though I haven’t gotten through to him, someday, someone will.  26 days left.  I almost made it.  When it comes right down to it, I haven’t just stopped believing in him–I have given up…and that sucks.


  1. I’ve definitely had a day or two when I gave up, and it felt like I’d thrown in the towel, but then I used the weekend to recharge my battery, or I vented to family members or colleagues about how hopeless everything seemed, or I walked and as I was walking, thoughts of that student were running in my subconscious… and before I knew it a new day had arrived and I felt fresh enough to tackle the situation.
    The question to ask yourself is… what has changed? Why give up NOW? Did he do something outrageous? Did he appear to give up himself? Often that’s just a cry for help. So be sure to ask yourself – why am I giving up now? Especially if there are just 26 days left.

  2. Yeah, I have. It does suck, you are right. I gave up on J.G. last year. Sadly I didn’t make it as far as you did. I had a lot more time left. This is why I gave up on him, though: I believed that I was powerful enough to change him. Rookie mistake. You can’t change anyone. They need to want to change. I tried so hard and invested so much (both emotionally and temporally) that it was a major blow when he decided what I was offering was not for him. It hurt to put myself out there so far. Then, it was a defense mechanism when he bit the hand that fed him. I am much better at realizing that I can’t change anyone (and my wife is happier now, too ;). It is easier to not give up when they are the ones making the choices, and not you. As you can tell from my comment on the last post, I am still a little bitter about that situation last year with JG.

  3. Jethro- Isn’t it our “job” to show someone the path to chamge? To hold their hand until they get their? I always tell the kids that I would never treat them any different than my own daughters. I treated this child differently….

    Ahhh Janice welcome o’ wise one with the perfect questions that I ask other teachers but sometimes forget to ask myself. I hate it when people turn the tables and ask me the perfect questions…grrr….he gave up a long time ago. Anything outrageous no, cry for help-absolutely. But I only have 100 tissues in my box each day and he would use 20 of them. It happened now because I was tired of him taking other kids tissues. To change his path, to continue holding his hand, would mean that I would have had to let go of several others. Geez Janice, this is a comment box not a question box, now you have me thinking this through again.
    A sincere thank you.

  4. You are right, Paul. It is our job to show them the path. It is not our job to *make* them walk the path. That is what I tried to do. That is why he lashed out. That is why I was hurt. And that is why I gave up on him. That is why I stopped believing he could change. I realize now that it was just that I didn’t realize that he could change in his own way. It didn’t have to be mine.

  5. I want to recommend a book for summer reading if I may. It’s called “Teaching with Love and Logic” (http://tinyurl.com/46x2m6) and the wisdom in that book and others by the same author have really helped me in the classroom and with raising my kids.

    One thing from that book that stands out in my mind was about connecting with an unreachable, unruly kid. The technique is simple, but powerful. I won’t be able to relate the entire thing from memory, but it’s in the book.

    Just start noticing things about the student in a non-judgmental way. “I noticed you’re wearing blue sneakers today.” “I noticed you really like pro wrestling.” “I noticed that you really like Pepsi.”

    When they say, “Yeah, so what?” Just reply, “Well, I just noticed that about you.” Avoid making any value judgments by saying “I like that,” or anything along those lines. Just leave it at noticing things.

    There’s an old saying that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. That’s what deficiency this intervention works upon. There is research evidence backing this technique when it is regularly used, but you’ll want to get the full explanation offered in the book.

    Also, for an end of semester pick-me-up, check out the funny parenting and funny teaching stories here: http://www.loveandlogic.com/audioclips.html

    And hang in there. You are doing great. I can tell because you are thinking in this way. A lot of kids have a lot of problems to overcome. You might be making a huge difference to this kid without realizing it. You might learn about it years from now, and you even might never know about it. The fact that you are thinking about it, and keep trying in the face of failure says a lot about you.

  6. Thanks Bill — you are right on. That is exactly what I would have told another teacher but yet sometimes I get blinded and forget to do it myself–funny how that happens. Thanks for waking me up. I will check out the book. I am only going into this summer with one book on my must read shelf and have been looking for others.
    “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” So true.

  7. One year I worked with a tough kid, I tried everything to reach him. I used every thing I could find and tried every motivator I could learn and he was unreachable for me. I left that year feeling like a failure and focusing only on that one kid and not the others who had grown so much. I saw him that summer at a gas station and I asked him why he was so hateful in class and what I could have done to serve him better. He said, “Honeycutt, it’s just school.” I thought about that moment for years and came to the conclusion that all kids are NOT ready when we want them to be. That due to circumstances that elude our best efforts at overcoming, they are not going to be ready. These kids sometimes call you in their 20’s and tell you they are getting it together and thank you for trying when most people gave up.

  8. Hi Mr Paul!
    That was nice and interesting, i don’t think you should stop asking, don’t be afraid, believe in yourself because you know that even if it doesn’t go well, you did try your best. And THAT is the MOST important!!
    @Bill: I really liked what you said, about the book and the idea, that is smart. Maybe i should read that book! You are good well right, to get a student to know you care, just CARE. And say ,” I like your hair, new haircut eh?” Stuff like that. Good one, you make me think deeper! 😉
    And Mr Paul, don’t give up, i have faith in you, by reading your blog, i can TELL that you are a fantastic teacher, and can change alot of things. So don’t give up. I have some hope lingering around in me for you Mister! 😛
    Bye and keep writing. 🙂

  9. I think thinking that each day is a new day to come back to your class, helps me not give up on students that may be more challenging. I think leaving school at school and giving yourself time at home to regroup and then come back fresh the next day is very important. Sometimes you do get down about certain student but you have to keep pushing until the last day because in some students lives you might be the only one pushing to make them better.

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