Saturday, December 4, 2010

Child Abuse - The Signs (Pt.1)

As we are heading into the Christmas season, I was recently reminded that the holidays are often a ripe season for the increased horrors of child abuse. While we don’t want to get everybody down during the Christmas season, over the next 3 weeks, I have a powerful story to share that just might help at least one child avoid, or be rescued from, this disgusting and horrific situation.

Many years ago, a fellow Teacher/Band Director named Mr. Roberts had a student named Matt (not their real names – although they have given permission for me to share this story). Matt used to go to Mr. Roberts' room before school, spent his whole lunch with him (as did many other kids), and visited him after school. Matt did not have a father, so Mr. Roberts did not mind spending the extra time with him. He had no children of his own at the time, so the relationship was good for both of them.

Matt’s classroom behavior was unpredictable, at best. Some days he would be an all-star student; sometimes he would be a royal pain in the elbow; sometimes he would challenge others to fisticuffs; and other times he assumed a leadership role within the class. Often he would seem to be passive and compliant, although he could easily be obstinate, as well. He also seemed to always have a cold or the sniffles and it seemed as though he trusted absolutely nobody! He had an unnatural fear that a student would try to steal a portion of his lunch.

Other kids seemed to like him, but there was also a slight fear of him. Matt was a physically tough kid and it appeared as though he could clean anybody’s clock if so challenged.

After spending 2 years in  his Band class, Matt signed up for a 3rd year of Band AND Mr. Roberts' Spanish class. His behavior in Spanish was the same as Band; sometimes a pleasure to have in class and other times a candidate for pain of the year!

However, through all of his antics, Matt was a likeable kid. He seemed to have some struggles in life, but Mr. Roberts knew that he was capable of working hard and succeeding.

He took on Matt as a special project without telling him. With no father, a less than fully supportive mother, and not many fair shakes in life, Matt seemed to need direction and pushing. Mr. Roberts was happy to provide both.

For 3 years he directed and pushed Matt toward success. Yes, the harder that he pushed, the harder that he pushed back, but the more that he seemed to enjoy the attention and appreciation for his efforts.

Matt went from a sorry sounding clarinet player to an outstanding bass clarinet player – the rock of his Band! He also went from a kid who struggled in English to a kid who mastered Spanish I at the 8th grade level. Yes, for a young man who had always struggled academically, he was showing positive signs!

Matt began to push others toward excellence, as well. His methods, as Mr. Roberts later found out, sometimes included physical intimidation and even some punches on the arm, but Matt usually got his results and his way with the other kids.

During the years that he had him as a student, Mr. Roberts never quite figured out the cause for Matt’s dramatic mood changes, sometimes within the same class period. Happy, sad, mean, nice, leader, physically aggressive, verbally aggressive, and helpful were just some of the emotions that Matt displayed on a regular basis. 

(Please come back next Saturday for Part 2)

Paul W. Reeves

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