It has been almost four years that we've been working together. His many special needs were a big concern for a small school district in Nassau County, New York. Having worked with many other students in New York City and in Nassau County for years, both as a classroom teacher and as a street counselor, and having attended seminars, and even conducted some, for the troubled child, I was asked to help a young 13 year old boy, C., who had been in and out of various special programs and special schools. "Any thing you can do after school to help supplement his class activities, would be a big help" was the request from his mom and school guidance counselors. Whatever it be, spelling, math, grammar, reading, history, science, C. could benefit from all of it.
I found out he could benefit from other things, as well. Along the way, I think I've become a big brother, confidant, strict disciplinarian, easy going uncle figure, part-time dad, spiritual advisor, teacher-tutor, and tutor-teacher to a young "little man" who still has learning to be done. Upon retiring from the NYC Board of Ed, during this interim, he thought I'd leave him to "go fishing", but I reassured him and his mom that I still needed the "action", so I wouldn't be too far at all. During a school suspension of nearly two months, we had a big discussion on consequences and on our ability to not only recognize them, but to accept them, live up to them, and to learn from them.
Then, most recently, in a moment of anger, C. was ready to "clobber" his older step-brother, now in prison, for taking his very expensive iPod and selling it for a heroin fix. Here C. needed to understand his role and accept his responsibility in leaving his valued belongings "just laying around" so anyone could gain access to them. Of course, it doesn't justify his step-brother's actions and choices, which have always been against the legal norms, but it does set up another learning opportunity for C. And what about trying to understand his step-brother's predicament? Not to condone it, but to realize the hold a heroin addiction can have on someone, and to begin to show a little forgiveness towards him. While C. is mulling these things over, I'm always wondering: "as tutors-teachers, how far are we comfortable going?"