Blog Your Blessings: The Weatherman and Henry

The kids I teach are a handful even on a good day. Though they are in my classes because they have performed poorly on standardized reading comprehension tests, they are not stupid. In fact, most of them are very bright,but they don't know how to play by the rules; they don't know the first thing about sitting still and getting to work. Nevertheless, they can talk what they won't write. So my job is about getting these extraordinary but different kids to do things the plain and simple way everyone else does.

It ain't easy.

Take the Weatherman and Henry. One is gay and proud of it; the other, the picture of urban white machismo--a brawler. They sit on opposite sides of the classroom because they hate each other passionately. While Henry used to badger The Weatherman about being gay, the Weatherman could give as good as he get and would tell Henry, "You wish you were gay."

All of this would go on before they even sat down.

In a sixth grade literacy class.

What's a nice white girl from the suburbs to do?

One day I was at the end of my Standard Operating Procedures for Classroom Discipline rope. Nothing impressed these kids. So I told my gay student to be the Weatherman and look out the window to keep an eye open for atmospheric changes. "Let me know if anything happens." And that's what he did. Just stared out the window. Anybody looking in on us would have sworn he was not engaged in classwork even though he was doing exactly what I had asked. But you have to be there....

Henry functions quietly when I call him Henry rather than his given name. I gave him a new one when he wouldn't respond to me when I called him by name. "If you won't answer me when I call you by your name, I'm calling you Henry. What's the difference?" I asked. Now when he comes through the door, we agree he is someone else altogether: not himself, the tough kid who hates gay kids, but Henry. Anybody looking in on us would swear I didn't know his name. But you have to be there....

Now I get a regular weather report from the one child and a daily reminder--"You know my name is Henry!"--from the other. And things are reasonably peaceful. Which is just fine in my fragmented little world.

The blessing: Sometimes the kids get that I get them sometimes. Sometimes.

Blog Your Blessings


  1. You've got some excellent psychology at work there.

  2. I love this: when you can't *find* a solution, you make one! That's a wonderful lesson to pass on to the kids.

  3. Omigosh! You are both gifted... and a gift.
    The Weatherman, and Henry will remember you for decades. And so will the other members of the classroom who are watching intently at how you have handled this situation and the response from these two difficult, yet hopefully, promising boys.

    I have encountered some youth like you describe here. My heart broke at the thought that the future of so many of them is lying somewhere behind them.

    You are an oddity to them, I'm sure. Someone who tries to understand and work within the
    confines of their limited world. And who tries continually to stretch the boundries and expand that world for them.

    I like you, Sandy. I truly do!

  4. You are an excellent teacher, Sandy!

  5. Always think outside of the box. That is the key to a good teacher. Getting those ideas to work is the mark of a great teacher. I love your approach with "Henry" - that never would have occurred to me. Unfortunately I was never able to put my elementary education degree to use but did enjoy the time I spent in the inner city classrooms learning from incredible teachers. Thank you for all that you do - it is some of the most important work out there.

  6. Super ! Just super teaching there, Sandy!!!!!!!!!!!!! I would like to hear about them at the end of the year again. . . I bet they don't want to leave your class. You have given them the positive recognition they needed. It is indeed a wonderful Christmas present!

    I am catching up and left comments on three others below. I ahve some new posts finally too.

  7. Simply brilliant out of the box thinking and a great tale to boot.

  8. you are a creative and loving teacher...keep up the good work, sounds like it is working. they need you.

  9. Every teacher has one or another time used child psychology to bring out the best in students.

    I have taught English speaking for 5 years and I had a different approach and different classroom plan everyday for each of my (usually 15) students.
    That's a wonderful experience. thanks for sharing.

  10. That's funny. It can be liberating to be someone else for a change!

  11. wishing you a blessed holidays time, and a happy and equally blessed new year!

  12. Sandy, I think you get the kids most of the time, and they get you! Thank you for sharing that story! :)

  13. Anonymous7:13 PM

    Well done. That's a heckuva classroom you've got going. There's magic there, and in you.

  14. What a great story. Exactly the reason I'm giving you the Great Attitude and/or Gratitude Award - drop on by and pick it up!

  15. You are someone special, to be able to see beyond the masks these kids wear, to make progress where others have failed. They are lucky to have you.

  16. Hmmm... an interesting solution... a "friendly-forced spilt personality" for Henry. Psychologically, it's an interesting concept!

  17. DDBG made me laugh with his comment. You've come up with an ingenious solution. Happy Solstice!

  18. Sandy-you truly are a hero. I don't think the teachers in my little community could comphrend the things you face on a daily basis-thank you.

  19. Anonymous6:32 AM

    Interesting resolution! Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas and all the best in 2009! :)

  20. You must be an incredible teacher, Sandy. I love this little peek into your everyday life.

    There's a little something for you over at my blog today.

    Peace, and Merry Christmas - D

  21. What an incredible blessing you are to the world at large and to your students in particular. The teacher's challenge is ALWAYS to find a way 'in' and to establish a 'meaningful relationship' so that learning 'differently' becomes a possibility for all concerned. What a gift you are to all of us as well.
    Hugs and blessings,


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