The Escape Artist

To say that the end of my day today was a challenge is an understatement.  I have a student who has been quite a challenge since he joined our class in October.  He had a rough first couple of months, but as of the last two weeks, he has shown some small improvements.  Today we took a step back however.  Actually he took a step right out the front door.

Today we were taking part two of our reading assessment which is a pretty big deal since it is their main report card grade of this quarter.  This student struggles in reading, mainly because school is not his number one priority. He seemed to be done pretty quickly and was just sitting at his seat looking around, not really focusing.  I had him come and show me his test, which I discovered was not fully completed.  I asked him to go back to his seat and finish it, which he agreed to and went back and sat down.  Again, he sat just looking around, not seeming to really engage himself in his work.  The last part of our day we have specials, so when we get back it is time for them to leave.  I happened to be going by his desk and realized that his test was not completed.  Actually it had nothing more done than the last time I had seen it.  I would have asked him to come work by me, but that typically leads to a complete shut down.

I asked him to stay after for a few minutes to finish it, which would have taken him maybe ten minutes.  Since his buddy from class was leaving, and he realized he wouldn’t be walking home with him, he lost it.  He got really angry, refused to finish the test, and eventually just walked right out of the class.  I caught up with him in the hall and asked him to join me to give his mom a call to see if she would mind if he would stay after a few minutes to finish this.  He took this as me trying to get him in trouble and had a complete melt down in the office.  My principal came to my assistance trying to calm him down to no avail.  As I was on the phone with his mom and he is in the background having a fit, he then walked right out of school away from my principal.

I let his mom know what was happening as it was taking place, and we realized it was a lost cause to try and get him to finish this, so our focus went to just making sure he got home safe.  He was threatening to run away, so we asked his mom to come and meet him half way to make sure he was safe.  When we called to make sure he got home forty minutes later, his mom informed us that he showed up a couple minutes prior to that.  She said they had somewhere to go, so she wouldn’t be able to bring him back to school as my principal requested.

My question in all of this is whether or not it was worth it or not to even try?  I feel terrible for upsetting him, but I wasn’t trying to do this as a punishment, I just wanted him to finish before having a long weekend.  I struggle with what to do on Monday when he comes back.  His mother and I have had many meetings about his behavior, and with him showing some improvement in that area, do I go ahead with a punishment and risk starting this whole process over again, or just talk to him about what happened and let him know that this was not a way to handle this type of situation?  I want to support him, but I also need to make sure he knows that this type of behavior will not be tolerated.  What is the correct approach to this situation?



  1. ams4blog · March 4, 2016

    It is always worth it… keep trying, every single day. From my blog to yours; “The kids who need the most love will ask for it in the most unloving ways.” I know, from my own experience, how defeating it can feel, but keep trying. I always roll the dice on the notion that I can at least make a sliver of a difference, even when it seems hopeless, and I believe you can too.


  2. whitewriteblog · March 4, 2016

    It seems like it goes much deeper than a test. Have you contacted the social worker? I have students that completely shut down. The writing assessment is the one that does it for my kids! I understand your frustration. Do you let it go, or do you try to encourage them to do their best? When they are stuck, they shut down. I’ve seen it in my own children. I wish I had the answer. Thanks for sharing….


  3. beckymusician · March 4, 2016

    Wow, who could have predicted such an extreme reaction? Is there a social worker who could be involved? This seems bigger than not finishing a test. I have two highly challenging boys in my 4th grade this year — it’s exhausting. But you have to keep trying.


    • mcteaguem · March 4, 2016

      We have been down the road with the social worker. There is definitely more problems with just taking the test. He has to view school as something important in his life first.


  4. maribethbatcho · March 4, 2016

    Thank you for your post. Your exasperation and frustration and concern all came through in your writing. I especially like your title. This boy isn’t escaping anything, though. He is living with the daily reminder that he struggles to read, something we take for granted. In addition to that, he has a boat-load of other issues consuming him, preventing him from doing the school job. I feel for him, and for you as his teacher. Good luck.


  5. Cindy · March 4, 2016

    Yikes! This is so tough! I would definitely address what happened. Maybe try asking him when he is calm/ had enough time away from the situation what was causing him to be upset- was it that it was too hard for him? If so, which part- the reading? or the questions? Maybe if he helps you identify the exact problem you can be part of his solution? I wonder if you can help give strategies to tackling the test: breaking it into manageable pieces, giving check ins, etc. I agree with a previous comment about these behaviors show they need the most love from us. I usually say to these students, “do you trust that I want the best for you and that I will do everything in my power to help you learn and grow?” Usually they nod their head. (If they don’t, then that is a different conversation to figure out how you can develop a relationship). After I will say, “well since you know I want to help you more than anything, let’s try to figure out a what we can do about this problem.” It doesn’t solve the problem immediately, but it shows the child you care about them and believe in them. Good luck!


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