To School, or Not To School…?


Kenneth is 15.  He will be 16 in about 6 weeks.  He is one of the brightest people I know.  Well, in terms of being able to ingest and analyze information.  Putting that information to use, applying it to his own life – that is not so much his forté. 

Kenneth’s soul – his true self – is the most beautiful of diamonds.  Unfortunatlely, this diamond has been buried deep within a fortress of solid stone.  A barrier created by abandonment, passive neglect, and uncompromising abuse – perpetrated by numerous individuals over the course of his first 9 years of life.

It is no wonder that he does not trust adults – in fact, holds them in contempt.  He has a core belief that he must be in control – he cannot rely on anyone to take care of him, keep him safe, or make decisions that are in his best interest.  Some would call him uncooperative, some obnoxious, others say he is belligerent and defiant.  I know he is hurt and afraid.

That doesn’t necessarily make his resistance to every request and expectation easier to bear – but it does help me remember that it is not me he is resisting.  It is the very real ghouls and goblins and monsters of his past that he is still fighting.  He just doesn’t often recognize that I am not them.

Sometimes it infuriates me and pisses me off.  Sometimes it breaks my heart that he can’t feel how much I love him.  Sometimes it breaks my heart that he is too afraid to feel at all.

So, this contempt for adults applies to teachers.  In fact, perhaps more to teachers than to any other adult.  Maybe because the system they exixt in casts them as AUTHORITY FIGURES.  That puts Kenneth’s resistance factor (or his alter-ego “Opposite Kenny”, as we like to call it) on super high, ultra-red alert.  Which apparently throws some automatic switch in teachers and brings out the I AM THE BOSS AND I WILL WIN persona.  This character looks an awful lot like those ghouls, goblins and monsters from Kenneths early childhood – so Super Opposite Kenny comes to his aid.

As you can probably see – this is not a very good situation.  Everyone keeps ante-ing up on everyone else.  After several years of joining the teachers in their AUTHORITY FIGURE charade, I learned from a brilliant woman that the best way to win a power struggle is to stop struggling for power.  Wow!  I know…Brilliant!!

Kenneth, you don’t want to do your homework.  Cool.  I am glad to know that you like 8th grade so much that you want to take it again!  Good for you!

Worked like a charm!

Well, sort of.

He did pass 8th grade – by the skin of his teeth.  He enrolled in the new charter school that many of the kids he knew were also attending.  It happens to be a college prep high school.

So, back to the little issue about Kenneth not being so brilliant in applying his knowledge.  We talked about the difference between grade school and high school – you don’t just progress year to year without earning the credits.  If you fail a semester, you will not automatically become a sohpmore – you will be a 3rd semester Freshman.  You don’t get to improve in the later quarters and still get promoted.  Well, apparently Opposite Kenny needed to test that hypothesis.  Then, it seems, he decided if he was going to be a Freshman again, why do anything during the last semester of the year.  Good Ol’ Opposite Kenny ended his first year of high school with a 0.075 GPA.

Kenneth was informed that the decision was his – and that he had to take responsibility for his decisions.  I would not register him in a traditional high school if he was not going to take advantage of the opportunity provided him.

Well, at the time, I thought there were technical school options in the city where we live.

Guess I should have done my homework!  Because there is only one – The Carpentry Careers Academy.  Way not Kenneth.  The Gateway Technical School, contrary to the implications of its name, is a college prep school with quite high enrollment standards.  Somehow they didn’t see Kenneth’s grades as meeting them.

So, here we are, in August and I cannot find a school that is safe and appropriate that will accept Kenneth.

And guess what?!

He wants to go to school!!  Who would have ever guessed that?!

Today he started a program in our city called Transtions.  This program is for out of school youth who want to a) get reconnected to school, b) get a GED and go to work, or c) get a GED and go to school for a certificate or degree.

Kenneth was up and ready nearly 2 hours before he needed to be there.  He was talkative and in a good mood as I drove him to the class.  He says he hopes they can help him with his focus and motivation so he can go back to school.  I haven’t seen much of Opposite Kenny all week.  I hope he is off on a long-deserved vacation and learns he has no need to come back.

copyrighted 8/11/09

3 Responses

  1. What was it that Pogo used to say and Dad liked to quote? Oh yeah, “We have met the enemy and it is us”!

    I totally get Kenny, I was just like him! In fact it took me about 30 years to figure out what it seems that you just taught him in one!

    Good job!

  2. Meg- I think you have found a wonderful title for a children’s book “Opposite Kenny.” It would be an older version of David Shannon’s “No David!” picture books. There will be a small finder’s fee for this information 😉
    I am enjoying your blog!

  3. Phil – that is too funny! You have come a long way and I hope that Kenneth finds a way to be as loving and supportive of his sisters as you have been to me!

    Mary Beth – That definitely would be a good book title! We will see how this blog goes – my vision is that it will someday be a book. Know that I certainly would not have survived so well these last 6 years without your love, support and friendship!

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