Wednesday, November 26, 2008

the talk

"the world is terrible!" says one of my students. well, technically, he's not one of my students. but he knows me, just like all sixth graders in six land know me. "the world is terrible!" this is after all of the students go for lunch. something's been bothering him all day long. it's come to a head, and my teacher (i've come to say "my teacher" for my supervising teacher--it's much easier to say) isn't there. i guess it's now or never.

"what's wrong?" i ask.
"everything!" he answers.
what's everything? i think. "what's everything?"
"everything!" he says.

i realize this is going to become a guessing game, so i have to pull something out my butt. i asked about his grades, if he's disappointed in them. he says yes. but that's not it. is it family? parents yell at you about grades? no. is it about your brother? i hit it. yes.

the conversation goes on this way, and i glean some of the information from student. he's got an older brother, who he looks up to. he wrote about his brother in a creative piece a while ago. he's a light in an otherwise bleak dark spot, it seems. now they're not speaking. maybe i should've gone deeper, but i know they're both not calling each other. i haven't gotten into the root of the problem, but i start to give advice based on my own experience. how sometimes the other person doesn't realize they're causing you pain by not talking. sometimes both parties don't realize what's important; they forget. all it needs is a little push--an email, a call--from one person to remind the other of what's important.

i guessed that was the problem. i tell this to my sister, a social worker (she's just come home for thanksgiving) and she told me that was the wrong thing to do. or, at least, on a legal standpoint, it wasn't something i should've done. i can't tell them to do something because what if it causes problems; what if i had guessed wrong and there was a real good reason they weren't speaking to each other? the best thing i could ever say is to have him talk to his parents to see if it would be ok to call the brother. it's a family issue, keep it within the family, i suppose. it's not my call. the kid's only a sixth grader, afterall. the best thing i could every do is simply listen.

what a tough situation to be in. it's a good lesson, to learn, i suppose. to just keep my mouth shut and listen instead of give advice. sometimes no advice is best. maybe moreso on a legal standpoint. but then again, is it ok to give advice? or who am i to tell a kid what to do, or what they should do? i'm leaning towards following my sister on this one. she's always been the wiser one about these kinds of things, anyway. but i put it out to the public: to advise or not advise?

1 comment:

Alison Fincher said...

I'm trying to learn to listen rather than advise--apparently people usually figure out their own solutions if you ask open questions so they can think 'out-loud' to you.

That being said, I object to the idea that you shouldn't give advice where you ought to for fear of legal consequences. Do the right thing.