What Happened to Jasmine?
When you look inside a classroom there are some things you can not see….
Jasmine was one of my favorites.
She was one of the shortest, scrawniest children in our second grade classroom. Maybe 45 pounds with her coat on. Her tattered backpack seemed as big as she was. Somehow the tiniest children can hold the most energy, the most emotion, and somehow they manage to get the most compassion from me.
When you peek in our room you may see Jasmine stealthily surveying the classroom for the child most likely to respond the most spiritedly when she gives them the “the finger”, or when she “gives them” a freshly sharpened pencil, in the side of the head, perfectly thrown from twenty feet away.
When Jasmine is unsuccessful in provoking a classmate’s response, she can get really amped. I have heard guttural profanity and I have been horrified to see her hoist a school chair over her head and heave it at a classmate. More surprising, sometimes Jasmine targets someone twice her size. Sometimes she will even taunt teachers, naming one “Young Buck”. Once juking her way around him, beating him to the hallway fire alarm, and crisply setting it off.
Jasmine’s motivation is not related to anything we can see. It’s complicated. What we don’t see is “why”. Why would such a young child with such a lovable smile be so aggressive and confrontational?
Her teachers (including me) often see these behaviors as ‘disruptive’, which they most certainly are. Even seeing her as “bad”.
What none of us see is that the classroom setting is not necessarily related to Jasmine’s actions either. Jasmine’s confrontational behavior can already be in full swing before she even reaches the school. Sometimes she freely enters the courtyard looking for someone to suckerpunch, or to bait by verbally defiling their mother. The “best” target is the one who will respond aggressively. Jasmine wants a fight, not someone who will run. She can’t “release” anything if they run. More than once, Jasmine has physically assaulted a teacher who intercepted her attempts to get physical with a classmate. Our school had no regular nurse and the counselor was on longterm leave. There was not even another room for Jasmine to de-escalate in.