While we were waiting for the doctor to give us our son's treatment, she took a look at the young man. At first glance, this is the kid in your class that gives you fits, pulls your hair out for you, and loves to be the center of attention. He's the wannabe thug, wearing the Raiders cap, propped up on his forehead so that you can see his fresh haircut. He's representing his Catholicism with the long black rope Rosary hanging from his neck. His gray t-shirt portrays that he's a DGK all day. Even at 11:00 at night, this young man is clearly more concerned with how he looks and how others perceive him than the others in his life. Or is he?
When the family gets in to be seen in triage, the nurse asks the mother what is going on. Instead of responding, she looks at her son. In our area, there is a very high percentage of hispanic residents, and many of them have a hard time with the English Language. In our schools, we have systems in place to support them. Out in the real world, they must fend for themselves. They can get by on the day-to-day duties, but certain cases make it difficult for Spanish speaking families.
His response was nothing like the stereotype that you would expect. As the nurse asked questions, the young man replied in thoughtful, complete and clear sentences. He aged about 10 years at that moment. He probably doesn't do this during class, but this isn't class - it's life. I will make no assumptions about the father in this scenario, but this young man was forced into adulthood by pure human nature. He carried on a professional conversation with a professional to explain how he burned his finger by tossing a burning pan out of the house to avoid the house burning down. He's been in pain for a day and a half and it just got too painful to deal with. Mom looked scared, clinching her purse as her son matured before her eyes, translating his conversation with the nurse as he concurrently continued his medical discussion.
The Physician's Assistant was quick to prescribe some cream to clear up his burn and attended to the younger boy that was there as well. She sent the family home with a list of medications to take and a timeline for them to follow. At this point, the PA wasn't talking to the mother - she was talking to the son.
Call it what you want, but I couldn't help overhearing the conversation (after all, they were 4 feet away from me the entire time) and analyzing it from an educator's perspective. This student probably has homework from 3 or 4 of his classes this weekend, has notes to take, formulas to memorize, and who knows what else is going on. When he gets to school on Tuesday (Monday is MLK day), his teachers aren't going to know that this young man has been playing the role of an adult for a good part of the weekend. Even if dad is in the picture, this 14 year-old boy was forced into adulthood.
We wonder why kids act out and do the attention-grabbing things that they do. Maybe he's the kid that acts out during class, seeks the attention of others, has a hard time respecting certain adults at times, and spaces out during class. Not that we're making excuses for kids, because I feel like they should all have high expectations, but can we empathize with him? He acts out because this is the only time of day where he can be a kid. He seeks the attention of others because he goes home and all of the attention is directed to the care of others. He has a hard time respecting adults because he feels like they're talking down to him. Of course, he's an adult all weekend long. He spaces out during class because his mind isn't on school - it's on the care and stresses of his family.
Maybe I'm way off the mark and this is an isolated incident in this young man's life, but I couldn't thinking about the educational career of this child. Think about your kids on Tuesday (or whenever you go back to work) and realize that some of them, some of the worst of them, are entering adulthood by default at a much faster pace than they should.
By the way, our little one is fast asleep and seems to be recovering well... Long night!