Written By: Hans Appel
I’ll never forget Pete. Pete was a freckle faced, tall thin young man with thick coke bottle glasses. He had buck teeth, a goofy smile, and an impish disregard for following the rules. He was completely disinterested in traditional education and took painstaking opportunities to avoid work. Prior to middle school, he had been ‘gifted’ the labels of ADHD, Tourettes, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Learning Disabled, Behavior Problem, and general pain in the butt. He had tried counseling and medications throughout elementary school with little to no success. His parents were excruciatingly demanding, critical, and combative with their son’s school system. In nearly 18 years working in education, Pete was one of the most challenging students, I have ever worked with. If I’m being honest his mere name mentioned in some teacher circles in the Richland School District (RSD) brings about grunts and groans before eventually giving way to tiny smiles. Surviving Pete and his family was a badge of honor for some educators who had their patience, commitment, and forgiveness tested on a regular basis.
My first encounter with Pete, was in the spring of his 5th grade year as his elementary school led a transition meeting to get him “all set up for success in middle school.” I distinctly remember him openly explaining to all of us (probably 10 adults in attendance) that there was “no point in middle school” because he was “going to play video games for a living.” It’s the same type of grandiose proclamations we’ve all heard: “I’m gonna play in the NFL,” “I’m gonna marry someone rich” “I’m gonna be a Youtube star.” One time, I even had someone say to me: “I don’t need school cuz I’m gonna be a drug dealer.” (I CRINGE typing that last sentence). A story for another time.
In all transparency, I NEVER thought Pete would go on to play video games for a living. Back then, I’m not even sure I knew that was a potential career path. Certainly, I wanted to believe that Pete was capable of success. However, at 13 years old, I couldn’t fathom what success might look like for him.
In his time with us, Pete struggled academically, socially, and behaviorally EVERYDAY. We tried support classes, remedial classes, and no classes. We implemented behavior plans, academic plans and 504/IEP plans. In 3 years, we probably had dozens of parent meetings, staffings, and brainstorming sessions. While I could write about some of the crazy days I had with Pete and his family (there were plenty), there’s no need to do that here. You had or currently have a Pete in your school. He or she may look or sound slightly different. Probably goes by a different name but I’m confident you recognize the at-risk signs of despair. Your team of educators have identified him or her as a kid, who you fear, for many reasons, may not make it. You worry about him or her dropping out, passing state testing, and even getting mixed up into unhealthy or unsafe choices. But beyond school, you worry about his or her ability to function in society. Will he or she be capable of forming relationships or holding down a job? There’s little doubt that your Pete, keeps you and your educational team up at night, as you theorize ideas, solutions, or options to support him or her.
Award Winning Culture was created by Hans and Jennifer Appel with the sole purpose of creating an educational mindset of Positive INTENTIONALITY and ACTION; with a daily mantra to make our sphere of influence stronger through Character, Excellence, and Community. Part of AWC's mission is to highlight outstanding educators, companies, and resources that support an Award Winning Culture. Both Jennifer and Hans work at Enterprise Middle School aka Wildcat Nation. Wildcat Nation received the 2018 ASCD Whole Child Award in Washington, for its award winning culture and the 2018 Global "Class Act Award" for Kindness.