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A Change of Heart

Within the first five minutes of the first day of class, I made eye contact with DJ…just before he rolled them in a dramatic expression of “I don’t care about this”.  I knew in that moment that he was going to be one of my favorite challenges.  During the presentation DJ answered all the questions that were asked, quickly and intelligently.  However, after each answer that he gave he would mumble “this is stupid” under his breath.  In complete resistance, he put his headphones in during the activity.  He refused to participate despite various efforts.

On the second week, DJ seemed genuinely shocked that I remembered who he was and that I was excited to welcome him to class.  Just as before, he engaged in the questions asked during the presentation with both intelligence and resistance.  He refused the activity again and retreated to the corner to put his headphones in.  I tried to talk to DJ about the activity, but he said that he didn’t care about the activity, the program, school, or people in general as he turned his music up.  The teacher spoke to me about how she feels he does not absorb anything anyone says to him.  The teacher relayed that DJ never does any of the work for his teachers.  However, I had a feeling that DJ is absorbing everything even when it appears like he isn’t.

The following week was filled with a discussion and presentation about healthy futures and negative futures.  During the activity, the students were to pick out the top four futures they most want to achieve and the top four futures they most want to avoid.  Once they picked those futures out and reflected on why they chose those specific ones, they had to think of an adult they trust to talk to about their choices.  I went up to DJ just as he was putting his headphones in.  I asked him to hear me out.  Surprisingly, he put his headphones down.  DJ said that he was not going to do the worksheet.  I relayed to DJ that I understood and was ok with him not filling out the worksheet if he agreed to at least talk to me about it.  DJ mentioned that he does not care about his future.  He said he does not care about anything.  We picked through conversation looking for things that DJ cares about.  I then asked him if he has an adult he trusts enough to talk to about his future.  DJ said that he does not trust any adults.  He relayed that adults have always let him down.  I emphasized the importance of connecting with a trustworthy adult to go to when guidance is needed or just when he needs a listening ear.  DJ was quiet for a minute and then said he was done discussing the worksheet and his future.

I was talking with the Community in Schools social worker the following week.  I was informing her about my experiences with DJ when the social worker told me that he showed up in her office for the first time at the end of the school day after we discussed the importance of finding a trusted adult.  She mentioned that he has been in her office every day since then.  She relayed that he has allowed her to help him on catching up on his school work.

I was thrilled to see that the lesson did have a positive impact on DJ.  It was a good feeling to see that, because of his participation in All Stars, DJ was more open to the idea to connect with a partner resource to better his future.  We are now on week 7 of the All Stars program and DJ is doing amazing!  He participates in both the discussions and the activities.  He even goes beyond and helps pass out papers and collects them.  The teacher is shocked by his improvement in class and in the program.  It is apparent that DJ is putting more thought into what he wants out of life and is taking the necessary strives to achieve it.

Written by Allison Pruitt