Vera, Vera, my little gawky bird. Six-year-old Vera, ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder), knew how to play the power game. She entered and said the Pledge in a monotone, (I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands. One nation under God - explained your God or no God- 'Americanish'. Our little community was explained over time.) checked her 'To Do' list with a disgruntled, "I don't do subtraction." She pretended to enjoy the computer, sat quietly appearing not wanting to be seen, worked until asked to change to a subject of her choice, but controlled the environment.
It was time to have her interact with another person. Harold was my chosen 'victim':) He was excited about reading "The Little Red Hen". Vera did not want to read, let alone with a boy, so I sat between them as Harold's page-turner. "Vera," I directed, "We will make your first oral reading easy. Your job will be to read 'the' as silly as you want every time Harold points to it." He cheerfully read. I praised his word sounding-out skills. About the third page, Vera whispered in my ear, "If you make me read one more 'the', I will stick my tongue so far down your throat that it will hurt." (Remember, she is only six years old.)
I spoke not a word, calmly helped her off her chair, nodded toward the door while making eye contact with my assistant who escorted Vera out the door. Perplexed by my silence, Vera walked out, sat on the chair and watched me through the window as I mutely went back to turning pages for Harold. At the end of the story, I walked to the door to talk with Vera and her nurse. Vera had realized she had forfeited the game of school with inappropriate language. If she could resolve to play the "game of school life" she would be allowed to re-enter; otherwise she would stay outside the door. She was given a laminated pictorial paper for problem solving. I explained that in Dr.K's classroom we practiced school manners and learned new skills through cooperation and sharing. This teacher likes to teach.
Vera was welcome anytime to learn her academic subjects with minimal interaction with other students, but that no interaction was unacceptable. In a half-hour she decided she would whisper new (acceptable) words when working and talking with other students, and tell me when she was tired of reading. (Paul Galdone's "The Little Red Hen" , also, showed what happens to 'lazy' little girls and boys with the "Not I' said the cat, "Not I" said the dog, and "Not I" said the mouse. "He that does not work, neither shall he eat" is hard to swallow.)
Silent discourse with respect was silently felt by Vera. (Minnesota Civility Project, Civil
Discourse) supported me all these years. Change had begun.
Kaye is a teacher and author of multiple works including Valerie Valentine Visits Vincent Vampire