That’s the Boy I Used to Be

In the Heritage Community it is impossible to capture the miracles and life changing experiences that occur each day. In some cases these moments are documented and discussed internally. We wanted to share an experience that happened recently at school. Below is the content of an internal email that was shared by one of our teachers with the students’ treatment team. The students name has been changed.

Today I want to share an experience I had during school with Chandler. Chandler is someone who we all hear about because of his poor behaviors. I may even be one of the more outspoken ones but today was enlightening for me.

I’ve been thinking lately that my personal path to helping Chandler as his academic staff might be to just show him the most love I can muster, but that’s easier said than done for sure and frankly I didn’t really want to because I find him to be such a rude person to so many people. He had a pretty poor day all day today, which culminated in me having to pull him from his 5th period class for picking on another student. I tried to send him to study hall but he wouldn’t go. He stood in the hall and in front of a few other staff and a couple of students yelled at me over and over, “You always treat me like s***! You treat everyone else nice but you treat me like s***!” That was not the best feeling and I was pretty irritated with him, but he did eventually go to study hall.

Thoughtful young man in the living room

Twenty minutes later or so Chandler wanted to come up and process with me. Again, I didn’t really want to. But, I said he could and we went outside to talk on the porch at school. I was expecting his regular arguments and denial and was prepared for quite the discussion, but when we stepped outside I decided in that moment that I was going to be extra gentle with him.

We sat down and instead of mentioning his poor behavior today I said, “Chandler, do you have any friends here?” He got agitated and said, “What do you mean do I have friends here? Who cares? I don’t want friends at Heritage. I want friends at home where I can be very selective about them. I would never do the things that the other kids here have done. I’m going to wait till I get home to make friends.” I said again, “Chandler, do you have any friends here?” He yelled, “YES, OKAY?! I have people I’m friendly with here. Well, I’m kind of mean to them but they’re kind of my friends I guess.” I said a third time, “Chandler, do you have any friends here?” He said, “FINE! NO, I DON’T,” and I said, “Do you want me to help you so you can make friends here? You’ll never make friends at home if you can’t learn the skills to do it here. Do you agree?” He said he did and that opened up a discussion about Chandler becoming the kind of person people would want to be friends with.

I asked Chandler to tell me ten words which he thinks best describe him. He listed off a bunch of words (all negative) including: angry, upset, vengeful, provocative (as in he provokes people), and depressed. I asked him to tell me why he was depressed and he opened up to me in a major way about how he felt when his parents split up. He told me he changed a lot when that happened and that he actually used to be a lot different. I asked him to tell me some positive words about himself and he said, “I don’t think there’s anything positive about me anymore.” I replied, “Well can I tell you something positive I noticed about you?” He said I could and I told him, “Do you remember the day a while ago when you came out of math class and were really worried about Mrs. Pinkard because she was having such a hard day due to the behavior of other boys? You came out of your class and asked me ‘Do you think she’ll be okay? She’s really sad. I’m worried about her and I really hope she’s going to be okay.’ I remember being so pleasantly surprised when you said that. I thought, ‘THIS is the real Chandler, THIS is the Chandler I want to see more of. THIS is a really sweet boy.'”

Chandler’s response to my telling him that really struck my heart. When I told him he was a ‘really sweet boy’ he actually started crying and wiping his eyes. He said, “That’s the boy I used to be.”

I told Chandler I believed him because I had seen a glimpse of that side of him. I asked him if he wanted to get back to that and he said he did. I told him from now on I’m going to try to help him fill his time at school with a lot more positive thoughts and interactions and that hopefully the more we focus on the positive hopefully the negative will run out of room and start to go away. He agreed to the plan and seemed relieved to hear it, then he made his way back to class.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring with Chandler. I don’t expect his behaviors to change right away, and I don’t expect to not get frustrated with him. That said, today I saw a much softer, sweeter and more vulnerable side to Chandler and it warmed my heart to see it. I want to see more of it, so I’m going to do everything I can to help him find himself again.



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