Six years ago, I was teaching science at the Butler Center in Westboro, MA. It was a program for convicted felons with severe behavioral and emotional issues. When I walked into my classroom six years ago, this drawing was waiting for me on the dry erase board:
Somehow, this student knew I always wanted to be on the cover of a hockey video game. I like the shamrock tattoo, love the enhanced muscles, and approve of the BC 96 short sleeve jersey. It certainly was a nice way to start the school day, and I’m glad I took a picture of it.
These students didn’t always share such artistic pleasantries with me. More often than creating a kind drawing, they were painting expletives after I sent them out of the classroom. But, I never took it personally.
Although many of these students had done horrible things to other people (over half were sex offenders), they all were victims before they landed themselves in Butler. It was a very difficult thing to do, but you couldn’t judge them for what they had done or feel bad for them because of how they had been mistreated.
My solution to this was bonding with them through our common interests – movies, TV shows, sports, and video games. I think talking to them about “normal” things helped us both forget what kind of a program we were in, even if it was only for a few minutes before class. Besides, no matter what environment I’m in, I’m going to quote Star Wars, The Simpsons, and Family Guy.
I don’t think I changed any of the Butler students’ lives, but I still have a drawing one of them made for me – and that certainly means something…