Thursday, October 15, 2009

"She Doesn't Like Anything"

Lena is a very quiet girl. And when I say quiet, I mean too quiet. Like something isn't right.

I've been suspecting for a couple of weeks that Lena is too quiet. I taught her sister a couple of years ago, and her sister is very quiet. And fragile. I got the counseling team involved with Lena's sister, and I'm pretty close to putting them on Lena's case too. I've seen Lena come to school more than once in clothes that aren't clean and don't fit, and she sometimes seems like she hasn't washed in a while. She's pleasant enough if you talk to her, or if you smile at her, she'll smile back. But other than that, her affect is flat. She does her work but avoids writing anything personal, and says maybe five words a day.

Today my students were supposed to interview each other for a writing piece they're working on. As you can imagine, most thirteen-year-olds love this assignment. The only thing they love more than talking is talking about themselves. They wrote their questions and immediately commenced their Barbara Walters acts. I'd asked the students to focus their questions on a single topic, an activity or sport or subject that their partner enjoyed. The students began to interrogate each other about basketball, karate, video games, salsa dance, whatever. All of them except Lena, that is.

Caroline, the girl I'd asked to be Lena's partner, raised her hand shortly after the interviews started. "Miss Eyre," she said, "Lena doesn't like anything."

"What do you mean?" I asked Lena.

"She doesn't like anything," Caroline repeated.

"I was asking Lena," I said, looking at Lena and giving her an encouraging smile. "Lena, what do you mean, you don't like anything?"

She shrugged and said nothing.

I looked at Caroline. "Did you ask her?"

"Yeah," Caroline said. "She doesn't play any sports. She doesn't have any hobbies. She doesn't like school."

"Lena, you're a very good student," I said. "What's your best subject?"

"Math," she whispered.

"Why don't you ask her about math?" I said.

Caroline shrugged. "You want me to ask you about math?" she said to Lena.

Lena shrugged.
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