He was no longer saying the mantra. He didn’t even stand up or acknowledge that everyone else was moving on around him.
I could feel him peeling himself away from us. Away from our class. I reached out. Despite my desire to help, no matter how careful I was, the more I reached out to pull him back inside the circle of voices, the further I pushed him over the edge.
It wasn’t until the other students got fed up with his distance, with his disruption that there was a breakthrough.
It began with, “Mrs. Rush are you going to let him have it? Because if you don’t, I think I might explode at him.”
I paused. Smiled. Remained centered. And answered, “You know, I’ve learned that I have nothing to gain by losing it, by lecturing, by getting angry. I cannot control his behavior any more than you can. He has to make the choice. I am confident he will come around. However, this is your class too. And, in the meantime, if you have something to say, please do so. Do not get yourself in trouble in the process, though. You know where the line is and how not to cross it.”
She sighed, “No, I am ok.”
I continued class.
He continued being disruptive. Widening the chasm between where he was and where we were.
She seethed. And burst. She turned on him, “Why are you being so disrespectful? Mrs. Rush is not asking that much of you and you are just being plain rude. For no reason.”
A light bulb went on over her head in that moment. I could almost hear her last words, for no reason, echo through her head.
“Well, I mean,” she sputtered, “if there is something going on at home and you are upset, well then that’s cool, I get it, but if not, there is no reason to be acting like this.”
He suddenly became a flower bending towards the sunlight of her words. Perhaps the chasm hadn’t shrunk, but something like a bridge was beginning to be formed across it.
She read his face. She saw straight into his heart. She got him to talk.
On Tuesday, he stepped up to lead the mantra.