When I started as a Site Coordinator, the first child I had to deescalate really challenged me. She gave me and our staff a hard time. I was hearing things from teachers, administration, the Principal and I was really thinking we might need to pull her out of LA’s BEST. But, I quickly learned that this is not the LA’s BEST way. I spoke to my supervisor and she said, “Absolutely not! This kid needs the most help and we are not giving up on her.”
I had to completely change my strategy and I began to think: how am I going to build a relationship with T? Every day I made sure I greeted T, (name shortened to respect privacy) and gave her responsibility. Little by little, we gained each other’s trust. We started having honest conversations about the real meaning behind her behavior. She told me her mom was alone and worked a lot, and basically what T needed most was more connection. It took over a year to build my relationship with T; there were ups-and-downs but I developed empathy towards her situation.
One day she came to school wearing flip flops. I said, “You need to wear closed-toe shoes.” and she said “These are the only shoes I have.” So I let her wear the flip flops. When her mom came I gave her a pair of the leftover TOMS shoes that we received as a donation and told her that T said she had no other shoes. Looking embarrassed and pained, her mom confessed to me that their economic situation was very difficult.
Every day she felt like she was failing as a parent. She was getting phone calls because of T’s behavior, but as soon as I started working with T, the calls became less and less. She was so grateful and I’ll never forget what she said to me: “Jess, you make me feel like I am not a single parent.”
The next day T came to me with excitement, saying “Look at my new shoes!” Of course I pretended that I didn’t know about them and said “Oh wow they are so cool! “ She looked at me, smiling, and said “I know you helped get them for me.” That gesture meant so much to both T and her mom.
T came back a year later after she left elementary school to show me her report card and to catch up. It’s my full circle story. I was so ready to not put in the work with this child, but I am so glad I did. There are so many T’s everywhere. You really need to get to know the reason behind the behavior and be a person they can trust. Trust has to be an exchange. That’s the LA’s BEST way.