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I am mighty frustrated today by my interactions with my Goth student friend in second period at the high school. My charge today, from the teacher I work with, was to help this gentleman get his essay accomplished since he’d missed a lot of school due to a suspension he fulfilled much of last week.

He wasn’t having it though. No, no interest in working on the essay. His preference, which is the case most days, is to sleep during class. The three adults in the room often, in turn, urge him to wake up. We hand him pens to write with, a book to read, the outline of the essay that was due last week. The other students are working independently, revising their essays, reading the next text or completing a study guide. I offer my help to them, too.

But when I suggest to my Goth student that he and I work on the essay, he says he’d rather read. I say I’d rather write. He says he’d rather read. Okay, I say, read it is. But I feel the pressure from the teacher who asked me to help him get the essay accomplished. I feel the pressure from the student who legitimately chooses to read instead. After all, the entire class is given the same choice, do one of the three tasks at hand: essay, read, study guide.

And he did read, a bit. He read and he dozed, and he read some more.

It’s never a good idea to get in a battle of wills with a student. It is his choice to fail the class. I cannot make him do anything, I can only offer my support. When class is done the teacher, the aide, and me, despite our frustration, appreciate that he did some reading today.

In the end, I gather the spirit of what is supposed to happen here and tell him that maybe tomorrow we can work on the essay together.

He says, yeah, maybe tomorrow.