May 30, 2023 in Life Coaching

Is it better to be a smart-ass of a dumb ass?

This is about kindness and serving others and how sometimes things work out even when they don't seem to...

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“Is it better to be a smart-ass or a dumb ass?”

I was asked this once by a middle school student. I know that we were not supposed to favor students, (and I was the first person to “bust” him when he did wrong) but I really liked this kid. He was tall (except for in elementary school, most of the students were taller than I was.) and lanky and wore his hair in a mohawk. He was good natured and loved “The Clash.” He was in what we called a behavior classroom. That meant he had behavior problems…

Back to the quote, I answered “Well, it’s better not to be an ass at all, but given the choice, I would say it’s always better to be smart.” Then we laughed for a few minutes, he looked at me and said “Ok” and sauntered off.  I have always wondered what happened to him. The kids were always “sizing” us up and trying to find a weakness exploit. Even then there was a “code.”

I always tried to find a way to connect with them and usually it was through music. I’d find out what groups they liked and listen to them and then talk to the kids about it.

I just knew this kid would make it. Under his bravado, I saw his heart and it was a good one. The teacher of the room was mean spirited at best. He would push them sometimes and they would act out, then they would have consequences for misbehavior. My coworker and I would take the ones he picked on the most and try and get them out of the classroom as much as possible. We would take them out for walks or invent tasks for them to do, like running a note to the office. I’ll never forget the time when it was a hot spring, and we were in a brick building. The boys were sweating and getting irritable (frankly so was I), on top of that their hormones were running high. I went over and started to open the windows to cool us all off a bit.

“Mrs. Oxley (my previous married name), what on earth do you think you are doing?” he said.

“Umm I am opening the windows” I said.(Not trying to be an ass of any kind)

“Well, I don’t want to be responsible for them being left open, if you forget to close them. It’s a security issue and people could break in.” (the windows were quite high, and it was unlikely, and the other classroom aide shook her head, she had worked in the classroom for a while and later said they sweated it out and just hoped nothing bad would happen).

“Mr. Jones, I will take full responsibility, if I forget to close them.”

“You are not the one who will get a talking to, from the office, Mrs. Oxley.”

“Okay, I will go to the office and tell them it is me who is opening the windows and if I forget to close them, I will take the heat.”

All of this was going on in a room filled with hot, irritable teenaged boys-who have behavior problems. I was a research assistant in college; on temperature and mood, and I remembered the outcome. The last thing that we would want would be chaos in the classroom.

So, I stood up and said excuse me and said I would talk to the office personnel and let them know that I would be the one responsible if the window was open. In my head this is a completely stupid conversation because these kids are human beings even if they have issues.

Mr. Jones wanted to “zap” me on my way out. So, before I had a chance to do it, he reminded me to push in my chair which I did.  Then I went to the office (which has air conditioning, while the rest of the school did not). I waited to talk to the Principal’s Assistant. I let them know that I was going to open the window and then shut it before I left work.  She said “ok” and looked at me as if I lost my mind. She asked what classroom I was in and then she said “Jones, right?” I said “Yes” she said to do what I needed to do and smiled. I smiled and went back. Mr. Jones did not like me after that, but then again, he didn’t like me much before then either.

I thought that risking been written up for insubordination might just be worth it. It wasn’t like they could get through the window; it was kindness and no one else would stand for them because no one cared.

 If fights started, I doubt I could stop them or reach the phone on time. So, I had tried to help and be a little proactive. It worked out, I knew it would because most of the principal’s left Special Ed. Kids to the teachers, because they didn’t want to deal with the kids, or they creeped them out or whatever.  Before I forget, I did remember to shut the windows, just like I did every day after that until school let out. Yes, he made my life hell after that but the next year the program was shut down and I was sent to the High School in a similar classroom…but that’s another story and an example of how things work out even when they don’t seem to be…




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