At first sight, I knew that Alex was trouble. He was a 5 foot 5 inch, 115 pound anger-filled wiseass. When I met him for the first time, in a guidance counselors office, I had no preconceptions about him. I didn’t know his story. I didn’t have a scale by which to gage his behavior, but I saw in his eyes that defiant spark that I was so familiar with. He watched me closely as I reached to shake his hand, his hesitation more of a reflex than an affront. I came to learn quickly that he was constantly on-guard around adults, as his normal interaction with them was one-sided and adversarial; adults reacting to his bad behavior.
Alex had taunted and threatened another boy in class bringing the boy to tears which resulted in a trip to the nurses office. Alex was a happenstance bully. He struck when an opening presented itself, and on this day, the object of his wrath made the mistake of siding with another student in accusing Alex of throwing pencils into the thin, cardboard plied suspended ceiling. The victim, bothered by Alex and his threats, broke down. I asked Alex what had happened and he told me, “nothin’.” ”Nothin’, than we’re all set, you can leave,” I told him. He cocked his head and stood perfectly still. “What? Where? I don’t understand.”
Sit down I commanded. He did and we met, for the first time. Our journey together had begun.