You know how you believe you can sense trouble by the way someone looks?
But then again, don’t judge a book by its cover.
Trust your gut.
Go with your instincts.
Everybody deserves a second chance.
The first day that “Abel” came to the studio, I looked into his eyes and forecasted trouble.
He came with 2 other boys, “Louis” and “Joe” who had been to the studio several times before, although not regulars or even frequent visitors.
Everyone gets introduced to the rules and the studio. Some of the frequent visitors help the newbies go through the first day routine—learning routines.
This kid ignored me for the most part; not just me, but what I said to him. I had to call him out several times to look at me when I spoke to him so that I could see that he was understanding what I was saying. I chalked it up to being overwhelmed by all the stuff and kids in the studio.
Various days the trio of boys come and various offenses occur, mainly instigated by Abel but probably enticed by the other two. The ignoring continues, I catch him mimicking me, a mountain of materials left on the table announces what A has wasted and not returned to their places. I talk to his mom one day when she returns to get his younger sister--Disrespeta, reglas sencillo -She understood, and said she would punish him. I just pleaded with her to make sure he understood the rules.
After a particularly grievous offense-not just not cleaning up, or using too many resources, but he grabs another child’s art and destroys it—I want to ban him from the studio for a day or two, but since their attendance in voluntary and unpredictable, I decide not to tell him in advance that he can’t come back tomorrow. I want it to hurt and I want him to feel a loss so I decide to not tell him until he comes back.
When he returns (fortunately within a couple of days) I tell him he is not allowed in the studio that day. He pleads and begs, but I see the same emptiness in his eyes. He stays outside with the other kids who are waiting to come into the studio. He steals the chalk, he draws on the the non-chalkboard part of the wall. I tell him to leave the property, but he stays. He provokes the other kids, causes trouble. The other kids beckon me outside to report what A has done. When he finally runs off, I look directly at the other two of the trio and I tell them “choose your friends carefully, people know you by your friends”.
Some of the regular kids in the studio ask why Abel is allowed in the studio. When they ask me this I feel I have let them down. When A was in the studio the energy was up-but not in a good way. The time that the kids had in the studio was disrupted. I want to make the right decision. I tell them I want to give everybody a chance to make the right decisions before I make the necessary decisions.
A week or so later, and I haven’t seen Abel, nor have I seen Louis, but Joe has been back in the studio working quietly and productively as he did before the tidal wave of destruction that was Abel came to the studio. Joe has even stayed late to do some extra work for me and earn his ticket for extra time in the studio.
Choose you friends wisely, because people will know you by your friends.
I want to tell Joe that I think he has made some good decisions lately, even if it is only concerning coming to the studio.
I can continue to hope that the lessons learned at the Casa spill over into bigger picture of life and affect them and empower them in positive ways.
Do you ever choose to judge from the gut the first time you meet someone? What about times when you were very wrong?
What would you do about a trouble maker?
The other day I held up a container of 4 Sharpies in front of the kids at the studio. I said in my best Spanish “A few days ago I put out a brand new pack of Sharpies. Together with the old ones we had over 14 in this container. Where did they all go?” Most of the kids glanced up while I was talking and continued to work. Two of them quietly and almost regretfully named Selena. They said she had a bag of them at home. I asked 8 year old Selena if she knew where they were and she denied it. Another child piped in and named Selena. Selena! I pleaded with her —The plumones live here in the studio, this is their home! Selena flashed me her adorable cheeky grin and laughed at the thought Sharpies living somewhere. Without reprimand, I tell her to bring them back, and her older sister offers to go with to make sure she brings them all.
When they return I am shocked at the the gallon size zipper bag full of gel pens and Sharpies that were clearly from the studio. Selena had even written her name on each Sharpie cap....with a Sharpie.
How did I not see the materials leaving the studio?
Selena is 8 years old and apparently very sly.
I tell her “All the materials are here for you, but they live here in the studio. If I let everybody take materials home, what will be left here for you to use to make art?”
I wonder if I need to check their bags, their shorts, their pockets when they leave.
I wonder if I need to take a more punitive approach.
For now, this works.
Most of these kids have almost nothing. I want to teach ownership and responsibility in a compassionate way.
I don’t want to shame them or punish them for wanting, but I do want it to be clear that it is wrong to take things that aren’t theirs; to be clear about stealing.
How do I deal with a sticky fingered child who comes from nothing and only wants a little something?
Who are all these kids? And how in the world did I end up in Mexico?
I am an artist and art therapist with a passion to change the the lives of kids in Cozumel, Mexico through the power of creating art.
If you are love art and kids join me on this exciting journey. I’m sharing it all here; every hope, every uncertain moment, every sweaty step, and each small victory. —anita yeh norrie