“My mama always said, life was like a box of chocolates—you never know what you’re gonna get.” –Forrest Gump (Paramount Pictures, 1994)

I think mama was on to something, with one minor exception: I would argue that Adrian is like a box of chocolates—you never know what you’re gonna get. As is the case with many people who demonstrate psychotic tendencies, there is often no rhyme, reason, or pattern to why they do what they do. Their actions are sporadic, their words are irrational, and their mind-sets are untraceable. Take this past week, for example…

The first chocolate square: Adrian had his third major meltdown since joining our classroom. It started when I held him out of PE for his poor behavior. When I asked him to get a book and read out loud to me, he grew defiant and began making excuses in order to stall as much time as possible. Things culminated when I finally had to call our principal and suspend him because he was refusing to cooperate. Adrian began crying and pleading his case. When he saw that it was getting him nowhere, he threw his book and punched his desk. I spoke softly to him, trying to convince him to calm down. The more I coaxed, the louder he got. At one point, he clenched his fist, drew back his arm as if to swing at me, and screamed “NOOO!” five or six times as loud as he could muster (inching closer and closer to my desk with each outburst). He then crossed the room and punched a filing cabinet twice, continuing to scream his displeasure at me. Eventually, several members of our administration made it into the classroom and deescalated the situation. It took thirty minutes, but Adrian would eventually walk up to me, shake my hand, apologize, and ask my forgiveness.

The second chocolate square: After his apology, I thought Adrian and I were all right. Apparently, that thinking was one-sided. Adrian was required to report to our classroom each morning before serving his three-day suspension (which was really just three days in ISS due to restrictions we have on suspending him out-of-school). Every time he walked into class, he refused to look at me or speak to me. The few times I could get any words out of him, he immediately grew furious and blamed me for sending him to ISS. The whole week, he was determined to avoid me as much as possible. So much for thinking we were all right.

The third chocolate square: Once he had finished all three days in ISS, Adrian returned to the classroom upbeat and cheerful. He had apparently decided to set aside the grudge he was harboring toward me. The entire day, he responded appropriately, took notes, completed assignments, and initiated conversations with me about what he was going to do all weekend. There was no sign that he had ever been upset with me. What’s that quote about all good things must come to an end? And by end, they must mean thirty minutes later…

The fourth chocolate square: At the end of the day, I took our students outside to pick up trash. We always do RAK’s (random acts of kindness) anyway, and one of our principals had requested that we help clean up the yard. Adrian was in good spirits, joking and laughing and even dancing around the grass as he worked. But then he randomly decided that he was finished cleaning and that he didn’t want to do anything else. Of course, I held him accountable and let him know that we weren’t finished until all the trash was picked up. And of course, he let me know that they weren’t supposed to be doing “community service” and that I wasn’t treating them fairly. He started screaming “NOOO!” at me over and over and over again. He threw/punched his trash into the bag I was holding open for him, ripping it in the process. He punted an ant hill and began punching a metal electric power box that was sticking out of the ground. Our administration was called, and they walked a crying Adrian back inside.

The fifth chocolate square: Fifteen minutes later, we were back in the classroom painting a canvas with an art therapist that comes in once a week to work with the students. Adrian was asking questions, giggling, and working cheerfully with his classmates as if he hadn’t just pitched a temper tantrum outside. Umm, what?

 Hot-cold, up-down, laughing-screaming, flip of the switch, difference of night and day, 0-60 in 2.5 seconds—all. week. long. If anything, there’s never a dull moment when Adrian walks through the door. You simply have no idea what kind of chocolate you are biting into that day.

(For the record, I prefer the dark chocolate ones with caramel filling.)

-WMM

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