I get the students ready to write. We have our packets and a prompt. We have pens and pencils. We have two minutes on the timer because today we'll write four short bursts that become something like an essay or a poem. I ask, "we ready to write?" and a kid says, "I'm not feeling this today. I ain't doing it." He's waiting for me to say he has to, waiting for me to push back. Instead, I become a ghost and say, "I know what you mean."
We write. Four two-minute bursts. That kid isn't feeling the writing. He ain't doing it. We keep going. I end up writing about him. It comes out great. I should thank him, but I don't. He would think I'm mocking him.
After writing, I ask each person the same question: "Is there something you wrote today that you can read to us?" I give two answers from which we choose: either, "yes, and here it is" or "not today." The second answer is to leave the door open for next time. These students are reluctant to share. They aren't feeling it. They ain't doing it. I invite and give them a way to decline without deciding they'll never ever share.
When I get to that kid I say, "I know you weren't feeling up to writing, so I won't mess with you by asking if you want to read." I turn to the next kid: "Is there something you wrote today that you can read to us?" He says, "not today."
After sharing, we move to reading books. Everyone but the kid grabs their book, fills out the box on their writing packet listing the author's name, book title, and their starting page number. They begin reading. I encourage the kid to grab his book knowing what he'll say. "I'm not feeling reading. I ain't doing it." I almost smile. He stares into his phone and keeps showing it to someone next to him.
Quietly I say, "I'm going to find you a place to chill so we can keep reading and you can do your thing." He starts to get upset about being sent out of class, but my tone is light, friendly, earnest. "Come on," I say. "There's a place right out here..."
He's gone now. I could have gotten in his face, told him he had to read, but I wasn't feeling like getting a fight started. I ain't doing that. I'm feeling something else, something almost good. I don't want to get in the way of that.
Out there, he's probably still on his phone. When I left him I said, "thank you for coming with me and being cool." He looked to see if I was messing with him and saw that I wasn't. He shrugged. I don't know exactly why, but I thanked him again. Maybe it was just because I was feeling it.