It's tremendously easy to know when a child has given up on himself. Not attending class, just talking back, homework goes unanswered, making a farce of everything you say. Their eyes will glaze, their bodies will turn as soft and mushy as worms, their heads will swell into boulders that they must rest on tables. Their physical states may be in the classrooms but their spirits are wandering in other realms. The symptoms of a child who has given up are as startling and obvious as the afternoon sun.
Really, it isn't easy to teach such kids. Let's not even talk about lessons on the niceties of grammar or chemical bonding. They do not want to learn. They want attention, from anyone, from everyone. Their classmate sitting next to them, the friend they just quarreled with next door, the teacher trying to get them to pick up a pen. They want solutions to their problems. Otherwise, they want to be left alone, quiet in their stew of destructive rage.
Children who've given up, they're tangled in their thoughts and problems. They do not come from ideal families. Perhaps Mama has an incurable disease or Papa had passed away. They may have parents who are divorced, are separating or threatening each other with it. Can you imagine how unsafe the world would feel, if your dad screams at your mum about divorce over dinner? There's no attention from their parents, no approval anywhere. No sense of security. They may even need to worry about where their next meals are coming from. Compared to the very real fears of surviving, homework counts for nothing.
They aren't easy to speak to. Frowning at every smile you give, mocking your every word, snapping at every gesture of goodwill. Sometimes, you feel like breaking down, just because these children are hurting you, the way they've been hurt, cutting you down with every word, shuffle and glance.
But you're not allowed to give up on the child. You're the adult, the teacher, the fabled creature that is supposed to save drying starfishes on the beach.
You're not allowed to despair (at least, not openly). Because that'll make you a quitter, just like the child. But it's so easy to give up, to walk away. So easy. There's only so much one can take. Being firm but not fierce, that is difficult. But not as difficult as being persistent.