The detached student is like an iceberg floating in the ocean. He or she presents a chilly exterior, keeping much hidden from view, even from those who would help them.
Alfie was one such student. He was 13 when he first came to the school. He experienced a range of problems, many of which seemed to relate back to the enormous difficulty he seemed to experience in getting to school on time in the morning. School staff tried positive reinforcement and various punishments to no avail. There was a shared sense among staff that they were just not getting through to Alfie. He was an enigma. Punishment and rewards were met with the same blank indifference. It wasn’t that Alfie was defiant or aggressive; he was simply unresponsive. The staff were exasperated but determined not to give up. Sooner or later they would make a breakthrough—they hoped. Eventually their patience paid off.
For want of anything better, a pattern had emerged whereby, when he was late for school, Alfie was required to spend his morning break in detention with a senior member of staff, in the member of staffs office. One of the purposes of these detentions was to work with Alfie on the development of a plan of action to deal with the lateness problem. It was during one of these detentions when the member of staff was surprised at a sudden breach in Alfie’s wall of apathy.
The cause of this event was a country and western song that happened to be playing in the office on this occasion. Alfie groaned, saying: ‘I hate this music!’ His animated disgust did not subside until the offending song had finished. From this point on country and western CDs became part of the staff member’s office equipment and when Alfie was late, he spent his breaktime in the room to the sound of Garth Brooks, and similar country and western heroes. When it was suggested that the detention might be extended to compulsory attendance at line-dancing classes after school, Alfie was very rarely late again.