Yes, this is what I am dealing with at the moment. Forrest, Crystal, Andrew, and Jose have been playing dumb pretty badly for a good portion of our construction for the addition. This is what they use to pull on homework when they went to public school. They did it at school too, but it isn't as obvious when you're in a classroom full of kids and mom isn't looking. I knew they were doing it at times and that they didn't care to get a bad grade, but at the moment it is really obnoxious. (Please don't tell them that I am even a little annoyed, because I am faking it really good right now.)
They have personalities that were shaped by foster care. They do as little as they can get by with of anything that requires effort. They also do as much as they can get by with of whatever they shouldn't do. It really isn't a good combination unless they are hoping to live in cardboard boxes down by the river as their life time goal! I've dealt with it before. Denzell is a good example of it. I fought hard to get him past it for many years and now he is doing much better. He is 15 and does have goals. He works hard at a lot of things. That gives me hope for the others!
Today I told the four of them that I would like for them to write a page in their journals about what is going on. I told them that it needed to include why they are pretending to be dumb. They admit that it is a game some of the time. Its the "why" that is hard to get them to talk about. I have found over the years that if they have to "write" about it then you are more likely to find out the "why".
Jose did the best job of writing about it really. The other three wrote about the same "whys" really, but not as articulate and well. The truth is that they want people to think they are "dumb". They say that their goal is for people to "feel bad" for them. Jose even went as far as to say that he was hoping that if he faked being dumb long enough then I would put him back a grade level so the work would be easier. They all acknowledged in their writing that they knew what they were doing was wrong and that they "should have known" that they wouldn't get by with it.
After writing about it, they all made some progress. They had a lot of papers to correct! Andrew was the funniest about it. I was talking to my grandmother on the phone while I graded his work. I checked the first page and he only missed three out of around 40 problems. As I was nearing the end he says "I know I shouldn't play dumb mom and I'm sorry". I knew at that very moment that I was headed for the next round of "dumb". I could hear in his voice that he was hoping I'd say 'oh Andrew its ok, just try your best from now on'. He was hoping that then I would see the next page and be disappointed that he had lied again. I instead said "Well Andrew, we will talk about that after I grade your math".
I was correct unfortunately. The next page of math was very much the same and within the first two lines he was already missing more than half of them. I handed it back to him and he looked very disappointed that I wasn't surprised.
I've never really wanted anyone to think I was dumb. I can't imagine being lazy enough to want people to think I was dumb just so I wouldn't have to do the work. I also think that "dumb" is somehow safe to them. There aren't expectations so much. There aren't rewards for doing well. There aren't priveleges extra because you completed it and can take a small break before the next activity if you want.
We've got a ways to go, but we will all make it. I remember when Denzell was about Forrest's age, I had to tell him that I'd get a box for him to try out during the next rain. The look on his face is one that I will always remember. lol It was amazing how quick he got some stuff done. haha