I have a class right now who is mean. They're not all mean. I would venture to guess that most of them have souls, most of those not even dark evil souls. But the collective personality is mean. Usually, when a class personality is mean, you can isolate one or two of them as the source of all evil and concentrate efforts on them. Sometimes that fixes the evil and peace can reign.
Today, I think I found the source of all darkness.
She's pretty, goregous even. Blonde hair and clear blue eyes. The boys in the class are clearly her pawns and so it's easy to watch her venom spread.
I first figured it out when she "traded seats" with a young man today. He was out on a hall pass, she moves his stuff to sit in his seat. When I call her on it, she assures me she had approval. In walks hall pass boy who looks quizzically at Meangirl. "Mean," I ask, "did you really trade seats with him?". "Oh yeah. He just doesn't know it yet." and she flashes her blinding white grin at the boy, who suddenly doesn't mind his new seat.
She laughs. She laughs loud whenever anyone trips, stutters or even sneezes and somehow she was always "laughing at someone else". She yells---yells--- out loud when a question doesn't meet her approval "This question is gay!!!!" (Does the question really love other questions, Mean?).
I need a new approach for Mean. Today, I would ask her what she was doing. I'd ask her if she meant to be mean. It's not working, there's either an excuse for her ugly ways or she somehow justifies her evil with a supposed happy outcome ("See, she's my friend! I can talk to her that way!"). I plan to reapproach tomorrow with more nice.
Mean classes are the hardest of all. The best stuff I do shows my soul. Telling stories that relate to literature show you who I am and as incapable as a 16 year old is of truly hurting me, it sure doesn't want me to unpack more of myself. So this class gets cheated. Both because of time I waste making the kids play nice and because you don't play with the puppy that bites you.
All Things Considered ran a piece yesterday from a teacher with some mean kids. It's here. She's getting what she needs from them, but she wonders if her kids are being cheated as well. Has a kid really learned anything at all when their education doesn't improve them at all?