Tuesday, January 24, 2006

No Mean Child Left Behind

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?


Jen said...

Yes, they've learned that the life habits they have will get them what they want. I don't empathize with students who are not self-reflective enough to understand that their behavior is self defeating in the long run; but it's difficult to illustrate the drawbacks when it seems to be working okay for them in the here and now. I wonder if the question to ask is: how do we help students value making good life choices?

That sounds a bit like educationese, but it's the closest I can get to framing an old, old question: how do we convince teenagers that the way they are living now isn't going to be the best choice for a lifetime?

Streak said...

Just another example of why I read Educat daily.

educat said...

Jen, welcome! I read your blog and it seems we live versions of the same life. I have taught everything you have taught but never at the same time---you are a road warrior, friend!!

...and you're right. If only they'd get these lessons now while they were still in the safe little nest. Learning you are distasteful and mean is a hard thing to learn when supports aren't there to prop you up. I talked about some of this in a comment on greg's blog a while back and now I am thinking it will become a post...but tonight I just got home from a fundraiser and tomorrow I am working Lip Sync and Friday...hell. It never ends does it? When is Spring Break again? Maybe I will write this post then.

Streak, thanks. Coming home and finding people who get my thoughts is the major reason I blog.

Carolyn R. said...

I can't help it- I must speak. You CAN stop this young lady in her tracks. Maybe you've already tried this, your post doesn't say. I would not allow her any leaway unless cleared through you first. You do NOT have to explain yourself to these kids. JUST BE THE BOSS. PLEASE. No need to be angry or anything else, just "This is my classroom and I am the boss." "I'm sorry, I can't allow that today." I'm probably way out of line and I do appreciate that you even FOUND the kid (who hasn't had any boundaries for 16 years!!). But too often those of us also dealing with those kids wish there were more people who could just say, "I'm sorry, this is my space and I'm the boss."

Sorry for the assvice, and good luck.

I don't have a blog so if you hate my comment feel free to email me and say so.

"Ms. Cornelius" said...

I am sorry. The problem is that I got all the nice kids this year. I have created a black hole for the rest of you. Sorry.

I had a class like that last year. Principal refused to do anything. But I kept sending the little witch-- who lacked the hottie features you describe but none of the meanness-- down anyway. I once sent her down twice in ONE DAY. Principal tried to hairy eyeball me. I hairy-eyeballed back. It was fun.

educat said...

Carolyn, hate is a strong word and since you left no email address, I will simply say that we have a difference in style.

I am the boss. Everything in my classroom and my world says so. My name is on the classroom door, my desk is bigger, my chair is cushy, I decorate the place. They know it. Does using a different set of words negate my boss-ness? Nope.

There's just no magic bullet for this. Different people respond differently.

Today worked. No lectures, no complaining. The work was important enough in her eyes. It was our first exam and now she sees that the work is real.

Aerin said...

This sounds sappy, but mean kids hurt my heart. Particularly since they seem to expend so much effort being mean when being nice is (usually) so much easier.

Anonymous said...

I came back to check on the Chicky, and I had a little time to read around your blog. I love it.

Thanks for keeping the WTM board updated on Jill.