Paper for Tomorrow: Values and Reactions to Student Behavior

A paper I wrote for class tomorrow...sensored for the web.

I always have the voice of the masses in my head when dealing with teenagers. They tell me that teenagers are annoying and difficult, some are beyond hope, some cannot be tolerated, some will never succeed, and some are less than desirable. Even worse is when students believe these voices themselves and then these messages come from their mouths. “I can’t get good grades. I’ve tried doing all my homework and being good in class but it doesn’t help. I just can’t do this.” Sometimes when dealing with difficult students I consider the rationalizations for the boxes many people put youth in. Often I think maybe this student is impossible or can never be coaxed to care, but I hope to never adopt that idea.

My goal is to always see teenagers as humans who are learning and often trapped in unfortunate circumstances. I believe that the unfortunate circumstances that many are in will mold them to be what they do not want to be, even if they are never aware of this contradiction and process. So when a student is acting out in class my first instinct may be frustration and punishment, but I know that the classroom and that student will benefit more from the question one-on-one “What do you think is causing this issue?”

That has worked some, but right now I have one student that is not responding to this in a manner than makes my life easier. His case is something deeper and probably has to do with the fact that he has a nearly perfect older brother. I talked to him after school the other day, but no improvement yet.

Students who are quiet scare me, not with a real fear, but because they are easy to forget about and often are the result of deep insecurities and sometimes secrets. I have two students like this who also have pretty major cognitive disabilities and so teachers don’t bother most of the time. I don’t agree with that, but I find it hard to reach all the students in my classes.

I have some to a recent conclusion that I like the “bad” kids more than the “good” kids. This is partly because I don’t think the “bad” kids are really all that bad; it is a figment of teachers’ imaginations and the response of tough kids to not being liked by teachers. I like the “bad” kids because they have energy, they speak up, they rebel, they are responsive to teachers who care about them, they like to be involved, and they like to have fun. I have found that the “good” kids are a little too sure of themselves and self-righteous at times. The “good” kids can also be mean to less fortunate kids and less likely to actually participate in discussions or come up with interesting questions.

I value motivation, energy, aliveness, humor, engagement, inquiry, questioning, and seeing students believe in themselves, especially when they have not before. I think most of my students can see that I believe we need to work together to make class successful and I need their input to make it happen. I have a relationship with some kids and even when I kick them out of class they still know I care about them. But I still don’t feel like I have reached them all and some I don’t quite know what to do with.