Mean Kids

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5 thoughts on “Mean Kids”

  1. I agree with just about everything Ben said, but I personally would start by talking to one of the ringleaders. I would guess that one of them is the real leader and the other just backs her up in everything she says. I wouldn’t make it confrontational, but an objective analysis of what is going on in class, telling her that you would appreciate her being more positive and engaged so that the others won’t be afraid of speaking up. And letting her know that if you have to, you will go to her parents and the administration, because this IS bullying, however subtle it may seem. I once had a class of 36 students with very much the same situation. I tried assigned seats and had a very sweet cooperative girl come to me after class with tears in her eyes because I had put her next to the head witch. With luck, you may have a genuine conversation with the girl and learn why she feels she has to act that way. Any psychologist will tell you that a person who has to denigrate others is actually a very insecure person. If you can make her feel safe, she may not feel that it’s necessary to attack the rest of the world.
    Laurie, as usual, has the answer. With love,

  2. Yes and this is where jobs may come in. I made the ringleader of a group of girls in the class I’ve been filming for this group into a main actor and I also call her the classroom “manager” and it has turned her completely around. I ask her in front of the class questions like if we should do this or that now or what percentage we should read that week and questions like that. I do that all the time. It’s like she’s a Professor 1 or 2 but not for academics, but for all those other decisions we need to make every day.

    These kids really do take their jobs seriously. Now that group of four junior girls has gone from being the worst group in class to the best. If your kid knows after a talk that her grade will go way up bc of the extra credit from the jobs she does and bc jGR will work for her instead of against her, and bc you need her to help you, it could be the turning point. What judy says here is key:

    …if you can make her feel safe, she may not feel that it’s necessary to attack….

    The point being is that action, not requests, is needed here. Hopefully positive action, bc I think that the model we are all about in storytelling, something impossible with the grammar book, is that what we are really doing is not fighting kids, but building community.

    This is new to kids like your ringleader and so we have to show them how safe they are and how they can contribute. That is why I have put so much energy into the jobs this year. With the other pieces we have, it all goes to making us the authority in the classroom, hiring and jokingly firing, getting kids working as members of the community (jobs) and in terms of rigor (jGR) and breaking those cells of resistance that so drain the health of the overall group.

  3. I agree. You cannot build a community around a textbook, especially when so many books by their very nature alienate and divide kids into categories like smart and stupid, compliant and rebellious, throwing tons of irrelevant and uninteresting vocabulary words and cultural facts at them. They either suck it up, neatly spit it out, and get an A, or if they are wondering why bother, they will get a bad grade and be made to feel stupid, and then they’ll find other ways to feel important and respected in the classroom, or just tune out. Taking control of the classroom away from the textbook scope and sequence, and assigning jobs seem like very effective ways of breaking this cycle.

  4. I found the following quote from a holocaust survivor, addressed to teachers. (Here is the most fitting place I could find on a quick glance to put this quote). Refreshingly, I found the quote on a school district’s webpage.

    “Dear Teacher,

    I am a survivor of a concentration camp.

    My eyes saw what no man should witness:

    Gas chambers built by LEARNED engineers

    Children poisoned by EDUCATED physicians

    Infants killed by TRAINED nurses

    Women and babies shot and burned by HIGH SCHOOL and COLLEGE graduates.

    So I am suspicious of education.

    My request is: Help your students become more human.

    Your efforts must never produce learned monsters, skilled psychopaths, educated Eichmanns.

    Reading, writing and arithmetic are important only if they serve to make our children more humane.”

    –Haim Ginott, Holocaust survivor, 1972

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