Blog Your Blessings: The Bad Kids

This week's blessing comes from the most difficult class of children I teach. This class of 28 seventh-graders includes seven or eight obnoxious, ungrateful, and downright mean-spirited children who refuse to learn and to cooperate so that the other kids can learn. Like my other classes, I see them twice a week for lessons in reading and writing. I search high and low for reading material that is both current and interesting for them.

Without fail, these angry kids do everything they can to keep the lesson from getting off the ground. They talk, they talk back, they interrupt, they throw papers, they break the pencils I give them and throw them at me or at other students. They make jokes about every kind of sex you can imagine, violence against each other, and the shoes on my feet.

I call their homes and their mothers promise to have their fathers or some other relative beat them. I send them to the office; they are suspended and return after a few days unchanged. I attempt to work on-on-one with them; they stop working when I leave them to attempt the work for themselves so I can work with another student. Since September, I have worked hard to discipline this bunch.

To be sure, there are good kids in this group As hell broke loose on Thursday, I watched the class. I stopped teaching and watched. After the principal came in, silenced them for 20 seconds, and promised suspensions to anyone who misbehaved, they continued misbehaving. Then, the kids who want to learn had their hands up, asked for feedback, took it, and kept working. Others asked to move away from the bad element. A handful of others did as little as possible. I continued teaching the ones who would be taught. Good things happened in this miniature madhouse.

I am wondering why some kids out and out reject kindness. I am wondering how it is these kids--whose behavior is not unique to my classroom and whose parents openly acknowledge they can't keep track of which teacher called when--are permitted the opportunity to bring the quality of education down for the kids who want to succeed.

My mind turns to the veterans I know, to the decent people who work hard and do right as a matter of course, to the good kids whose economic poverty places them in the company of kids who seem bereft of decency, and I cry with frustration and disappointment.

This weekly grief is a blessing even as it breaks my heart because it can and does break my heart. It is a blessing because it has me wondering. How can decency prevail?

Blog Your BlessingsJustify Full


  1. Anonymous6:37 PM

    I remember all too well kids like that. Gladly I wasnt one of them.

    Great blog you have here, its a great read!

  2. Sadly, some of these kids suffer from toxic parents. Some may just be burgeoning sociopaths. sad that they are not segregated where they can be handled more effectively and so as to let the others learn. Bless you, Sandy, for the work you do. Aloha-

  3. wow do you have stamina to not give up on your teaching situation. I remember being frustrated with "normal" middle class kids. the misbehaving ones seem to be very angry at society and unfortunately take it out on you as a leader/teacher figure. hang in there-they need your kindness and example. do any of them like to do art or graffiti projects and then write about it? just a thought.

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  5. Oh this has to be so hard for you as a teacher! They are definitely blessed to have you in their lives even if they won't know that for years!

  6. Anonymous11:30 PM

    Wow. I feel for ya and for it. My husband recently left counseling in the school system for some proactive teaching of meditation teens. Seems hard to change once they get that bad at that age in that setting. I wish you some rest and renewal.

  7. Anonymous12:38 AM

    My kids have been in classes like this and it is not fun for anyone... probably not even the bad kids. I say draw the line; and send them off one by one in no particular order to the principals as he was "the line". Of course I am an artist; not a teacher. ;-)
    (I am horribly behind in blogging)

  8. You have a challenging job for sure!

  9. I had a class like that when I taught 4th grade. It was impossible to really teach the kids who wanted to learn. You have such a positive attitude to make them your blessing!

    Mine is posted but won't be up until later Saturday night. I do ahve another post now tho.

  10. I believe that your blessing us that you believe that as a teacher you can make a difference, and that there will always be some hope in these students.

  11. A friend of mine was telling me about the year she was a teachers aide in a kindergarten class. She "fell" for a little boy that was, no doubt, a tiny terror. She came to the conclusion that this little fellow thought that if you liked him you would hit him. Of course she didn't ever even touch him because of school rules. It has preyed on her mind for some time. She doesn't help with this class any more. It was too draining for her. She is one of those "super Moms" that has two wonderful well adjusted daughters. It just made her so sad and opened her eyes to some of the rougher side of the world.

    I admire you for carrying on. The world and those children that want to do more with their lives need dedicated souls such as you. Even the horrible ones will learn a thing or two. They just won't let you see it.

    God bless you and give you strength.

  12. I had a friend who taught in a situation like yours for years(28). She had one particular student who came up to her and said, "My momma said I don't have to do anything you tell me to do." She resigned the next day and now sells real estate.

  13. You know that you're teaching so much more than language skills. You're teaching the children in your class, both those who pay attention and those who don't, to forge ahead even when it's difficult (you needn't let outside influences stop your progression)...what will and will not be tolerated (I can't take charge of another person unless they allow me too. Therefore they are the one with the power to determine the relationship)

    Many of the lessons you teach are subtle. Even a subtle breeze will re-arrange your hair. Even the softest sunlight can bring redness to pink cheeks. It does it in more time that a gale force wind or a bright, relentless sun... but, it does it just the same.

    I know these words are empty on days when you come home exhausted feeling rejected by students you would love, if only they would allow it. If only... three short, incredibly sad syllables.

    I hurt for you, my friend. I am in awe that you continue to give. Throw your pearls so to speak.
    But, you are teaching. They are learning. And who knows, perhaps the lessons they learn will serve them as well as, or better than, grammer.
    Please don't let hope surrender itself to discouragement for too long. It's always folly to "dis" courage. Courage conquers bluster.

    I want to say I love you. I don't know you... but, the feeling keeps welling up in me.

  14. Thanks, friends, for stopping here with your own stories and insights. You have helped me tremendously.

    After days like the one I described above, I often come home and log on just to touch base with your good and kind selves through your blogs. Often, that's how I start the day. You are a source of goodness and strength.

  15. Anonymous4:21 PM

    Dear Sandy... I'm so sorry. I do truly know how you are feeling. Granted, I taught first grade and didn't have more than 3 or 4 really hard nuts at one time.

    I found that if I could really sit with them one on one and talk about what was bothering them and most importantly, make them understand that I really liked them and wanted only to help, they eventually softened.

    But it was hell until we could reach that understanding. We also had a great Learning Disabilities teacher and Social Worker as well as Psychologist on staff so the support really helped. We worked out Behavioral Plans and tied them to the home. It also helped when students knew I had a working, friendly relationship with their parents.

    But then... there are those poor children that unfortunately have been hurt and damaged so badly that it's nearly impossible to reach them in a big class.

    They are so lucky to have you, Sandy. Thank you for being the kind of caring teacher that we need more of. I'll be thinking about you.

  16. I agree with Mom/Caryn - sometimes these types of kids actually pay attention without seeming to, as it would destroy their street cred. It feels like shouting into the wind, but some of it actually makes more of a difference than you'd suspect.

  17. You have such a good heart Sandy, and patience as I could not cope with your job. You are probably making more of a difference with at least a couple of them then you will ever know.


  18. I was kind of a disruptive kid in some classes... AS AN ADULT of over forty now, I can honestly say that a series of about five wee-wee poor teachers starting in Grade 5 didn't help... but I did get there! My blessing tomorrow is about those teachers that really inspired me though... and indeed, it was those teachers who managed to impart to me the passion of their subject... my bet, knowing this blog, is you'd fall into that category!

  19. Anonymous8:19 PM

    I'm grateful to know that these kids have a teacher that cares so much, even if they themselves cannot appreciate it.

  20. Anonymous10:41 AM

    Sandy, I dare say that in some cases you are the ONLY positive influence these children see and really do not know how to respond. No, I am not taking up for them, but having seen situations where this is the case, it is just a thought. I am so glad that you are enough to hang in there.

  21. I remember classes with too many kids like you've described here ... and feel for you along with the kids in the group who do want to learn. Like you ... I wonder how decency can prevail at times until I remind myself that love overcomes all things. The challenge is to remain loving in the face of such chaotic and angry behavior ... and you seem to find a way.
    Hugs and blessings,

  22. a former substitute teacher, former special needs teacher assistant, and former public school teacher, your post sounds too familiar. I ran into a lot of kids who refuse direction. Suspension does them no good.

    Nine times out of ten, the kids are bringing their baggage from home into your classroom. I had one kid in my class who at the time was a junior. He was such a punk. He acted out all the time, made fun of a special needs kid in class, etc. I would constantly turn him in. No support from the office. I had to deal with it. I would literally put the kid in "time out" in another teacher's classroom when the rest of the class was doing something else because I didn't want him to be a distraction. But anyway, sure enough, the kid himself at one time said that he often did things to get his parents' attention. Serious cry for help there.

  23. I remember one student I had... I spoke to his mother often about him, until one day she just said, "Don't call me anymore, you bother me and the kid ain't worth it."

    I don't think that kid ever had a chance.


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