The Good, the Bad, the Not-so-Bad
First a bit of background:
After I graduated with my science degree I spent six months with the Naval Reserve. After that, I accepted a six month job as a youth counselor (essentially a guard) at a youth detention facility. It was a casual position which meant that I would be laid off after completing 120 shifts. I was OK with that as I had already planned to go back to university to complete a BEd. The detention centre was not designed for violent offenders but there was no other facility in which to place boys awaiting trial. While I was there, two boys were detained and awaiting trial for murder. As they were both segrated from the rest of the population, I actually spent a lot of shifts supervising them, one-on-one.
And now the story …..
While enrolled in the BEd programme my second student-teaching placement was at a junior high school. My cooperating teacher taught grade 8 and 9 math and science. There were two classes at each grade level. The two grade 8 classes were noticeably different, and among the staff they were referred to as the good grade 8’s and the bad grade 8’s. The students knew that they had been labelled.
During the first days of my first week, I simply observed the classes. By the end of the week I started teaching while being monitored by my cooperating teacher. At the end of each day he would offer feedback and suggestions. Midway through the second week, he told me that he was comfortable leaving me alone and that I would be taking over his classes. If I needed him he would be just down the hall. I was good with that.
Just prior to my first class alone with the bad grade 8’s a student approached my desk. He leaned ahead and spoke.
“Do you know, Mr. Caines, that we are the bad grade 8’s? Do you think you can handle us?” His body language suggested that he was trying to increase my anxiety level.
“Really?”, I answered. “What makes you bad?”
“Well, we often don’t do what we are told, and we talk when we should be listening.”
“Wow, really? Anything else?”
“Ah … sometimes we throw things around the room.”
“Hmmm … well thanks for the heads-up.” I leaned closer to him. “You know, I just finished working at the Youth Detention Centre. I worked with a 15-year-old boy who shot his parents. I worked with another young fellow who stabbed an 81-year-old woman to death during a botched break-and-enter. I worked with boys who, if they had the opportunity, could tear you apart. I have experienced bad and you’re not it. So why don’t you go back to your desk and get ready for class.”
He quietly turned and returned to his seat. He looked like he had been deflated.
Yeah, collectively they weren’t as cooperative as the other grade 8 class, but in the grand scheme of things, and on the bad-scale, they hardly registered.
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