Bad Kids

Author: Madeline Burgin

Bad kids. Troublemakers. The kids in time-out. I'm here to say there is no such thing. All kids have an unlimited potential. In every classroom there are children who might fall into this stereotype. However, someone told me recently that these are the children who need the most help. Not the most studious, not the "good kids", but the "bad kids". I want to tell you about two of them.

Zack* is in Pre-K at Easton Elementary. Out of the nine children, he is the one who most often has to be disciplined and it is hard to work with him, but it was only hard because I made it that way. I tried to fit him into a mold of what a "good student"; should be: still, quiet, and on task. I felt like I tried to fit him to that mold due my own past educational experiences, but ArtistCorps has taught me to meet him where he is. Match their energy. Zack just wants to move. So, I need to adapt the Wolf Method to let him move. I spread the cards so he can wiggle and dance to sort the sounds that we are working on that day. After I adjusted my teaching style, we were able to work well with one another and just have fun!

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By working with Zack, it helped me later on when we had a new student: Benjamin*. Benjamin's teacher took us aside to explain that he had problems in another class so had been transferred into hers. She explained that he does not work well in groups and has an attention span of 1-2 minutes (a child his age typically has around 4-5 minutes). However, over the course of a few weeks, and by allowing him to bring a puppet or instrument along, we were able to keep him on task for his individual lessons. Last week, as I was working with another student, Benjamin wanted my attention, so I gave him a task: make me a meal from the dramatic play center and he did. It kept his attention and allowed me to pay full attention to the child who I was working with. Afterward, I got to eat a delicious pretend salad.

I feel like Zack and Benjamin have really shown me what it takes to teach: compassion and empathy. They taught me not to get lost in assumptions or to stick with our lesson plans even if they're not working. They taught me to stay in the moment and adapt to each individual child's needs.

*names have been changed

June 01, 2023