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Field Notes Week 5_3/5: Biased Responses to "Good" vs. "Bad" apples?

jcb2013's picture
  • I arrived at 9:00am (earlier than usual) because my lead teacher was running the open house leaving only the aide in the classroom.  I came early to help the aide manage the classroom.
  • In the past I have discussed the certain children who regularly display behavioral issues, and who have been labeled “bad apples.”  For them the classroom environment has become somewhat of a biased environment in response to all of their actions. 
    • For example, this morning when I arrived the children were just arriving and the teacher was not in the room because she was meeting with parents during an open house at the school.  The only adults in the room were myself, and the class aide.  Two students who have had behavioral issues in the past repeatedly kept getting reprimanded by the aide, even though they were not being disruptive to any measureable amount.  One student was sent to time out in another room, while another was sent to the counselor for help on the assignment. 
      • I found this to be very interesting.  I felt that I could have handled the two student’s behavior in the class. I felt that their behavior was manageable. I did not interfere when the aide removed them from the room because I did not feel as a student teacher it was my place to interfere with her decisions (out of respect), even if I did disagree with them.  I felt that incident demonstrated the bias that exists once a student is labeled a “bad apple.”  Once a student is given this label, they have to do very little to get reprimanded, in response to just the slightest hint of distracting or adverse behavior adults try to prevent (my assumption) the behavior from escalating by punishing them before they can act out any further.
      • I would have liked to have given the students the opportunity to start off on the right foot.  I felt that their limited behavior disruption was caused by the transition into the classroom, and the start of a new activity. Transition times are difficult for most kindergarteners, but the history associated with these students caused negative attention to already focus on them regardless of their behavior.
  • I also observed adult response bias in the opposite direction.  I found that student’s who are thought of as “good students” because of their academic performance are often given more chances to demonstrate good behavior.  One of the student in my class is a girl named Stacy.  Stacy is one of the best students in the class (if not the best) academically.  She is often called on, and most of the time gets her response right. 
    • Through my observation I have found that she is very fidgety, and distracting to other students because of this.  I believe that she is naturally a very smart students, and therefore doesn’t need to pay attention to a great extent to do well on assignments or to participate.  She also doesn’t always follow instructions.  For example, today she was sitting in her seat while the other students were sitting on the floor in a circle.  She began rocking the chair back and forth.  I asked her to stop, and within 30 seconds of my request she continued to do it again.  I then told her to stop for a second time. Within 3 minutes of that order she had flipped over her chair because she had started rocking in back and forth again.  While sitting in the chair for approximately 15 minutes she flipped the chair over twice.
      • If this had been one of the “bad apples” they would have been severely reprimanded (yelled at aggressively), and sent out of the classroom after the first time that the chair flipped over.  Instead, this student was told to sit still repeatedly, and did not receive any other reprimand.  During that time multiple other students were given checks (a tally system), and made to stay in for recess because they had called out during the lesson.  I found it shocking that a student calling out (in response to questions posed during the lesson) were made to stay in for recess, while a student who wouldn’t sit still, and flipped their chair 2 was not made to stay in, and barely reprimanded.
      • I feel that this is because she performs well academically, and the teachers do not have to worry about her paying attention.  Even when she does not pay attention she still performs well on her assignments, therefore, they choose to not focus their energy on her.  I also feel that because she does well, they have grown to like her (the aide and teacher have both told me how much they like her, and how great of a student she is).  I find that her behavior is often overlooked because she can still succeed even with disruptions.
  • Questions to consider:
    • How does bias towards students within the classroom influence student’s behavior? Does allowing some students to get away with certain behavior while other students do not get away with far less create a confusing environment to young students?
    • How can teachers avoid becoming biased in their response to particular students behavior (well “good apples” or “bad apples”)?
    • Is it a student teachers right or responsibility to point out or discuss these inequalities with their supervisors? How can we go about creating a productive and respectful dialogue?
    • How do we avoid labeling students all together? Is there anything beneficial about labeling students?