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A "bad apple" story

transitfan's picture

Before class, Ms. Presley said “we have a special friend in this class.” Michael's home-life is terrible (she didn't get more detailed then that) and he is new this year. He is the only one in the school not allowed to leave the classroom to use the bathroom, and he has been known to leave and not come back. (I wonder when he uses the bathroom.) He will say he is sick, but he isn't really sick. At the beginning of the year, the faculty tried being really nice to him, but didn't make any progress in his behavior. Now they are trying being really tough on him, and Ms. Presley wanted to give me a heads-up that I might see “tough love.”

During a lot of the class, Michael is being silly but the other students call him out on it, telling him to stop doing something every couple minutes. At one point, a student says to another “stop being the teacher” which is good advice, but Michael does in fact seem to be on a different, lower, level of power than the rest of the class somehow. Eventually he crawls over to the corner of the room. Ms. Presley directs him to come back to the circle with everyone else. He says something like “I'm trying to live an isolated existence from society” using similarly philosophical words. He comes back to the circle for a minute and repeats his dedication to isolation from society to another student.

“That's nice,” the other student says. He crawls away again and is called back.

In the dancing activity he seems more engaged; he dances around and even does the part where he and a partner make a bridge and everyone else walks under.

In the last activity where students are sitting on the floor he lies down; I ask him to sit up and he does so.

Outside the classroom as the students leave, Ms. Presley tells Michael she saw that he was trying harder. To me, it seemed like he was no more challenging than challenging students in the other classes. The problem seemed to be more with other students who had somewhat turned a cold-shoulder to him.

I wonder if I would have felt differently had I seem him over the course of the year. Maybe the teachers' toughness (perhaps in the same vein as Pinder in Harlem Children's Zone) is working.

On the other hand, I felt like overall this class had a different feel than other classes I have seen in a negative way, and I think it is at least in part due to Michael's presence in it. In Harlem Childrens Zone, there was a feeling that the "bad apples" were poisoning the rest of the school. But at Boatley, I think what was happening was the opposite. Students didn't seem to be poisoned directly by Michael, but rather from apparently hearing so much disclipine talk in their classes, some of them had begun to be disclipinarians themselves, "playing teacher" and casting off one of their classmates.