Behind many judgments we make of "bad" kids, there is a story.
For the most part, kids don't WANT to misbehave; there is usually something else going on behind the scenes. Sometimes as teachers we don't have the luxury of stopping our teaching and planning for dozens of kids in order to figure out what is really going on. As a now half time teacher, half time AP, I have been able to dig in deeper to at least a few cases this year to find out what is really going on.
For one particular student, we were convinced that he was being defiant and disrespectful to adults. We had to give him instructions and reminders constantly, and even then he wasn't doing what we asked until the fourth or fifth time.
Finally, after a meeting with a desperate and sad mom, it occurred to our principal that we needed to look at his history and at his past IEPs to see if we were missing something. Indeed we were - we were missing several things. The new findings brought to light some of the very real issues this student is having, including a lack of understanding verbal directions in two languages, and a fear of being picked on by his peers.
With this information in hand, I saw the student in a new light. Instead of a defiant kid who refused to listen to, even walked away from, adults, I saw a child who is confused and trying to figure out the world around him despite his huge challenges. And I could see the change in him; instead of a kid who avoided me and other adults because he thought we hated him, he began looking me and others in the eye and responding, and even at times smiling. I know we still have a lot of teaching to do with this student, and a lot to figure out, but I feel much more hopeful than I did 2 weeks ago.
Tomorrow, we reconvene his team to make official changes that will hopefully get the student the help and services he really needs. I hope that his parents will feel some relief and hope for his educational future, rather than being worried, anxious or upset over all the negative phone calls they have gotten.
I only wish all educators had the time and resources to really delve into each student's profile like we did. I wish WE had the time and resources to do so with each student that comes through our middle school doors. Flipping the narrative one at a time is better than continuing with the same old story, though.