In what’s become a teaching tradition as venerable as my class meetings or ending my nights with scotch on the rocks, it’s now time for me to introduce my classroom characters. With 28 students this year, there are plenty to meet, so forgive me if I do this in installments…

Baby Face: The true heir to ALP (originally AM), Maverick and Mastermind, Baby Face could fool any outside observer as a cute an innocent kid. This is fair I suppose, since he’s only eight years old. That said, he is mischief incarnate and has found plenty of opportunities to cross the line from playfulness to outright bullying. He is of course, my biggest challenge, and tragically a giant vacuum of time and energy in my classroom community.

I don’t resent him though. Nor do I wish he wasn’t in my classroom. He embodies the non-academic challenges of teaching in a high need school. In his short life he has witnessed and experienced things I couldn’t imagine. So, his behavior is an expected response. Some students can’t read or write. Some students can’t control their actions.

It’s funny the way kids like Babyface can turn me into a pull-string doll. “Are you making a good decision right now? Are you doing your best? Can you show me what a 4 (best behavior) looks like?” And later, if my patience has run out, “There are 27 other students here, why should I be spending so much energy asking to stop talking and listen?” I know obviously, that the last question, rhetorical or otherwise, doesn’t accomplish anything other than allowing me to vent, but repeating the same “positive redirects” to no avail get tiring.

So, what’s the next step? I’ve placed him on an individual behavior chart (he reached this step in record time!) and set up regular counseling with the guidance counselor. His table earns extra tallies every time he scores a 3 or 4 on his behavior chart… So far, there’s little improvement, but you can count on me to keep you posted.

The Scowler: I discussed this boy last week, but it’s only fair he gets a proper introduction. In one on one situations he is incredibly sweet, but somewhat sheepish. Short, and a bit rotund, he seems a bit like a cartoon character or stuffed animal brought to life in my classroom. Unfortunately in a whole class setting his disposition is much different. On the rug, he wears a perpetual scowl. It takes considerable effort to even command his attention, and I still haven’t cracked the puzzle of getting him to share his thoughts, even on trivial subjects. In addition his work ethic leaves something to be desired. By that I mean it’s practically nonexistent. Minutes will pass before he’s even considered putting pencil to paper. He needs practically one-on-one support to articulate his ideas and do his work, but clearly in a class of 28 that may be hard to pull off.

Woodstock: This boy doesn’t take his name from the Peanuts character, but rather the 1969 music festival. He really seems to occupy his own reality most of the time. It takes a lot of effort to bring him back down to earth and help him focus. He’s the type of student (strangely there’s always at least one) who will “lose” his pencil not realizing it’s in his notebook or on the floor beneath him. I hope I’m not misinterpreting his personality by relying too much on stereotypes, but I do see him as a very imaginative type. I’m hoping I can find some ways to help him tap into this creativity in a productive way.

I’ll have to introduce you to the other 25 students over the next few weeks. They are definitely sometimes aggravating, but always interesting. I’ve enjoyed getting to know them as the little, complex people that they are so far.In