Classroom Cancer

Every class I know of has its Maverick. Last year I dubbed this student ALP and when I was in the 4th grade his name was Wilbur. These are the students whose sole purpose seems to be to disrupt, annoy and torment their teacher and classmates. While their presence is universal, the amount of damage they do can vary from class to class.

In the best case scenario the child is slowly but surely socialized. This is a rare, but special instance. Perhaps the teacher is a seasoned veteran or just especially ingenious. Perhaps the child undergoes some sort of breakthrough (change in home life or special ed designation). Or maybe it's just a miracle.

More commonly the child's effect is simply contained. The student is isolated, socially and/or physically. In my own class I've had Maverick seated by himself for weeks until recently. The reaction to completely isolate a student is a last resort, but is often necessary to avoid the worst case scenario.

In the worst case scenario, the problem child doesn't just cause problems on their own. They infect the students around them and eventually the entire classroom community is contaminated. It can begin with the students' immediate friends or those sitting right near them, but it can certainly snowball until there is a virulent undercurrent of fighting and disrespect. (If this sounds like exaggeration feel free to re-read my posts from October 2007. ALP was the classic classroom cancer.)

The power of a classroom cancer comes to mind lately as I wrestle with the obnoxious (at best) and deeply disrespectful (at worst) misbehavior of Maverick. With a new seating chart I gave him the chance to sit with his classmates at a table. The effects have been unpleasant, but I'm determined to integrate him into the classroom community. I hope that in doing so I don't risk the health of the whole class environment.


amber said…
I have a Maverick in my classroom. I have no idea what to do to get through to this kid. The only thing I can figure out is that he wants as much of my attention as he can get, even if it's mostly attained in a negative way. I've resisted separating him, but it's getting to that point lately...

And, with that, you've been tagged:
Yes, I have one of these in my classroom. I have not separated him from his classmates, but perhaps that's just a reflection of my lack of teacher talent. His behavior is incredibly infectious...I've been dealing with a minimum of one fight per day and several confrontations that I somehow extinguished before they escalated further. Wish I knew all the answers!
You're my hero and my hat's off to you for believing first in integration. Believe me, I've tried, and I agree, it's crucial to overall classroom culture development to not have kids on the outskirts, they have to be integrated. I've got one this year I've been keeping isolated, but your post reinspired me, I'm going to reexamine my seating chart and try to do some clever positioning between the "quiet good girls" at least, although I'm usually hamstrung between the number of kids who can't see, need glasses but can't get them, and all the other varietal neediness, but you've inspired me, I'm going for it. THANK YOU

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