The Story of Booger Boy

I stumbled across this article on the NY Times web site and for me it hit close to home. As I've chronicled here classroom management has been my greatest challenge all year. Yet, while I've grown a thick skin and an immunity to the disrespect and attitude directed towards me, the kids' behavior towards one another is the most frustrating of all. It seems almost nonstop that one student is insulting another - telling them to shut up, calling them fat, stupid, or some other childish, but no less virulent, remark. It usually starts with something trivial and ends as soon as they realize I'm listening.

In the case of one student however it just doesn't end. The case of "Booger Boy (BB)" is really a tragic one. Way back in October, ALP (see also) decided he didn't like BB. It didn't really matter why. Allegedly he was picking his nose and eating it. Hence the name. But long after ALP was kicked out of my class and eventually the school, the nickname and the bullying persists. In reading about Billy Wolfe in "A Boy the Bullies Love to Beat Up, Repeatedly" I relived my own feelings of frustration and helplessness.

I know that the responsibility lies with me. To provide a safe classroom environment is the most basic duty of a teacher. And for months I have essentially failed at that. BB has endured verbal and physical abuse all school year and only recently have I seen success in stopping it. The descriptions of Billy echo BB's own behavior:
"Some teachers think he’s a sweet kid; others think he is easily distracted, occasionally disruptive, even disrespectful. He has received a few suspensions for misbehavior, though none for bullying.

Judging by school records, at least one official seems to think Billy contributes to the trouble that swirls around him. For example, Billy and the boy who punched him at the bus stop had exchanged words and shoves a few days earlier."

Who can be surprised when the victim turns to aggression? When he lacks motivation and quite simply gives up on school altogether? In recent months BB's attendance has plummeted. His mom admits he just doesn't want to come to school, because he knows what's waiting for him. What hurt most was when I heard him say to a classmate, "Watch out, Booger Boy coming through." What started as a stupid label had turned into an identity, a justification for complete ostracism.

I've been meaning to introduce Booger Boy for some time now. I guess I hesitated because it's also a story that admits one of my greatest failures as a teacher. I have watched him change from a sweet kid, incredibly eager to please almost to a fault. But over time he just withdrew and the frustration he feels towards his classmates has been channeled into disrespect towards me.

There's still three months left in the year. Three months to turn around this miniature Stanford prison experiment around. Three months to undo my own naivete that things would somehow resolve themselves and counteract the inaction of my administration. Three months to dissolve a label and BB regain his identity.


Popular Posts