Slice of Life: “Bad Kid” Rewards

Student 1: Aye miss, you know that when you’re bad, you get to know all the people?
Me: …huh?
Student 1: Yuh, like, when you a bad kid, you know the high rank people. You pass them in the hall and they know you, most of the time they gotchu. And it’s because you acted bad and get in trouble – they all know me.
Student 2: Uh, that’s not a good thing?
Student 1: It is because they know me.
Student 2: But it’s not a good thing that they know you? Why would you want them to know you? It’s better to stay out of trouble and for those “high rank” to not know you.

This was a fleeting classroom conversation that I’ve not been able to erase from my mind. What do we reward? Isn’t this a similar concept in so many school buildings?

While I might celebrate the potential relationship-building opportunity for the “bad kid,” as my student would say, what about the “not bad” kid? What opportunities are we missing in building capacity, in ensuring all students are being seen?

It is so often the goal of the stereotypically average child to coast, to stay under the radar. It comes as a surprise to most (if you know me!) that I was incredibly shy and quiet throughout my K-12 career. My goal was to remain unseen and make sure my teachers only needed my name for attendance and to return my assignments back to me.

I was an average, in the middle student – how might have my school experience been different if I had access to “high rank” people in the building (you know, like teachers and APs) without needing to be on either side of the spectrum: “bad kid” or valedictorian?

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I’m participating in Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life weekly challenge.

9 thoughts on “Slice of Life: “Bad Kid” Rewards

  1. Lainie Levin says:

    I enjoyed reading this, Britt. You know, I had a short stint in kindergarten where I found it rewarding to be the “bad kid.” When I misbehaved, the teacher sent me to the time-out spot. Which, as it turns out, just happened to be located in the classroom library…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. hardly an artist says:

    Interesting concept- who has access to relationships based on outward behaviors. Some “sad kids” get access to the counselor. Some “mad kids” get access to social groups. But most “happy kids” are doing just fine and won’t “need” to have extra services; at what cost? Thanks for making me think about the “under cover” kids who may need some extra relationships and connections, too, but in a different way. I enjoyed this very much 🙂


  3. JenniferM says:

    Ooh, yes, what an issue. I love hearing what kids think of school, and I wish there were more chances for them to help redesign it, because yep, they definitely know what’s going on. ❤


  4. Leigh Anne Eck says:

    We read a poem last week about two sisters and the one who got in trouble got all of the attention. Our discussion turned to “bad kids” too. Just like the parents focusing all of their attention on the negative, they said teachers do the same. It is those kids in the middle who lose out. So much to think about here.


  5. Tim Gels says:

    This is something that’s always bothered me. Not that the kids know the administrators, but that they know acting out will take them to a place that is a positive reward–even if most people wouldn’t think so. My solution in the past with kids like this is to offer them a few minutes if they need a break. I didn’t do it with every one of my students, but I did with those who would rather see an admin than be in class. They leave, take a lap around the school, and come back. It worked well for all of us.

    Thanks for sharing this, Britt!


  6. litcoachconnection says:

    You raise such a good point. It seems true that kids on one end of the spectrum or the other get the most attention. Whenever I think about this, the face of one of my students from my first year of teaching comes to my mind. She was so quiet and I hate to admit that I did not get to know her as well as the other students who demanded more of my attention. This is something for teachers to reflect on.


  7. Alice says:

    I get it! I have seen and experienced something similar being a quiet kid and noticing the quiet ones. I haven’t started reading it yet, but this is in my TBR pile: The Quiet Power of Introverts In a World That Can’t Stop Talking. I don’t think this is an introvert/extravert issue (although it can be), but yes, we do overlook the kids who are quiet, the ones who do the right things, and stay under the radar. And how do we extract their potential? Interesting observations from your students and your insight is thought provoking.


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