The Mouth and The Giggler - The Jose Vilson

The Mouth and The Giggler

December 9, 2008

Girl Scream

Girl Scream

I have these two students, who I’m calling the Mouth and the Giggler. Both of them have garnered notorious reputations as girls who are far too loud for their own good. They went to the same school last year, but not our school, unfortunately. For if they did, they may have learned a few things, like manners and courtesy, small things really. At least in comparison to setting your “rep”, talking junk about who kissed who and in general, how much they hate certain classes.

They’ve become the representatives for the dearth of educational motivation in the class, and it’s really unfortunate. The Mouth is a young lady in sore need of attention. While I can’t claim I know exactly what’s going on in the household, I can take a pretty good guess. Unfortunately, because of the many frustrations she’s felt over her lifetime, and her rather imposing physique (for a girl), she’s gotten into a few scraps in her lifetime. I haven’t seen it in this school, but her abrasive and ultra-argumentative ways have left many a bad taste in her teachers’ and fellow students’ mouths. Nevermind that she’s probably one of the more proficient students in the class when she puts her mind to it. It’s almost as if when her mouth closes, her mind begins to work. Funny really.

The Giggler on the other hand also has similar issues. Nasty and snippy attitude, but has an added laugh that she really can’t control. There really isn’t anything she won’t laugh at, and every chance she gets to laugh, she will. It’s almost cute really … until it happens during my lessons. Then it becomes absolutely annoying. Her academics, too, also seem to be lacking even though when she puts her mind to it, she really does wonders for herself and her own academics. And as with the Mouth, calling The Giggler’s house has been ineffectual to say the least.

So in my mind, as a teacher who actually cares a lot about each and every one of my students’ progress, I have to think about the best practices for me. Can I focus on one or two while sacrificing the rest of the class? Out of the two, if I were asked to let go of one because they had issues in other classes as well, which would I let go, if only because I felt that the there was no chemistry between us? Can I wait that long until I can break their multi-layered shells so they can get their acts together while the rest of the class suffers?

My answers: No, the Mouth, and I can’t wait too long.

At least with the Giggler, it’s obvious that she’ll eventually do the work, even if she drags her feet through it. I can’t say the same for The Mouth. Girls like the Mouth become extreme archetypes for the phrase “wasted talent.” If I can get a good product out of most of my struggling students 4 out of 5 days, I can respect that. Anything less is far below my standards. And despite her obvious talents, she’s not even coming at this juncture.

And while I consider myself a really good disciplinarian (take that for what it’s worth), I haven’t met these brand of children in a good 2-3 years, so I’m taken aback by their level of disrespect sometimes, even towards their friends. I know many of the origins of that anger, resentment, and hyper-sensitivity, and it’s almost like watching a building implode …

Jose, who’s got a few students who shoot themselves in the leg every day …

This post was written by...

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

For more about me, read here.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

The Jaded NYer December 9, 2008 at 10:30 pm

At least you care to even have that discussion with yourself. Good luck!

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Lindsay Price December 10, 2008 at 7:42 am

Exactly. There are many teachers who would write the two girls off.

Your post was so sad and poetic, it’s easy to see these two girls and to see what path in life they may certainly follow. It must be hard to watch that.

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NYC Educator December 10, 2008 at 9:28 am

Unfortunately, the very first kids you need to focus on are those who disrupt your ability to do your job, and it sounds as though both of these kids qualify.

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Mister Teacher December 10, 2008 at 7:56 pm

Jose, you hit the nail right on the head with your self-query of whether to sacrifice the time and attention of the entire class for the sake of 1 or 2 troublemakers. That seems to be the eternal teacher dilema. I think too many of us probably tend to focus on the bad apples, but it’s often quite difficult to focus on the good ones with such a distraction in the class.
Good luck to you!

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ms_teacher December 14, 2008 at 2:36 pm

I think that a good educator always grapples with how to reach students who seem so bent on doing everything they can NOT to get an education. Some years, I’m better able to reach a hard case, while other times, I’m not. That doesn’t mean I give up on trying to draw them in. When I have failed, I seriously examine what I might have done differently. However, all that being said, I also recognize that I have 30 other students who are just as deserving of my time. It is such a fine balance.

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Jose December 15, 2008 at 10:58 am

And this is where many teachers fall; that dichotomy of prioritizing different students. I don’t give up on trying to draw them in either, but it has to come from within. It has to be an intrinsic motivation, and that has to be cultivated throughout. After I wrote this post, I’ve actually felt a lot better about my situation, especially being able to share it with educators like me. Thanks.

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