Joyce 🐝 Bowen Brand Ambassador @ beBee in Stash, Lifestyle, Education and Training Public Speaker • RAINN Mar 16, 2017 · 3 min read · 2.4K

‘This Side of Life’ Discusses the meaning of “Troublemakers”

‘This Side of Life’ Discusses the meaning of “Troublemakers”

I went to a college renown for polishing young teachers, and—although it was evolving at the time—still did. I wrote a column in our college rag. Enjoyed it, I did. But I suspect those that read my column and knew what I looked like (I was about 20-years older than the youngest of them.) were a bit more cautious when I was around after this one. They could be the subject of my next story. (Keep in mind my student-editor wrote obits for the local newspaper.) Read along with me as I realize I was swimming against a powerful tide.

So here goes…


Several months ago, I was sitting at a table where a group of students had gathered, and I overheard education majors talking about their internships in classrooms. These internships were and are precursors to education majors taking their places in our education system after graduation.

Conversation drifted to discussion of the process of singling out troublemakers in classrooms. Goosebumps rose on my arms, and my hair rose in a defensive posture common to spines embedded in the flesh of porcupines. And yes—I became angry.

This derogatory terminology can follow a child throughout an academic career. Would you help a troublemaker work through his/her issues? Would you help that same troublemaker work through frustrations relative to schoolwork in the classroom? Or would you single out that child as the one who is not worth the effort?

Let’s literally transform that child from a troublemaker to one of the following: learning-disabled; battered child; biologically-brain disordered, etc. Now, what is the reaction to that child? All these terms, in the place of “troublemaker”, deploy a different response from adults. (Yes—I use the term deploy because the classroom is often viewed as a battleground.) Would you be more apt to help a troublemaker—or a learning-disabled child? I would lean toward the learning-disabled child.

There is much talk about what labeling a child can do to his/her future. But what’s to say we affix our own labels for want of nothing else to put in their place? Are labels necessarily a deterrent? I say no. From where I sit labels provide direction for a proper response to a given situation.

A “troublemaker” who is learning-disabled who is learning-disabled becomes a child who needs extra help in the classroom, and s/he elicits compassion rather then disdain. A “troublemaker” who becomes a battered child elicits protection. A “troublemaker” who becomes biologically-brain disordered gains the help of professionals in the field. A “troublemaker” just spends too damned much time in the disciplinary category.
“How do I know these things?” you might ask. I spent time in the battered child category. Survival taught me to keep adults at room’s length. Survival taught me that adults inflicted pain, and the best thing to do involving big people was to make them not want to be around me. I succeeded quite well. My thoughts were geared towards staying alive rather than education.

I only learned that I had developed this survival technique when raising my own children. Because I was a battered child, I had inadvertently imparted my survival techniques to my children. It wasn’t until my oldest was 6-years-old that I knew I had taught him survival in the realm of adults was paramount to education. I have a vivid memory of a conversation I had with him—telling him he had to trust adults, then seeing the look of utter incredulity on his face in reaction to my coaxing.

So you see—we can add yet another corrective label to “troublemakers”: children of troublemakers; adults who were battered children. In previous articles, I have said that teachers are, indeed, surrogate parents who take charge of school-age children for 6 hours out of the day.

If I could teach my child to fear teachers, is it not possible for teachers to reinforce that lesson with angry labels? When one thinks the label “troublemakers,” does anger or compassion flash on a teacher’s face? Am I, as a parent, responsible for a teacher’s facial flexing? I think not. Is it possible that teachers’ reactions towards these children have an impact on pecking orders established by children in school systems? I think so.

In the aftermath of Harris and Klebold, it is important for our teachers to learn that words can become barbs simply on the strength of the emotions they employ; that those words, even unspoken, fling meanings into body language and facial expressions easily captured by a distrustful child. Children who have learned to become wary depend on those communicative mediums far more than the spoken word.

So when you deal with children, remember to smile inside as well as outside—even if frustration gets the better of you. You own that frustration, and there is no need to make the child you are dealing with responsibility for your emotions. Find something that works to engage those difficult cases, and help them respond to you without fear or frustration. It’s called having patience, and patience is not usually inherent—it’s learned.
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  Copyright 2000 Joyce Bowen


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About the Author:  Joyce Bowen is a freelance writer and public speaker.  Inquiries can be made at crwriter@comcast.net

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Gerald Hecht Mar 30, 2017 · #25

i don't really know nuthin' 'bout trouble makers...it would be downright out of my bayou to get fi'in to git ready to even start gitting mahself to ponderin' ...

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Important topic, @Joyce 🐝 Bowen. Our children are our future and we need to realize they are not created from cookie cutter molds. We weren't either, in case we forgot.

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#21 @Michael O'Neil Yes--turned out both my sons have learning disabilities which irked teachers to no end.

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Tausif Mundrawala Mar 16, 2017 · #22

The students with whom you dealt with were the privileged ones on this earth. Very few of them bothers to get to know their students well . Their strengths their weaknesses are to be dealt with in a very proper way. Words play an important role in the mental development of a child and if discouraged would have a devastating effect.

Teachers are second mothers to their students but its the equal responsibility of a student to co-operate with their teachers in a humane way. Thanks for sharing this buzz, @Joyce Bowen

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Michael O'Neil Mar 16, 2017 · #21

Sadly we as parents have the dominant share of time to influence our children. Do the arithmetic. 5*6/168 compared to (168 - 5*6/168)/168.
Perhaps we need to ask the question what pre-disposition to a label have we put on our child before sending him or her to school. After all we had them for 168/168 hours of every day before they started school.

When the teaching profession is able to measure, and is prepared to measure the value added by each individual teacher's contribution to a child's learning we might get a step change in the performance of the education system.

As parents of children in the education system we have to remain vigilant and be ready to be their advocate when ever necessary.

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siraj shaik Mar 16, 2017 · #20

#12 spot on. Well said.

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siraj shaik Mar 16, 2017 · #19

#14 Just my opinion "it's not related to merit but more of dedication". There are high meritorious teachers and their evaluations differentiate the children, also it's more or less same in every level. Now a days the schooling factor became a key factor of focus for most parents.. Yeah "competing has taken place of institution". It's surprising at times to overhear parents of teenagers, young adults and adults discuss over the possibilities plus ways of making riches and dollars. And also the youngsters discuss and do comparison's on these financial figures..

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Phillip Hubbell Mar 16, 2017 · #18

Not sure if "troublemaker" is worse than being labeled "learning disabled". I was a troublemaker, I'll admit. But it had little to do with my inability to learn, merely my perception of their inability to teach. Both views were probably based in bias.

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