Friday, December 07, 2007

When Bad Kids Smile At The Teacher

Teacher "AB" lets us know what it may mean:
For the longest time, my entire first two years of teaching, nothing drove me more crazy than when my ill-behaved kids got in trouble and smiled. It shocked, repulsed, and angered me to the core to be telling a child about the consequences of their disruptive behavior and find their reaction was a broad, plastic smile. I’d been known to double punishments for kids who smiled when they got in trouble.

Then, one keynote speaker forced me to rethink this entirely. She was talking about the cultural misunderstandings that plague educators teaching outside of their home community (which is, sadly, almost every educator I personally know). She specifically referenced this issue of smiling. Among the middle class, she said, you smiled only when you were happy, and the proper reaction to getting in trouble was to look as downcast and remorseful as possible.

Among poor kids and poor families, however, the smile had an entirely different meaning. Certainly, some kids smiled because they were glad to see their class distracted and their teacher perturbed, she said, but more often, it was a defense mechanism. Poor kids, who live in a world where violence is much more prevalent, put on a smile in order to disarm their attacker and deescalate the situation. A smile shows that it’s not that serious, there’s no reason to break out the gun, knife or belt.
You really should read the rest of it as well as the rest of what "AB" has to say on a variety of classroom experiences.

Big Mortarboard Tip to Joanne Jacobs.