I’m a bad kid, my son has started saying.
He refers to his friends as “the other bad kids. Like me.”
Until sixth grade, he always thought of himself as a good kid. But his experiences in sixth grade got him wondering. And seventh grade sealed the deal. It’s official. He’s a bad kid.
“What exactly does that mean?” I ask him.
He has a ready answer.
“We talk back to teachers. Teachers don’t like us. We get sent to the office a lot.”
I think about this. Every time I go to the school, one of his friends sits in the office, waiting to see the principal. Every week, one of them has in-school suspension. Their names are all over the ICU list (a tiresome euphemism for the F list).
I think about my son and his friends.
They are energetic, active kids who struggle—physically struggle—to do what school requires. Sit still. Be quiet.
They are visual and kinesthetic learners who get frustrated and struggle to learn in the verbal style school emphasizes.
They are funny, creative kids who have no outlet for their quick thinking and problem solving as they struggle to find a purpose in death-by-worksheets.
They are social, affectionate kids who thrive on relationships and need to feel connected and cared for to do their best. They struggle in an environment that demands respect without reciprocity.
They are inquisitive, curious kids who need to understand the why behind rules and assignments. They struggle to do what they’re asked if they don’t know why it’s important or valid and if they have no internal motivation for completing the task.
They are brave, experienced, hardened kids who have seen too much to be intimidated or motivated by grades or punishment. They want so badly to have a reason to trust—themselves, their teachers—and they struggle with the threats they so often receive in place of trust.
How does this make them bad kids?