April 24, 2016
At the end of every school year I’ve been teaching, I’ve run into the same problem: my kids vs. bebe’s kids. I think a little background is in order before I continue my post.
Bebe’s Kids (pronounced bay-bay) was a 1992 movie based on a stand-up routine by the late American comedian, Robin Harris. Bebe’s kids, the expression, has worked its way into the vernacular of urban America. Bebe’s kids is a term used to describe young children who are rowdy and/or misbehaving, who seemingly have no home training. Used in a sentence: The students hurling spit wads in the hallway are bebe’s kids.
Lest you get the wrong idea, bebe’s kids are not delinquents, they are not the young juveniles committing crimes. They are also not the well-mannered, polite students that most parents believe their children to be. No, bebe’s kids are somewhere in-between. Bebe’s kids are middle-school students.
At the start of every school year, I spend a great deal of time turning 100 or so bebe’s kids, into my kids. Bebe’s kids put their feet up on classroom chairs and desks, and they hardly ever say “Please,” or “Thank you,”, unless it’s to their advantage. Bebe’s kids almost always answer, “Yeah?”, or the always annoying, “What?” when addressing adults. And they pick their nose, they burp, they fart, and they sneeze loudly in public. Bebe’s kids have a hard time understanding why 12 year-olds do not have the same privileges as their teachers, “That’s not fair! How come I can’t _________ (fill in the blank).”
Nine months later and some of my kids still have trouble keeping their hands and feet to themselves. To be honest, I get lax at times and can be seen propping my feet up on my desk…but mostly not in front of my students. Most of my kids remember to say, “Please,” and “Thank you,” and are not nearly as rude as they were nine months ago. Most, not all, but most, have stopped picking their noses in class, and I only occasionally hear one of my kids burp and/or fart during class. Bodily noises ceased being funny for most of my kids on about the second month we were together; they were never funny to me.
As for my kids whining about how life is unfair and they should have the same privileges as I have at school, well, let’s just say they more or less suck it up during class. Oh, most still think they are equal to me. They are just better at hiding their entitlement while in my presence. For the most part, my kids have begun to show signs of maturing. Of course, it’s what I expect from them. That’s not to say there are still a few bumps in the classroom. The following was a true exchange:
“Why are you late?” I ask one of my kids as she hurries through the door, long after the tardy bell has rung.
“Oh, this is going to be good,” I muse to myself. “Why are you late?” I repeat.
“Oh, because I was walking over here and when I got right around the corner, I was with my friend, So-and-so, and she saw me, do you want me to go get her? And I was right over there and I was coming to class and you guys saw me right? And I knew the bell was going to ring, and the bell rang, and I was walking over here, and…I fell.”
True exchange, dear Readers, she fell. Of course I wasn’t done with her. “So, um, you fell, right?”
“Yeah, I mean yes, I fell.”
“Are you alright?!” I ask in mock concern.
“Do you need to see the nurse?”
“Uh, no, I already saw her.”
“Oh, you did? She let you see her without a pass? That was certainly generous of her.”
“Yeah, well she wasn’t busy.”
“How lucky for you. And surely she had you sign in and sign out, right?”
“Uh, no, she just gave me an ice pack and I left.”
“And where is the ice pack?”
“Oh, I threw it away before I got here.”
“Of course. So let me recap: You were on your way to my class with your friend, you fell, you went to the nurse, she didn’t sign you in, she gave you an ice pack, sent you on your way, and never signed you out, you threw the ice pack away before you got to class, and that is why you are late. Do I have that right?”
“Yeah, I mean, yes.”
“Are you sure you don’t want to change any of the details in your story? Now would be a good time to tell me why you were really late.”
“Gawd! That is why I’m late! You don’t hafta believe me! Just ask my friend, So-and-so, she’ll tell you. I should go get her.”
“No, that’s quite alright.”
With a self-satisfied smile, my student sits down, believing for all the world that she just got away with putting one past me…until she sees me pick up the phone in my room.
“Hello Ms. Nurse, this is Ms. Kunzmann. I’m calling to check on one of my students who fell earlier and said she had stopped by your office to get an ice pack. Her name is (blank) and she was just there.”
“I’m sorry Ms. Kunzmann, I never treated that student today.”
“Oh, I must be mistaken. My apologies Ms. Nurse. Sorry to have bothered you.”
And that was the end of it. My student had a rueful, smile on her shamed face (at least she had the good grace to be embarrassed), and we got on with the business of 7th grade language arts. Later during class, my student apologized to me, and I accepted.
I don’t expect my students to be perfect. Heck, I’m not perfect, and I let my kids see my flaws. I just want my kids to be accountable for their words and their actions. It takes more of my time to ensure that they are held accountable in my classroom, than to just let them think they got away with some untoward word and/or deed. It also takes a heck of a lot of repetition; they usually don’t get the lesson the first time. But in the end, it’s worth it.
So, nine months into the ten month school year, and I am happy with the progress each and every one of my kids’ has shown. Their teachers next year won’t have too much breaking in to do. Now, if I can just do something about the other 500 students not under my charge. Those bebe’s kids will just have to wait until next year.