Every teacher has a special student in their class. You know what I am talking about. He is not in your top class, but there is something unique about them. He constantly asks questions for clarification, raises his hand for almost everything, and wants to please you at all cost.
However, his high level of enthusiasm doesn’t equal a high grade.
But … you love the kid because he does all the right things in the classroom and has a desire to be successful. Unfortunately, outside of class he also falls into peer pressure. Struggling to fit into social crowd of his peers, he sacrifices sound decision making to “look good for the boys.”
In a mentoring approach with and without the boy’s parent, the phrase “guilty by association” has been echoed in his ears, but a split second of a poor judgment allows the potential to turn for the worse. The young man I speak about was involved in a search and seizure incident because his friend allegedly was involved in illegal activities.
Middle school students are very vulnerable to the society around them. They are easily influenced and naïve to the consequences awaiting them in the real world when the split second of a poor judgment actually takes place. My young student is the average middle school boy and all of these statements belong to him.
After the incident:
Together, we have developed a very trusting relationship where I can communicate open and honestly to him. Taking a minute out of lunch, he shared with me the search and seizure incident and how he was allegedly involved. We spoke about surrounding oneself with positive students in his peer group, and making tough decisions about walking away from a peer group that may lead him down the wrong path.
He shared he doesn’t even notice he falls into the group because its natural to want to be with the other students of the same race. But, he shared he wants a better life than what some of those so-called friends are headed towards.
Next, he asked me to give him a sign, or clue if he was gravitating towards that peer group that was bringing him down while at school. I chuckled and asked if he wanted me to make him a poster to hold up.
“Yes,” he responded. “Well, how about a small sign?”
A few days later, I quietly slid a red index card out of my pocket with the phrase “Guilty by Association” as the boy chose to work with that same group of friends on a collaborative project.
“This group seems too full,” he said with a smile as he headed for another group of student.