While in conversation with a thoughtful twelve-year-old, we got talking about school. “I’ve noticed something,” the child offered. “The kids who are good, who aren’t shy, the teacher spends a long time with them.”
After a pause, the child went on. “The kids who are really bad, the teacher is always working with them.”
Then the conclusion, as if formed in the speaking of it: “The really good kids and the really bad get all the attention.”
Back in the early 1990s, Ken Dryden, famous first as a hockey goaltender, then a writer and politician, squeezed his 6’4” self into the back of a high school classroom to watch what was happening there. One of the observations he put into a subsequent book, In school: our kids, our teachers, our classrooms, was that teachers do well teaching kids like them who want to learn, and not so well with the average kids, “the ones beyond the front row.”
I don’t think of my young informant as average or disinterested in learning. Still, in the overall scheme of things, average is probably a fair enough word. It’s where most of us sit. This child was telling me something similar, and something important, about kids in the middle, about that decent majority who can’t compete for the teacher’s attention against the dramatic or dynamic kids at the ends of the “good-bad” spectrum, but long for it nevertheless.
My sympathies are with teachers as much as students, to be sure, especially in consideration of their need to disperse themselves adequately among an entire class of students. But, may I put this out as a nearly-year-end reminder to notice also — as in give attention to — those in the middle?
Perhaps as teachers wind up the school year and reflect on parting encouragements to those talented kids who will blaze on into the next grade, or to those troublemakers into whom so much effort has gone (hopefully with some positive results), they will consider also some specific word of affirmation or extra minutes of attention for each child beyond the front row, beyond the principal’s office.
Thanks, on behalf of the twelve-year-old who first reminded me!
—-Photo credit: jdurham at morgueFile