Good Kid; Bad Kid

Good kid, bad kid—I’ve done this myself.

I’ve scanned class rosters at the beginning of a term looking for last names.

Having taught for several decades in the same district, I knew the names. Harris, I’d read, and groan. Not another Harris!

But further down the list, I’d spot McBride.

Well, good, I’d think. That will make up for another year with a Harris.

Always I felt guilty about this kind of thinking. Usually I had enough professional sense not to say any of this aloud. Still, it was there in my mind—McBride, good, Harris, bad.

And since Harrises had demonstrated over and over that they’d do the wrong thing, I’d watch them more closely.

And so I’d catch them more often.

In the last decade of my teaching, I was scrolling through YouTube one day and happened upon this selective attention test. I watched it once . . . and again and again.

It got me to thinking. And to watching more judiciously.

I began to see that sometimes good kids agitate bad kids. Not much. And never loudly. Just a rolling of the eyes at a wrong answer. Or a brushing against a desk on the way to the pencil sharpener. Or putting invitations to a party on every desk but one.

But it’s enough—yet another rejection—for the bad kid to make a commotion. A loud one, which is obviously punishable, obviously confirming badness once again.

And the good kid can draw back in horror, away from this badness, confirming innocence, once again.

Harrises and McBrides—good in each and bad in each—as with all of us.

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