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Theories of Relativity

This week we started our after school program. Among the students in my group is Baby Face, my most challenging student. Throughout the day he seems unable to stay focused on the task whether it’s class discussions on the rug or independent work at his desk. Whatever the situation, he is either talking to his neighbor or getting into some other mischief.

But that changes during after school. In the after school program he is much more focused, and much more productive. I still sense a lot of the same pent up energy I see throughout the day, and yes it’s only two days into our program, but so far, he’s practically a star of the class. Why is that?

The most obvious explanation is the class size. Only six kids showed up from my roster yesterday. Today there were seven. With fewer students around, there’s fewer distractions for him. There’s also fewer temptations, in the form of his buddies, to cause distractions. So, while there’s still moments where he seems almost uncontrollably worked up, his work’s been mostly exemplary.

The other theory I have — which doesn’t negate the first — is based on another student in the group. This other boy has a lot of the same behaviors of Baby Face, but with an added attitude. I don’t mind students who have trouble sitting still, paying attention or raising their hand to talk, because those are habits that can be worked on. A nasty attitude though … sigh. This boy also happens to be a close friend of Baby Face, which makes Baby Face’s restraint all the more surprising. You would think the two would feed off each other, but (knock on wood) so far Baby Face hasn’t joined in on the trouble making. Why is that?

I wonder if Baby Face sees this other boy causing problems, and taking the heat, and feels freed by it? Maybe part of the reason he acts out the way he does is because other students (and I?) expect him to. With another boy filling that role, he doesn’t have to.

Whatever the reason, the smaller class size, psychology, or some combination of the two, I hope Baby Face’s focus continues. More than that, I hope he can build on his success during after school, and extend it to the regular school hours.

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