Saturday, March 26, 2011

Connecting with the SSBs

photo © 2009 Carolyn Tiry | more info (via: Wylio)
I have always had a soft spot for the "bad boy". You know the one. He causes trouble in class, his grades are poor. He struggles in traditional classes, but excels in hands on activities. By the time he gets to high school, he is afflicted with "Stupid Sophomore Boy Syndrome". Do all sophomore boys have the disease? Nope, just a handful. Although, it can affect any boy at any time.

Having married one of them, raised two of them and taught hundreds of them, I consider myself an authority on "Stupid Sophomore Boy" syndrome.  What is this? It is the time during their fifteenth year that boys leave their brains somewhere and forget to pick them up. In the hallway I am responsible for, there is also a brain sucking locker. Believe it or not, it's always the same number. The brain sucking locker affects those who stand too close, sucking out what common sense a boy has, causing him to say and do really stupid things.

This semester, the core group of the SSB's are out in full force. Luckily, they are split up amongst my three speech classes. And I have found that  separately, they are genuinely nice kids. This is not a new concept for me, just a surprise.

And, they work hard for me.  I don't know how or why, but they like me and my class. As one of them told me yesterday, "This is the only class I really work on.  I actually try." And I can tell.

Maybe they like me because I set the perimeters for the class the first day. They know the consequences from day one. Maybe it's because they have seen me follow through on those consequences, not just with the SSBs, but anyone else in class. They are not singled out. Maybe it's because I joke with them and laugh at some of the things they do. Maybe its because I care and get after them when they tell me about something really stupid they have done outside of class. I won't go into specifics, but trust me--another symptom of SSB syndrome is that  they don't think of consequences!

Maybe they like the class because they get to pick their own topics and be experts at something. Demonstration speeches are my favorite because I get to see what they are passionate about.  I have learned how to dig fence post holes, replace the plastic on dirt bikes, make turkey calls, and play COD (Call of Duty, for those of you out of the loop).  They introduce me to their heros during the Noteworthy Introduction unit.  They create products to sell that fit their lives during the persuasive unit.

I look forward to their creativity and passion for topics I know little about. I enjoy the little moments in my day when I make a connection with one of them. It can be exhausting staying on top of them and making sure the syndrome doesn't rear its ugly head in my room. But in the end, it is worth it.

I guess the point of this is, if you don't take the time to make connections with kids and find out what is important in their lives, they won't care about you and what is important to you. To get respect, give respect.

And the good news is, for most of them, "Stupid Sophomore Boy Syndrome" is not a lifelong affliction. Most of them turn into wonderful men.


  1. I also read your previous post. You may be the glue that helps them retrieve their brains and become the great young men you know is there.

  2. The SSBS are so lucky to have someone like you in their lives...all it takes is for one person to believe that the "stupid" in the term is something they can choose to forgo. Good for you, Deb!!

  3. I love the way you describe that you 'cure' the SSBS's. Actually, I don't teach 15 year olds, but from personal experience (my own children & previous students coming back to visit), I know they can be very challenging, & your way about taking on the challenge is such a good one. You set a structure & hold it, you treat everyone as if they know how to do their best, & you expect it, & you give choices. I just think it's so important to allow kids (from early, early on) to make choices, & to take consequences for those choices (the good & the not so good). Thank you for telling us all you do. It's good stuff!

  4. I too have a soft spot for what I lovingly refer to as "the naughty boys". I work with younger kids, but I like the hard ones, the quirky ones, the ones that are challenging but have something lurking below the surface waiting for someone to find and pull out. I can tell you have more than affection for these kids--you really care and really see potential. Thank you for being someone these boys need and someone they value.

  5. I too have a soft spot for those that struggle. For some reason, they tend to be the boys. I think it's the motherliness that pulls me towards them. It sounds like you have the special touch. They are very lucky to have you!

  6. It's too easy for teachers to just see the outward behaviors and not bother with finding out more about the child. It is especially true it seems for teachers of teens. Thanks for being one of the special human beings in their lives!

  7. It's all YOU! Thanks for being extraordinary, making those connections, allowing for choice in their learning and sharing, and R-E-S-P-E-C-T. A little bit goes a long way!

  8. Great description. I try with the SSBs as well in all grades. They are lucky to have a teacher like you who cares.