You Know What They Say About Rotten Apples?

Who are you lookin' at, ya punk?

Who are you lookin’ at, ya punk?

I’m sure you’ve heard this phrase before: “One rotten apple spoils the whole bunch.”, right? It’s sometimes said about bad, or delinquent students.

Well I wonder about that? Are delinquent students really impossible to change?

Image courtesy of


We all have those kinds of students – the ones who don’t listen, cause trouble for their teachers and classmates, are late or don’t show up to class, talk back, etc. – these students are the ones who drive us teachers crazy!

Why do these kids act this way?

Are they mentally unstable? Do they have a bad home life? I guess there are variety of factors, and  many of them overlap. Sometimes schools want to expel these students, thinking that if they’re gone, there are no more problems. It may be a short-term fix, but it doesn’t help the student(s) in question. An article by columnist Julia Steiny, says we should focus on kids’ mental health. It should be a major focus in providing a quality education, and helping our students develop social skills, and how to cope with bullying and/or other social problems within schools.

As schools become increasingly diverse, students are faced with a variety of social issues, such as drugs and alcohol, skipping school, peer pressure and wanting to “fit-in” with their more popular classmates, self-identity issues… it’s mentally taxing upon students. We as teachers need to be ready to help our students as they deal with these issues. Teachers should also be trained to spot signs of trouble, and if it’s serious enough, to notify authorities if there’s any real danger to themselves or other students.

Our favorite green-skinned troublemaker, Roger Klotz from "Doug"!

Our favorite green-skinned troublemaker, Roger Klotz from “Doug”!

When it goes wrong…

Bullying, whether mental or physical harms students. It ostracizes them, and may be a factor in the forms of school violence we see (like in the cases of the shootings at Newton, Connecticut; Columbine, Colorado; Virginia Tech; and others).  When we see stories such as these, it makes me wonder if these people are insane and unstoppable, or if we could have helped earlier?

Clinical psychologist John Jensen wrote an article, discussion this very issue. In it, he discusses the need for safety at school, but also takes a greater look at relationships that are made between treating delinquent students in an “us-verses-them” manner, and the repercussions of that treatment. With kids wanting to “fit-in”, the less popular and socially awkward students are often pushed aside, alienated. This kind of treatment just reinforces their feelings of resentment, loneliness, and any other negative feeling they may  have.

So, what can we as teachers do to help prevent such tragedies?

  • Be there as a mentor for kids who want to talk – I’m not saying that kids will want to share personal issues with their teacher, but if they do, listen to them.
  • Try and create activities that are inclusive of the whole class – This is not always an easy task. The older students are, the less they want to work together.  Trying to include everyone may mean that you, as the instructor, calling individually on students who may not be paying attention to the lesson.
  • If you notice students picking on one or more of their classmates, stop such behavior and get help if needed – THIS IS CANNOT BE STRESSED ENOUGH! You are the first-line of defense when it comes to protecting your students.
  • Be sure to communicate with parents – If you notice any odd or abnormal behavior exhibited from one or more students (s), get in contact with their parents and ask if they can come in for a conference.
  • Communicate with other teachers to get a variety of ideas on how to handle delinquent students – If we can find a number of ways that work, and can help prevent troubled students from harming themselves or others, we can create safer schools.

Here is a website with more comprehensive information on dealing with juvenile delinquent behavior and how to prevent it.

1 Comment

Filed under Adolescence, Boys and Girls, Delinquency, Education, ESL, Kids, Teaching

One response to “You Know What They Say About Rotten Apples?

  1. Pingback: Give Me Your Lunch Money! | So, You Think You Can Teach ESL?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s