Chanikea is the worst behavior problem in my two classes so far. She is perpetually talking and tugging at the students around her. She is slender and wears corn rows and about ten strings of plastic Mardi Gras beads that click as she turns from tormentee to tormentee. The first two classes in Language Arts have been all about classroom management: the teacher's expectations and the consequences for failing to meet them. Throughout this time Chanikea has proved incapable of keeping still or quiet. Yesterday she tried to throw her water bottle in the trash from across the room and missed, then she got up and walked over to the trash can without permission. This was right after we discussed not throwing away trash until the end of class, and not getting out of your seat without raising your hand and getting permission first.
Chanikea is in the eighth grade but reads at about a third grade level. She simply doesn't "get" school work, and is incapable of staying focused long enough to finish any task, even the most simple like making a name tag for her desk. She has extraordinary social skills, however, and she uses these to compensate for her other failures by pulling her peers off task too. Chanikea leads, in fact, a cohort of much more academically inclined girls who hang on her every word and follow her commands. Their grades suffer as a result.
Chanikea is funny. "Oh man, I am done with school already. I'd rather be in Boot Camp now," she says, feigning exasperation while being exasperating. Then later, "I am going to end up in a stupid high school with those stupid people if I can't get my grades up. I do not want to go to stupid high school." When you tell her she'll never get her grades up if she doesn't stop talking in class she insists she hasn't been talking that much. Her drill sheets, worksheets, and homework pages are all half-filled in at the end of each class. She watches resentfully as her cohorts, despite her best efforts, hand in completed work.