On Thursday Angel took one of the classroom laptops, flipped it open and took a picture of his butt. But then he inadvertently printed it to the computer next door. So the students standing there waiting for their stuff got a pixelated image of Angel’s butt and gave it to the teacher who then brought it to me since I am the principal. Our first reaction (after we laughed) was… “now what would possess Angel to take a picture of his butt? He is three weeks from being promoted to the 9th grade.”
Angel is a great kid. Funny, intelligent, charming. But, man, he does some dumb things. (We had to suspend him for bringing a knife to school a month ago and for punching Roberto in the head a few weeks before that). “Think Angel! Think!!!” OK… so if his teacher had assigned him to take a picture of his butt he might not have done it because Angel does what he feels like doing. Or more accurately, he does what seems relevant in his world. So he might not do his algebra homework and he might not finish his research paper on the Mayans. I wonder… how do we connect with what Angel wants to do so that what he wants to do is consistent with the pro-social behaviors that will help him succeed and get along with others? And how can Angel’s motivation to do stupid things be held in check? Especially when the stupid things he does are just stupid to us? Because in the culture of 8th grade students at Mueller Charter School, it was adjudged that 1) Roberto had it coming, 2) the knife thing was just an accident and 3) nobody really wants to see Angel’s butt anyway. And when you strip away the cosmic trappings of academia, that’s how the forces of motivation work in classrooms every day.