Recently, during a training on stages of behavior, a teacher commented to the group that the kids she was about to work with in ISS were "bad." She went to on to tell how they just didn't care how they acted and there was not much she could do about it. The trainer moved on after this and I didn't get to talk with her as she left quickly. Maybe that opportunity will arise later. If I I ever do have that chance, here is what I would say:
"I understand where you are coming from. At one time, I thought the same thing. I believed that there were the good kids who rarely got into trouble, the kids who were annoying but not to the point of disruption, and then there were the "bad" kids. I always hated to see those kids in my class because I thought they just didn't care. Over time and lots of experience, though, I learned that none of that is true. The kids who are acting out care just as much as the ones who behave all the time. Their acting out is simply a cry for help, a way to say "I'm having problems but I don't know how to express this any other way." These kids need caring adults who are willing to take the time to recognize their cries for help, build relationships with them, and then teach them ways to respond appropriately. They need people who are willing to see beyond their behavior to the person underneath. Until that happens, nothing will change. In the role you are in now, you have many opportunities to be that person."
As an administrator, I spend countless hours just listening to kids who are sent to me because they have been disrupting class. I see this not as an opportunity for punishment, but as a chance to hear their side of the story and then teach and practice different ways to act in the same situation. Are there consequences when a student has been behaving inappropriately? Of course, because in life there are always consequences. I just try to focus on natural consequences whenever possible.
It is funny how time and experience change our perceptions. For me, it was the difference I saw in kids after they left junior high and entered high school. They matured and began to make better choices. Many of the so called "bad" kids that I had as students earlier in my career are now successful adults. In fact, I have had a number apologize to me for their behavior. Now that I am on the primary campus, I have many of my former students children. I see them working hard to be good parents and am thankful that I and my colleagues didn't give up on them so many years ago.
As a primary school administrator, I have the opportunity to help kids develop the skills they need to be successful in the years to come. I can think of no greater blessing than being able to see these children in junior high and beyond making great choices because they learned how when they were in kindergarten and first grade.
But, I've strayed from my point a bit. So, to reiterate, every child wants to be successful. None really want to be the "bad" kid. As educators, we must do everything we can to help all kids learn the skills they need to be productive citizens. When they make bad choices (everybody does), we need to resist the urge to label them and instead take the time to listen and be there to guide them along. In doing so, we will help them become the best they can be.