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«Behavioral Dissonance and Contested Classroom Spaces: Teachers’ and Students’ Negotiations of Classroom Disciplinary Moments by Rebecca Neal A ...»

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Byron attended several area schools since kindergarten, and was expelled almost one year ago from an area public school for bringing and discharging a firearm in school.

A child was slightly injured and no charges were pressed. He has attended IDA since 4th grade having consistent and regular attendance.

Four months into this study, Byron was accused of stealing permanent markers from a teacher and using them two weeks later to write on the sidewalk. He was suspended four days from school for steeling and tagging. Byron denied being involved, but school administrators made the decision to suspend him based on a student’s recollection nearly two weeks later of both incidents. According to Byron’s mother, Ms.

Saborna, after being notified by Byron of his suspension, she immediately withdrew him from IDA and enrolled him in another area charter school.

Byron’s mother Saborna, reported that Byron attended his second school of his 5th grade year for approximately three weeks until he was again expelled being accused of “slapping a little girl.” She shared, “the principal rode the bus home with him to my mom’s and said they don’t want him back.” After this incident, Byron was enrolled in yet another school; and two weeks before winter break, he began attending the third school during his 5th grade year. For reasons not shared with me, Byron again changed schools after winter break and started his fourth school during his 5th grade year. He attended this school for half of a day. Ms. Saborna indicated that when she enrolled Byron, she did not disclose his full school history and recounted by that afternoon, the school received his school file, and called her saying she needed to pick him up; and that he could not attend their school. She sighs, “Nobody wants him; they don’t want him.” Byron began a sixth school of his 5th grade year a few days later, where he currently remains.

While attending IDA, Byron earned average to slightly below average grades in

school. He said, “school is kind of fun, kind of non-fun.” Byron also responded:

–  –  –

He was unable to speak of a time he felt good at school, and said, “I get in trouble a lot for no reason, he thinks I talk a lot in the classroom, but it’s not really me. One time we were doing the tests and a teacher ripped my test. I felt bad.” Byron and his mother described a child struggling at school. By report it appeared his mannerisms and ways of being were consistent within multiple school contexts.

Although school uniforms were required, Byron at times did not dress in uniform and wore a dark colored sweatshirt. During class, he would move about within his seat, talk to peers sitting near him, mouth words to friends sitting away from him, talk to himself loud enough for others to hear, sing quietly and hum, or pull his shirt over his head. He rarely raise his hand in class to answer a teacher’s question, but would have necessary materials on his desk (e.g., pencil, paper, book). While class was not in session and during after school, he would excitedly engage with peers and at times run from place to place.

During our interviews at school he spoke comfortably and seemed at ease. During our interviews at his home, he appeared tense, cautious and somewhat uneasy. When we were outside on the sidewalk in front of his home, he seemed to speak more freely appeared more comfortable.

Cookie. Cookie is 11 years old, in the 6th grade and reports, “I like to play with people outside, but really only with boys.” He described himself as talking too much, being funny, and liking to tell jokes. He shared that talking too much is bad and that teachers would probably call him annoying.

He was born in the Southwest but has lived in two different states. He shared, he remembers when he was little, moving suddenly into his grandmother’s house with his mother. He mentioned that his father had been incarcerated for approximately 10 years and that he sometimes visits him. Cookie thought his father was going to be released soon, but that he would be going directly to Mexico. Cookie shared that his mother assured him that he would visit his father in Mexico. Presently, Cookie lives with his mother in an apartment three blocks away from IDA and says he has his own room. He has two pets, a dog named Frank and a gerbil named Sunshine.

Cookie attended four area public schools since kindergarten and was enrolled at IDA in the beginning of 4th grade. His attendance at IDA was consistent. Cookie earned average to above average grades in school. He said, “I like to play with my friends and stuff, when I can play basketball, or something like that. Today, I going to like it at the end of school, because it’s gonna be Boys Club.” He doesn’t like that school starts at 8:00 AM and wishes “school would start at 10:00 AM and get out at 6:00 in the night.” Cookie also indicated, “I don’t like teachers. They are always yelling at me.” Five months into the study, there was an incident where Cookie felt he was being singled out by a teacher. A teacher left the students unattended and when a different staff entered the room, Cookie was reprimanded for talking and had to have his mother sign a sheet of paper acknowledging she was informed of his behavior. While Cookie and the teacher who reprimanded him were talking, she told him “he sticks out more because he talks often and does less work than the rest of students.” Cookie was visibly affected.





With tears coming down his face, he emotionally responded, “he was being picked on by teachers.” Three days after this incident Cookie’s mother withdrew him from IDA and enrolled him in a different area public school, where he remains. Currently, Cookie reports, regularly receiving detention for talking, plays baseball and basketball and likes his new school; but misses his friends at IDA.

Cookie’s expressions and mannerisms at school varied from smiling and telling jokes, to speaking in a subtle soft voice. He moved about at his desk and throughout the classroom. He often left his seat (many times without seeking permission), would walk over to a peer’s desk, throw something away as if he had a basketball, or pick up a pencil from the teacher’s desk. He was jovial and could be seen smiling and often heard talking to someone. There were times he sat in his desk quietly and would also raise his hand to answer a teacher’s question. He would also blurt out answers quietly or at times loud enough for others to hear. While class was not in session, he would walk in a line or alongside a peer. Most of the time, he could be seen smiling and heard laughing. He experienced great difficulty in the cafeteria and shared, he often got in trouble for talking and had to take out the garbage and help clean up the entire cafeteria as a form of punishment. Helping to clean the cafeteria and remove the garbage was also solicited through volunteers, of which Cookie often volunteered.

During our interviews, Cookie was soft spoken, but engaged. He sat straight up in his chair, body very still and focused. He would also grin and laugh at times. He exhibited these same types of expression during his home interview that took place in a private room in the clubhouse of his apartment complex.

Jonathan. Jonathan is 9 years old, in the 4th grade and likes to play football, basketball and indicates his “favorite food is to eat spaghetti.” He expressed, “I don’t like it when people at school call me fat” and described himself as “a good person.” He was born in the Southwest and has only lived in one state. Jonathan lived in a house with his mother, four sisters and younger brother. He indicated that he sees his father whenever he goes to his house which is anytime he wants.

Jonathan attended IDA since 2nd grade and has consistent attendance. He earned average grades and thinks school is fun. He shared, “it is fun because you get to learn and do stuff and they make you learn good. When you pay attention and when you focus on a teacher, what she is saying and it gets stuck in your head.” Jonathan’s expressions and mannerisms in class and throughout school remained constant. He was cheery and often volunteered to help teachers and staff. In class at times, he would talk out load to peers when he seemed bothered, often resulting in negative attention drawn to himself. During class, he remained in his seat most of the time and often refrained from raising his hand when teachers probed students for responses.

Reported by staff, Jonathan would be bullied by B.G. during after school programs and occasionally teased by other students. During the day, Jonathan could be seen walking, swaying his shoulders from left to right and smiling throughout the school day. He often was seen and heard telling teachers about his classmates’ behavior; and would openly share his opinions. During some interviews he sat straight up in his chair with varying facial expressions ranging from a grin to a serious and attentive posture. He comfortably responded to inquiries, providing short statements. At other times, he said he could not remember and seemed aloof, but enjoyed having one on one attention from an adult. Jonathan was interviewed only while he was at school.

Lil P. Little P (Lil P) is 12 years old, in the sixth grade, and likes to play football in the position of running back, basketball in the position of point guard and reading as a hobby and interest. He describes himself as, “smart” and shared that “he wants to be just like his older brother cause he played basketball.” Lil P was born in the Southwest and has lived in one state his entire life. He recently started living with his father and two brothers and sees his mother on weekends.

He indicated he misses his mom, but it has been good living with his dad. Lil P has two sisters that live elsewhere.

He has attended IDA since first grade, has a history of consistent attendance and earned average to slightly above average grades. His father also works at IDA, and begins his shift near the end of the school day. Lil P indicated that he likes school because,

–  –  –

Lil P perceived himself getting in trouble at school sometimes for talking when he was not the only student talking. Lil P said he gets mad when he gets into trouble for talking, but the other person does not get into trouble for talking. He shared, “When this happens, I get mad, get an attitude, but I still do my work. I like, just stop listening, but I still do my work, I just stop listening to him (teacher).” Lil P’s expressions, mannerisms and ways of being at school remained constant throughout the day within multiple contexts. During many classes, he would frequently display huge bright smiles. He regularly raised his hand to respond to teacher inquiry, but would also often just blurt out answers which were generally correct. One teacher would often say to Lil P loud enough for everyone to hear, “I know you know the answers, I want to hear from someone who may not know the answer.” Lil P appeared relaxed, interacted with his peers and teachers comfortably, and moved about the class with confidence. Outwardly, Lil P had an even keel disposition and shared he always did what teachers asked him, even when he did not want to do it. Reported by Lil P, he would regularly volunteer to take out the trash after lunch and was given that responsibility some times in one week increments. He seemed to pride himself in finding ways to take on additional responsibility.

During interviews Lil P appeared engaged, focused and spoke with great concentration. He spoke with great clarity and exuded the same confidence during our interviews that was observed in the classroom with his peers and teachers. Lil P was interviewed only while he was at school.

Teachers. The teachers in this study were selected based on administrator recommendation. Albert Abrahm and Mia Esther, both agreed to open their classrooms to the process of this study of which involved video and direct observations, face to face and stimulated recall interviews, and surveys. Each teacher also assisted in distributing and collecting consent from parents/guardians and receiving students’ assent. Both Mr.

Abrahm and Ms. Esther were working to obtain their state teaching license in general education and held bachelor’s degrees in communication. Mr. Abrahm also held a master’s in education administration degree.

Data Collection Procedures and Sources Previous studies that have explored misbehavior, discipline, or perception have used both quantitative and qualitative research methods. Data collection methods for these types of studies have included a variety of sources, such as providing participants vignettes or behavioral descriptions, surveys, and questionnaires, videotaped class observations, stimulated recall interviews, and teacher and student interviews (Coleman & Gilliam, 1983; Saunders, Davis, Williams, & Williams, 2004; Supaporn, Dodds, & Griffin, 2003). Throughout this study, I collected data in the form of interviews, direct and video observations, surveys, audio recordings, memos, and field notes (see Table 8).

Table 8 Inquiry-guided Data Collection

–  –  –

As a way to understand teachers’ and students’ conceptualization of misbehavior, I initially conducted semi-structured interviews with students and teachers. The use of semi-structured interviews involved questions that were open-ended and allowed for the interview to be conducted at times more like a conversation (Merriam, 1998).

All interviews were audio recorded. Student interviews took place on campus in a private room either before or while students were at school, during non-academic periods such as breakfast, homeroom, lunch, or recess. All interviews were one-on-one.

Interviews with teachers occurred in their classroom either before or after school or during lunch and recess. The length of the initial interview lasted for approximately 60 minutes. When necessary, interviews were broken up into smaller increments of time to allow for teacher and student scheduling.



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