Troubled Kids, Performance, and Society

pterradactylI have a group of elementary school kids I have been teaching on Fridays after school. I turned down the job three times because I know from experience that kids lose their impulse control on Fridays after school and I didn't want to deal with that. But for some reason, I no longer remember, I said "yes" the fourth time they asked me.

Well, they are some of the most difficult kids to teach. They get in fights, which never happens in my classes. They mess with other peoples stuff. They whine too, about hunger and pain, it is like being stuck in a giant nest with 20 hungry crying baby pterradactyls.

But something happened that made me think.

The school asked me to do a performance; to have the kids perform at a parent night. I said, "sure," and I guess because the other acts were things like "kid poetry," they made my group the headliners. The kids were totally not into rehearsing and I really had almost nothing planned. The night of the performance I had no idea even which kids were going to show up.

But 12 kids did show up and they were really excited. I put them on the stage and just had them do stuff that I had tried to teach them over the last 10 weeks. To my complete surprise, it went well, the audience was cheering and kids were like a dream class: They had presence and focus and they were game for whatever I threw at them. One little girl found her way to the front when I was having them do forms and she did it perfectly with a smile and charisma, and all the other kids were following her like their lives depended on it!

My thought is this: How can we give people who are on the fringe, frustrated misfits, or underworld types ways to be at the center of attention.-- I'm thinking "star status," ranks, roles and positions which give them ritual potency. Rappers and hip-hop celebrities come to mind. This is not about good and bad, it is about establishing order.