I have a student who is difficult not to find repugnant. It makes me feel small to admit this, but it is a reality I face. “Bridget” does not take care of herself physically. She is obese. She dresses in elastic waistband pants that are always falling down. Her hair is often unclean and has no style. She wears t-shirts that are much too large for her and have unattractive images on them.
Most of the time Bridget sits with her mouth hanging open and a scowl on her face. She is slow to respond and unmotivated. She seems to be perfectly content to sit all day. The only thing that gets her the least bit excited is food. I have found her sneaking a drink of the concentrated lemon juice we use in our cleaning spray. She takes sugar packets out of the teachers’ coffee area to eat. She is constantly begging food off of the class.
I often find her just sitting in the room she is supposed to be cleaning. When asked what she is doing, she will give me her blank stare or tell me that she is finished. When I look around, it is obvious she has put little to no effort into the task. The most frustrating part is that she can do so much more.
Recently, I gave each student a 10-point inspection of a bathroom they cleaned and she scored a perfect 10. Could it be just because it was a test she put effort into it? How do I motivate her?
For example, Bridget has a crush on one of the boys in our group. If I team her with that boy, she accomplishes the tasks I give them with ease. But If I put her with any other student, she is like dead weight again.
We had a school dance last week. Bridget planned to attend and her favorite boy offered to teach her to dance in preparation for the event. He even gave her a whirl on a makeshift dance floor during a class break. She took his offer to mean, “I will be your date at the dance.”
When the boy made it clear that he was not going to be her date, just her dance instructor, Bridget was heartbroken. She began sobbing. That is when I began to see Bridget in a different way. I saw her as a young woman who was experiencing heartbreak for maybe the first time. I felt compelled to hug her. She hung on to me, obviously craving some comfort from the pain. We had something in common! I too have had my heart broken and craved consolation. Since then, whenever I have difficulty liking Bridget, I try to remember that moment.
I am wondering, do you struggle with prejudice against certain students? If so, how do you deal with that?