Proto-gangs in third grade

April 6, 2007 at 4:36 pm | Posted in education, elementary, gangs, hope, life, schools, teachers, third grade | 1 Comment

Inner city third graders are well aware of what the real world is like, more so than their teachers.

Through our class received a free digital camera. Every week, I designate one student as the Photographer. The Photographer keeps the camera in his/her desk for the week and take photos. Many photos you see on my website are taken by my student Photographer.

Because I allow my students to be in charge of the camera, I get to see a private side of my classroom that most teachers don’t normally see. Like this:

Students Throwing Signs

Interesting huh?  The student on the left is merely imitating. The student on the right is throwing a fairly correct sign. Yes, the student on the right has great difficulty at home and has an even greater difficulty adjusting to the rigor of a classroom environment. The student on the left has the potential to be a powerful leader, but right now, he prefers to follow his classmate’s lead. Both students have single mothers, but for different reasons.

I know their background very well and we have great successes in the classroom, but for the student on the right, the successes in the classroom mean nothing once he gets home. Unless his family life changes drastically, which it can!, you can see the writing on the wall for him, despite all his intellect, despite all his talents, despite all his sensitivity and curiosity. He is already reaching for a different kind of “family”.

The student on the left has great chance at a successful, gang-free future. His mother keeps a stern, watchful, and loving eye on him and his younger brother. Her message and mine are the same: you are smart and successful don’t let anyone pull you away from that. I hope that his future teachers see the leader that I see in him and treat him as such, and not put him down simply because he is an active kid.


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  1. I have enjoyed reading your blog on inner city teaching. I teach in a large city school too and am inspired by your enthusiasm.

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