Beautiful Child By: Torey Hayden


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Beautiful Child

By: Torey Hayden

  1. Why does Venus refuse to talk? Why does she turn into a whirling banshee when accidentally bumped by other children on the playground? Why do the school authorities sweep under the rug that Wanda is Venus’ mother.

Venus does not talk because unfortunately she comes from a very bad home life. She was currently being abused at home and it was suspected that she has been abused for most of her life. In the beginning, Torey wonders if Venus even knows how to talk because no one has ever heard her but she comes to realize that she can talk, she just doesn’t. I believe this is Venus’s way of controlling the one thing in her life that she feels she has some control over. Also, it seems that Venus has never had a close relationship with anyone and probably doesn’t feel that communicating is very effective. Venus goes crazy when she is bumped on the playground because someone invaded her personal space. As a victim of abuse, this was probably pretty traumatic for her and she simply reacted. School authorities keep the information about Wanda being Venus’ mother private because Wanda was most likely raped by the mother’s boyfriend and she would have been a very young age. Also, Wanda is mentally retarded and cannot take care of Venus herself, so the mother claimed Venus as her own.

  1. Why is Billy so cocky and aggressive? How does Torey respond to these behaviors? Which behavioral problems of Zane and Shane are linked to Fetal Alcohol syndrome? How does Torey respond to these behaviors? Which behavioral problems of Jesse are linked to Tourette syndrome? How does Torey respond to these behaviors? Why is Alice so dependent on her hand as a companion? How does Torey respond to this behavior?

Billy is cocky and aggressive because he uses this as a defense mechanism to prevent himself from getting teased and picked on by other students. Torey tries to break some of this by structuring her classroom with rules and consequences to discourage this type of behavior. Zane and Shane both had a borderline IQ, hyperactivity, and attention deficit disorder as a result of Fetal Alchol Syndrome. The structure of Torey’s classroom was a response to their behaviors as she tried to make an environment that would allow Shane and Zane to focus without unnecessary distractions. Jesse had several tics including rapid eye blinking, head twitching, sniffling, and occasional outbursts of words that he couldn’t control. One of the main thinks that Torey tried to do to help Jesse was not allow teasing and name calling in the classroom as Jesse was frequently getting picked on by Billy. Alice was dependent on her hand as a companion because she saw it as an actual friend that she could talk to and confide in. Torey would often let it go because it calmed Alice and helped her focus.

  1. Given the unruliness and frequent fistfights of her students from day one, why does Torey wait 12 weeks before instituting the traffic light system? Why does Torey ease up on the traffic light system as the school year draws to an end?

I think Torey waits until week 12 to institute the traffic light system because she wanted to use a behavior modification technique as a last resort. She tried other techniques, such as trying to unite them through the Chipmunk group, but they were not effective. Unfortunately, it came down to this system where the students had to be rewarded with candy and parties to get some kind of order in the classroom. I think Torey eases up on the traffic light system as the school year comes to an end because she realizes that much of the behavior issues that were present in the beginning have stopped or at least gotten much better and it is no longer as effective.

  1. What is the basis for the conflict between Torey and Julie, her teacher assistant? Whose side of the story do you support in the fish bowl incident? The restraining Venus incident? The cat statute incident? The classroom singing issue? Explain.

The main source of conflict between Torey and Julie is a differing teaching philosophy. Julie takes on a much more nuturing role and always focusing on the positive with students. She never raises her voice or reprimands them for behavior, instead she encourages positive reinforcement. Tory on the other hand, takes on a much more hands-on approach. She believes that the students need to know when their behavior is unacceptable and deals out consequences as she sees fit. While I understand Julie’s point of view, I did side with Torey on the fish bowl incident, restraining Venus, and the cat statue incident. I think that in those situations, Torey dealt with the students so that they would know that their behavior cannot continue in the future. As for the singing, I think Julie overreacted and made the situation worse by not including herself. Torey found a way to get the class to feel united and Julie excluded herself making herself seem not part of the team.

  1. What does Torey accomplish by taking Venus aside and spending one to one time with her while the boys are at afternoon recess?

Torey is able to build a relationship with Venus by spending one on one time with her. She learns how to get a response from Venus and we see Venus open up to her and begin to trust her by responding more and more. Venus clearly loves the attention and the contact as she climbs into Torey’s lap and will wrap her arms around her if Torey doesn’t do it fast enough. It seems that Venus lacked a relationship with anyone if her life which is why it takes her so long to warm up to Torey.

  1. What do you think of the opposition Torey faces from Julie and Bob about the political incorrectness of using She-Ra, a blond-haired, blue-eyed heroine, as a role model for Venus, an African-American child? What superpower qualities of She-Ra does Venus emulate?

I think that Julie and Bob completely over-reacted to Torey using She-Ra as a role model for Venus. She-Ra, although not the most politically correct, was simply a way to relate to Venus. Torey was trying anything to get a reaction out of Venus as nothing else seemed to be working. Venus picked out the She-Ra comic herself and seemed to come alive when they acted out her story or watched the comics on the tv. It was the only way that Torey could get a response so she ran with it because at least Venus was communicating in some way. It would have been counterproductive to try to force something else on Venus if she wasn’t really interested in it. Venus emulates She-Ra’s power of strength. I think it is clear from the story that Venus was dealing with more than anyone of any age should be and I would say that Venus was a pretty strong little girl.

  1. Was Torey guilty of not doing more to prevent the abuse of Venus? Explain.

No, I don’t think there was anymore that Torey could have done to prevent the abuse of Venus. She was concerned from the very beginning and constantly reported to Bob and social services everytime she felt that something was not right. She also made two home visits to Venus’s house to try to find out what was going on and a way to make Venus responsive. Most teachers would not have done this.

  1. How does Torey use singing and physical activity to manage classroom behavior?

Torey uses singing as a way to unite the group to try to get them to behave and get along with each other better. So many fights were breaking out in the beginning that she tried a few strategies to unite the group and give them a sense of group unity so that they would get along. With this group, all of Torey’s strategies seemed to be aimed at getting the student’s behavior under control.

  1. Torey uses five main strategies to strengthen the group: (1) concrete identification with the group, (2) de-emphasizing comparisons between students, (3) group responsibility, (4) group problem solving, and (5) group celebrations. Give an example of each strategy in the book.

Torey uses concrete identification with the group when she forms the Chipmunk group and when she uses the singing technique. Both of these were done to unite the group. She de-emphasizes comparisons between the students by discouraging them from teasing and fighting with one another and disciplining them equally when they misbehaved. Group responsibility was seen with the traffic light system cause they were all held accountable for their actions and had to work towards getting a party. Group problem solving was seen when the class would have discussions about certain things so that they could make a decision together. Group celebrations were seen through the parties the students were rewarded with for good behavior.

  1. If you could ask anybody in the world one question and get it answered, what would it be? What was Billy’s question? Zane’s? Shane’s? Jesse’s? Alice’s Venus’?

At this point in time I would want to know where I am going to end up living and teaching in the next few years since all of that is up in the air for me right now. Billy’s question was “what happens when you die,” Jesse wanted to know “what’s in the future,” Shane would ask Mickey Mouse if he enjoyed living in Disneyland, Zane wanted to know if Goofy like living in Disneyland, and Alice said, “the stars shine all over the sky, the wind is gone, like sorrow.” Venus’s question was for Alice and she wanted to know why she talks to her hand so much.

  1. Do you consider Torey’s school year to be a success? Explain.

I do feel that Torey’s school year was a success. The next year, Billy and Jesse were able to be mainstreamed into classrooms and adapted to regular education. While Venus and Alice remained for another year, they too were eventually mainstreamed in general education classrooms. I think that Torey’s year was a success in the fact that most of the students had made significant improvements by the end of the year. It was definitely a rough year and difficult at times but I think that Torey was able to help the students adapt better to how to behave in a classroom which was a great achievement. While Venus did not make a complete transformation within a year, Torey definitely made progress with her and was able to reach her in a way that no one else seemed able to. I would say that this makes Torey’s year a success.

Dangerous Minds

By: LouAnne Johnson

  1. Describe the Academy program. What is LouAnne really teaching?

The academy program is a program designed to teach students at-risk for dropping out of high school. The program has a select group of students work with the same teachers for two years. The program focuses on getting the students ready to interview for and secure jobs after school. They stress computer skills so that the students will have that skill when looking for a career. Aside from teaching English, LouAnne is teaching her students how to be successful and to believe in themselves. She provides opportunities where they develop self- confidence and self-esteem. She is a strong role model that is dedicated to making sure her students graduate and complete the program.

  1. Do you approve of LouAnne loaning Raul $100 to pay for suspected stolen goods? Would you have loaned him the money if you were in LouAnne’s shoes? Do you think Raul paid her back?

I do think that LouAnne did the right thing by loaning Raul the $100. He was obviously desperate for the money and his attempts to earn the money were getting in the way of his schoolwork. By loaning him the money she made him promise that he couldn’t pay her back until after he graduated and made him give his word. Due to Raul’s culture, she knew that giving his word was very important and that he would do all he could to keep it. In doing so, LouAnne did what she could to guarantee that he stay in school and graduate instead of dropping out like many of his classmates. I do think that eventually Raul paid her back the money. He seemed very sincere in his promise to graduate and pay her back the money. If I were in her shoes I would hope that I would have loaned him the money. She obviously broke school rules in doing so but ultimately I think it was the right thing for the situation.

  1. How did LouAnne use student input to develop classroom rules in Chapter 2?

She used student input to develop the classroom rules by asking them what they expect of her as a teacher and also what they think makes a good student. She had them come up with these characteristics and then showed them how all of these rules could be encompassed in just one rule of respecting yourself and others. While most of the students didn’t believe that she could have only one class rule, she explained that if they respected themselves and others there was no need for any other rule.

  1. Why did Hal Grey tell LouAnne the “okie dokie artichoke” story? Was Hal an effective mentor for LouAnne in Chapters 2 and 3? Explain.

Hal told LouAnne the “okie dokie artichoke” story to give her an example of what not to do with the students based on his own experience. He warned her that gaining the respect of the students is important but abusing power will make the students lose respect for her and it is hard to get that back. I think that Hal had good intentions and was trying to give LouAnne what he thought was good advice about how to teach a class. However, Hal was extremely burnt out from teaching and no longer had a passion to teach. I think his negative attitude was discouraging to LouAnne and ultimately he wasn’t a great mentor for her.

  1. Why did LouAnne’s P class perform differently than the ACL class on the Of Mice and Men end-of-book test in Chapter 4? Do you think the practice of tracking contributed to these outcomes.

I think that the P class performed differently than the ACL class on the Of Mice and Men test because throughout their schooling they have been held to a different standard than the ACL students. They have had less expected of them and have basically had it engrained in them that they cannot be successful. When given the test, the P class as a whole struggled with the question that required their opinion and did not have a right or wrong answer. For some reason, these students were basically unable to or too afraid to give their own opinion as a response for fear that it was not an acceptable answer and that they would get the question wrong. I think that tracking definitely contributed to the differences between the two classes. The ACL class was treated as though there was a purpose to teaching them because most of them would go on to college and be successful. The P class on the other hand was treated as though there were very little expectations of them as most of them would drop out and never go to college. I think that tracking can have some very negative consequences.

  1. What was the invisible red raisin lipstick technique? The drop a card technique? Betcha can’t eat all those carrots technique?

The invisible red lipstick technique was used on students who fell asleep in class. She would kiss them on the cheek and told the students that her red lipstick mark was permanent and that all the other teachers would be able to see it and know that they fell asleep in class. She used this on a student and then had another teacher who knew of the trick come in and comment on the mark. This ensured that no other students would fall asleep due to potential embarrassment. The drop a card technique was that she would place a card on a misbehaving student’s desk that said that they needed to see her after class. This allowed for her to let the student know she noticed and was not happy with the behavior but did not draw attention to the rest of the class which would have made the situation worse. The betcha can’t eat all those carrots technique was basically reverse psychology where she said told them she knew they couldn’t do something so that they would prove they could.

  1. Was it unethical for LouAnne to give Hakim a “C” instead of a “NC” in Chapter 7.

While it technically wasn’t right for LouAnne to give Hakim a “C” instead of a “NC,” I think she ultimately did the right thing. Hakim came to class everyday and worked really hard to try to pass the course. He knew that he had a lot riding on getting his credits from summer school and he worked hard to make sure that happened. If LouAnne had given him a “NC” I think that Hakim would have lost all his motivation and dropped out of school because it would mean he couldn’t play football. Since giving him the “C” was what it took to keep him in school and since he did work hard for the grade, I think she did the right thing.

  1. How does LouAnne build a relationship with Danny Morton, a punk rocker, in Chapter 8?

She built a relationship with Danny Morton simply by believing in him as no other teacher had done. She told him that she thought he was bright and could handle the work of the ACL class and had him come to that class instead of his regular P class. He adapted very well and became successful. He comes back later and tells her that he has changed his life around and is going to graduate and go to college when before it looked like he had no hope of graduating as he hardly ever went to class.

  1. Is LouAnne ever punished by other teachers/administrators when she tries to help kids? Explain.

LouAnne gets in trouble when the two girls in summer school get into a fight and she doesn’t report them immediately but instead gives them a second chance. It turns out that the girls get their friends together and plan to fight later on and LouAnne finds out about it. She gets in trouble because those students should have been kicked out and then the issue would not have arised at school. She also gets in reprimanded by some of the other teachers because they feel she is too lax with the students and that she gives them grades they do not earn.

  1. What function do journals play in LouAnne’s classroom? How would you respond to Leroy Wyman’s journal entry in Chapter 11 if he were in your class?

The journals are a safe place for the students to write. They do not contain their names so if they are ever lost no one will know who it belongs to. The journals are supposed to be a place where the students can write openly and honestly and not have to worry about grammar, spelling, or punctuation. I honestly don’t know how I would respond to Leroy’s journal entry if he were in my class. He is clearly a student who has very low expectations of school and his teachers because throughout his school career he has repeatedly been let down. I guess I would try to assure him that my class was different and that I would do all I could to make sure he was successful.

  1. List five instances of LouAnne breaking school rules. Did the outcomes justify LouAnne’s rule breaking?

LouAnne breaks many school rules throughout the book. One instance is when she loans Raul $100 to pay for a jacket that he owed money for. Obviously it is against the rules to loan students money. She also breaks the rules when she kisses the student who fell asleep to make a point about not falling asleep during class. Although she was making a point, it is against the rules to kiss a student. Also, she does not turn in the girls after the fight when they should have been expelled and thus an even bigger fight almost happens as a result. She broke the rules by giving Hakim a second chance in her class because since she sent him to the office he should have been expelled. Another time she broke the rules was when she took the student to the pool hall when she told his parents they were going to the library. All of the instance had good outcomes that justified LouAnne breaking the rules, other than the fight between the girls instance.

  1. Why did LouAnne fade out the use of rewards for completing homework assignments in Chapter 14. What role did the use of rewards have in teaching her children to appreciate Shakespeare in Chapter 15? Do you agree with her use of rewards in these instances?

LouAnne’s use of rewards was her way of getting the students to be involved and to participate. First she used the technique to get the students to do their homework. She started by giving stickers to everyone who did the work. Then, since most of the students were turning in homework she gave stickers to only the ones that were neat and done correctly. Then since most of the students were doing that too, she eventually just gave stickers to exceptional papers. She fades out the reward system because eventually she did not need to use it anymore. The students were doing their homework just because they realized the benefit of doing it and liked seeing the good grades they were getting. She again uses the reward technique with Shakespeare in order to get the students to analyze the text and answer questions about it. Again, she eventually fades out the rewards because the students became hooked on the challenge of figuring out the story and were intrigued to find out what happened.

  1. What was the purpose of the “I Have To and I Can’t” activity in Chapter 18?

The purpose of the “I Have To and I Can’t” activity is to teach the students that they do have control over their actions. She uses the activity to show them that they make choices about their lives every day without even realizing it. She teaches them that the things they think they have to do, they really don’t have to do but instead they do it because they like that option better than the alternative. For example, many insist that they have to go to school. She points out that no one physically carries them into the school or holds a gun to their head. Instead they choose to come because the alternative would be getting grounded or yelled at or expelled. I think this activity was important because it taught the students that they have some control over their lives when most of them thought they didn’t.

  1. Which of LouAnne’s teacher-student relationships was your favorite. Explain.

My favorite teacher-student relationship was between LouAnne and Danny Morton. He was a student that was falling between the cracks and no one really cared about or paid attention to and she was able to turn him around. By believing in him and letting him know that she thought he could be successful, he gained confidence and actually started to care about school. I liked that he was a success story when all she did was believe in him.

The Gus Chronicles I

By: Charles D. Appelstein

  1. Why do we need to steer clear of negative labeling in Chapter 1?

Gus talks about how labeling can be negative because often once someone gets a label, they cannot get rid of it. Other people hear that label of the child and then their own perception of the child is tainted. The child also suffers because often they internalize their label and start to believe that about themselves and thus, start acting out the behaviors.

  1. What are some common misuses of power and control by staff in Chapter 2?

One common misuse of power is when the staff yell at the kids and bark orders. Often the kids are given that the reasoning behind it is “because I told you so.” As victims of abuse, the children often do not respond well to this type of abuse of power and act out in order to gain some kind of control. Gus says that he wishes more workers would understand this and just talk to the kids and give reasons for their demands. Another abuse of power comes in the form of restraining kids. Gus says that when kids act out they are often physically restrained by the staff in order for them to gain control over the child and the situation.

  1. List several of Gus’s criticisms of foster care for troubled youth in Chapter 3?

Gus’s main criticism of foster care is the lack of training and support given to foster parents. He says that most are not equipped to deal with the abuse that foster kids have been through and therefore often do not know how to react to their behavior. He says many overreact to a child’s bad behavior without knowing that the child is simply testing the waters and trying to see how far they can push boundaries. He also says that foster parents don’t get the support necessary for when problems do arise. Lack of funding prevents these things and as a result the children suffer and the foster parents are left without vital resources.

  1. What some tips on controlling one’s emotions in working with troubled youth in Chapter 4?

One major requirement when working with troubled youth is to not let your emotions be affected by personal issues. Bringing in the emotions from a fight with a loved one or stress can and will effect the way that the staff treat the kids. Also, it is important for the staff to understand what each child has been through and where they have come from in order to understand why they may be behaving a certain way. One worker would read the case files of a child he was particularly upset with in order to gain some perspective and compassion.

  1. Do you feel empathy for Gus’s side of the situation in the Chapter 5?

I do feel empathy for Gus. As victims of abuse, nighttime is often very difficult because they are left alone with no distractions from the memories of what happened to them in the past. Many of the kids act out and attempt to avoid or delay bedtime simply so that they don’t have to be alone and relive what happened to them. I understand why Gus was adamant about having more staff on the night shift so that there would be more support for the boys at night when they need comfort and understanding the most. The dream that Gus has about finally defeating his abuser is his way of expressing his need for control and power over what happened to him.

6. What are some developmental considerations in working with abused and neglected children in Chapter 6?
When working with abused and neglected children it is important to understand that most have underdeveloped social skills. They do not interact and/or relate to others the way their peers that have not been abused do. These children are used to looking out for themselves and taking care of themselves is their number one priority. This was crucial to their survival when living in an abusive environment. Due to this, the children often do not know how to interact with others at the residential home and fights and arguments break out. When working with abused children it is important to help them learn to develop social skills and build friendships without pushing too hard and causing them to act out. Developing programs that help them build relationships in a natural way seems to be the most effective approach.

  1. Do you feel empathy for Gus’s mother’s side of the situation in Chapter 7?

When it comes to Gus’s mother I am torn about how I feel about her. After reading her side of the story in the letter she wrote to Gus I did feel empathy for her. She herself had been abused as a child and felt unwanted and unloved by her own mother. She lived a hard life and was struggling just to take care of herself, much less a child. I did feel sympathy for her as she herself was a victim of abuse and also felt that there was nothing she could do about it. However, I feel that as a victim, she would be even more aware of how abuse can destroy a person and would try to do everything in her power to make sure that did not happen to her own child. I understand that abuse was a cycle in her family but I still can’t understand why someone who has been so hurt by abuse can then turn around and do that to their child.

  1. List several of Gus’s criticism of the behavior management tool: the level system in Chapter 8. Do you agree or disagree with Gus? Explain.

I understand why the level system is used in my homes. It provides structure and stability so that the kids know what they can and cannot do. It also prevents the staff from having to make decisions about their privileges and punishments because the children earn what they get based on behavior. However, I agree that this approach may not be the most effective way of dealing with behavior. First of all, you have the kids that are permanently stuck on lower levels and never get to experience rewards. These children may start to believe that they are bad and simply reinforces their negative self image. Also, staff members may abuse the level systems by using it as a means to control the kids. They can threaten with lowering levels or too frequently lower a child’s level over behavior that really shouldn’t warrant a level change simply because they are fed up with the child. Lastly, the level system does not exist in these children’s real homes. They should be using a management tool that most closely resembles what they will experience when they are returned to their homes to keep consistency.

  1. What are some methods for promoting a child’s self-esteem in Chapter 9?

The main goal is to provide opportunities for the children to have a sense of accomplishment and therefore build self-esteem. In this case, basketball was the key to the kids feeling a sense of belonging and success. No child was turned away, the rules were modified to ensure success, and the kids were not embarrassed to try a sport that they had no idea how to play because the coach encouraged them. Making the children feel successful is crucial to building self- esteem.

Boys of Baraka
1. What is the Baltimore neighborhood like where the boys live? How is it similar or different than the neighborhood you grew up in?

The neighborhood where the boys grew up is a very poor neighborhood with high crime rates. Drug dealers are on the corners, vandalism is everywhere, gangs are present and there are frequent robberies. It is a very tough neighborhood to grow up in as their as more negative influences then positive. It is normal for students to dropout of school and the amount that actually graduate is frighteningly low. The neighborhood is very different from the one in which I grew up in. Crime is low and a majority of students do graduate from high school.

2. What three prospects does the Baraka school recruiter tell the boys they will likely face in the future? Why do you think the recruiter reminds the boys of those prospects? What do you think your future prospects are? What/who has influenced your idea of your future prospects?

The Baraka school recruiter tells the boys that their three future prospects are either going to jail, death, or going to the Baraka school and possibly graduating from high school. I think the recruiter reminds the boys that these are their prospects to drive home the fact that only one of those options is appealing and that they should consider it seriously and carefully. While I understand why she reminded the boys of their options I don’t think that it was necessary. These boys are faced with those options everyday and they have known since a young age that jail or death are very real possibilities for them. My future prospects are hopefully graduating from my masters program and finding a job. My friends and my family as well as teachers have influenced my future prospects. Just as the boys knew from a pretty young age their likely prospects, I always knew that college was in my future.

3. What are the differing ways in which the families supported/did not support the boys? How does your family support or not support you in your goals?

The majority of the families were very happy that their sons would get the opportunity to get out of their neighborhood and go to Africa in order to further their education. They were glad that they would be getting away from all of the negative temptations back home that threaten the boy’s futures. Although they wanted that opportunity for them, most were sad to see the boys go as they would be gone a long time until they would get to see them again. My family has always supported me and wanted what is best for me. I studied abroad in college and although my parents were worried about me, they knew that it was a great opportunity for me.

4. How do the boys view themselves before they go to Africa? Did their perceptions of themselves change after they returned? If so, how? Has anything ever made you feel differently about yourself?
In the beginning the boys all seemed very strong willed and had high hopes for their futures. Richard talked about how he wanted to get him and his family out of the projects and into a better life. He also talked about how he didn’t let the negative pressures in the neighborhood get to him and how he was better than all of that. Montrey talked about how he was going to graduate from high school and then go to college for six years to be a chemologist. Devon aspired to be a preacher and seemed very intent on completing his goal. At the end of the experience, Richard was very changed. He seemed let down by the program and seemed to have given up hope about his future. It seemed that he was on track to be one of the students who dropped out of high school. Devon on the other hand did very well and became president of his 9th grade class and successful at school. Montrey scored the highest score on the math test in his state and as a result is now going to the most competitive public high school in the state. The experience was positive for most of the boys. I would definitely feel differently about myself if I had success in the program and would feel like there was hope for my future.

5. How were the boys’ lives in Africa different or similar to their lives in Baltimore? Do you think one life was better than the other? Why?

Their lives in Africa were very different than their lives in Baltimore. First of all they were separated from their families and most of their schoolmates. They also have no tv or video games and are secluded out in the middle of nowhere. Their schedule is very strict and discipline is taken very seriously. I think that their lives in Africa are definitely better than their lives in Baltimore because they are away from all the negative influences that tempt them to dropout of school and get into trouble. They are learning discipline and are learning a lot at the Baraka school without the distractions that are found at home.

6. How do the Baraka School staff respond to the fight between the two boys?
The boys were immediately separated and given time to cool down. They talked to them about their behavior and why it is not acceptable. Then they took the boys out in the middle of nowhere and told them that they had to work together in order to build a tent. The boys were not allowed to leave unless they worked together and completed the task. This approach made the boys interact and work out a problem together in a civil manner. I think that this helped the boys deal with their anger in a more responsible approach then they are used to.

7. We look at TV and see stories of drugs and gang bangers and despair, and we assume the victims bring it on themselves. If you had been born and raised as the boys of Baraka were, in areas abandoned by hope and opportunity, what are the odds you would be dead or watching TV in prison?

After seeing this I became much more aware of how people are often a product of the upbringing. Where these boys grew up offered very little other opportunities than a life of criminal activity. Where they grew up this was considered normal and not much was done to prevent it from happening. I don’t think that most of these boys would have chosen this life style if other opportunities had been available to them. I think that if this was where I had been brought up there would be a much higher chance that my life would not have turned out as it did.

8. Although there are two sides to the question, should we consider legalizing drugs? Illegal drugs are destroying countless lives, and legalizing them would destroy the profit motive for promoting and selling them.

I do agree that by legalizing drugs the profit motive for selling them would disappear and therefore less people would be put in prison for dealing them. However, drugs also ruin the lives of those using them and their families. I don’t think that legalizing drugs is an appropriate solution to preventing crime. Drugs affect people’s decision making and their state of awareness causing them to make harmful decisions that often put other’s lives in danger. I would not support legalizing drugs in order to lower crime rates for those who deal them.

9. Did you learn anything from the film? If so, what? How did the film make you feel?

I learned a great deal from the film about what it is like to grow up in a neighborhood like Baltimore. Although we have all seen this type of neighborhood depicted on tv and in the movies, I had never seen it from the point of view of real people who live and grew up there. I definitely have a lot more sympathy for people in these neighborhoods as it is definitely a struggle and getting out is not always easy. I was definitely saddened to learn how few students actually graduate high school and how many instead join gangs and end up in prison or dead. I think that there should be more programs like the Baraka school that offer an alternative to this lifestyle so that more children have a chance of completing their education and getting away from all the negative pressures that come with living in those neighborhoods.

10. What do you think the greatest influences in your life are right now? How much do you think those influences determine who you will become?

I think that the greatest influences in my life are my family, friends, boyfriend, and my expectations and goals for myself. These influences have definitely contributed to where I am today and the choices I will make in the future.

Bang Bang You’re Dead

  1. How does the typical high school pecking order fit into this story? Can or should anything be done to change this?

There is a typical pecking order at this school that is consistent with most stereotypes. There are the jocks and cheerleaders, nerds, band geeks, rednecks, skaters, troublemakers, outcasts, etc. In the lunchroom everyone sits with their group and there is no mixing of the groups. I don’t think that stereotypes or pecking orders are ever a good idea; however, in schools I think it is very hard to prevent this from happening. Students naturally divide in groups of friends based on interests and I think that it would be very difficult to change this even though it would be beneficially to all.

  1. How can bullying inspire violence in students?

Unfortunately, I think that some students get pushed too far for too long and don’t know of any other way to deal with their emotions. They feel so much anger and animosity towards the kids that are bullying them and that want them to experience pain like they have had to endure from the bullying. Violence also puts the student being bullied in control of the situation when otherwise the student doing the bullying has all the power and control. Violence is a way to get justice for the victim.

  1. What are the strengths and weaknesses of zero tolerance as school policy? What would work as an alternative?

Makes it so that there are no second chances for students. The first time a student has an offense they are automatically reprimanded in some way. In this case, Trevor made a video in which he used a gun to kill a “fictitious” character. The school deemed this as a death threat and therefore convened a meeting with him, the school officials, the police and his parents. Although they reviewed tapes that showed how Trevor had been bullied relentlessly and basically pushed into a corner, they decided that since he did make the video he had to be expelled. In this case, the school felt that they were getting rid of a student who could possibly be a danger to the school without taking into consideration the other students that led him to that behavior.

As an alternative, student’s cases should be looked at on an individual basis and a decision should be made about consequences based on what is best for the situation. Not all situations should be dealt with the same way or have the same consequences.

  1. During the play, Josh (in his mind) is confronted by the students that he killed. What do the students want from him?

The students all want answers about why they were killed. They want to know what they did wrong or what they did to deserve being killed. Murder is a serious act that can have awful repercussions for the murderer. In this case, I think this is the characters conscience trying to make sense of what he did.

  1. If the actions of the play are taking place in Josh’s own head, who is he really confronting?

The person he is really confronting is himself. The voices are his own representing his thoughts and the decisions he has to make.

  1. What hope, if any, does this play offer?

I think this play offers hope that viewers will see the seriousness of high school bullying and the possible repercussions. I think there is a hope that more will be done to prevent acts like this from happening and that people will realize that this unfortunately does happen and needs to stop.

  1. At one point in the play, the deceased students list a series of things they miss and a list of things they never will be able to do because of their untimely death. What do these things say about life?

The things they list that they miss signify small moments in life and simple things that people treasure. Fitting into a pair of jeans, opening a new book, having a dog greet them when they get home from school, hanging out at home alone with a bag of popcorn, etc. All of these things are small things that make up our everyday lives and things that often get taken for granted. None of these things seem to matter much until they are gone. The things that they say they will never be able to do reveal what they wanted to do in life such as get married, have kids, travel the world, and be just be happy. These things show how precious life is and how it is easy to take them for granted until they are gone.

8.. What do you think can be done to prevent such violent acts from happening in our schools? Is it even possible to prevent such violence?

While I don’t know that it is possible to completely prevent all violent acts from happening, I think more should be done to prevent students from getting to the point where they feel that there is no other option. Zero tolerance for students needs to be amended so that students’ whole lives aren’t destroyed by one wrong act. More needs to be done in terms of raising awareness of school violence and schools need to invest in measures to prevent it from happening. Whether that is better counseling options for students, more security put into effect, etc. school violence should be given a high priority.

  1. What do you think the playwright’s purpose was in writing this play?

I think the playwright’s purpose was to raise awareness for real teen issues and what can possible come from someone who is pushed too far. I think this play does a good job of showing how stereotypes do exist and how those students often treat each other. I also think that it shows how some people do resort to violence as a final option when they feel that there is nothing else to do and how so many people are put at risk when this happens. I think the main purpose was to let people know that school shootings are real and people need to do all they can to prevent them from happening.


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