"Sam was an 8-year-old boy who was known as a "behavior nightmare."
He was commonly referred to by teachers, parents, and students alike as
a bully, thug, and deviant. His English was poor and his schoolwork
terrible. He was a big boy for his age and had very little parental support
or guidance. His Grade 2 teacher despaired for him and in many ways
was even afraid of him. She would start each day expecting trouble and
knew she would have to punish him in some way for his unruly behavior.
Sam was beginning to be her worst nightmare.
Being a very professional and caring teacher, she struggled with Sam
for half the year, but finally broke down and demanded the principal
do something about him. While discussing the situation with the prin-
cipal, she drew on her past experience and training. She suggested
placing him under in-school isolation, developing an individual behav-
ioral management program for him, getting some medical tests, and, if
all else failed, expelling him on the grounds that he was a danger to
others in his class. She claimed that if action was not taken, she would
The principal asked her not to resign for at least 6 months. Then she
immediately promoted Sam to Grade 4. The result was nothing less than
In his new environment, Sam was with students that he admired. There
was no one smaller around for him to bully. Most important, the teacher
and students had entirely different expectations of his behavior. These
expectations were reflected in the classroom structures (rules and resources)
Because Sam was experiencing difficulty with classwork at his new level,
the principal also asked his previous teacher if she would help him with his
reading at the homework center. Now the "special" treatment he received
was not brought on by his attention-seeking, negative behavior, but by his
need to learn to read. The teacher was able to see Sam in an entirely new
Story from Walker, A., & Quong, T. (1998). Valuing differences: Strategies for dealing with the tensions of educational leadership in a global society. Peabody Journal of Education, 73(2), 81-105.