Smart Kid Hates Group Work


–Queens, NY

(The most ironic and perverse crime in education today)

History teacher Derrick Barnes’ 12th grade class had just assembled into their work groups at Flushing High School in Queens, New York. After 10 minutes of frustration and futility, Tyrell Haynes, a student in Mr. Barnes’ class, delivered the following outburst (recorded on a students’ phone and transcribed below):

“I know why I’m in this group. Because I’m the only one who does any work, right? I notice there’s one of us in each group. Tyrell, could you be the group facilitator? I’m sure Tyrell wouldn’t mind starting off our question map. Perhaps Tyrell could do all the work while you other four sit on your clueless asses.

Well, maybe Tyrell doesn’t want to do it today. Maybe Tyrell wants to hang back this time. Maybe Tyrell wants Tryee to summarize the main point and tell HIM what to do next. Maybe Dakotah can lead us in a discussion about questions we still have. Maybe Carlos would like to lead us in our exam study session or the next time we brainstorm about how to start something Tyrell has already finished.

“I’m sick of this.

“At least I brought an article in. Nobody else could even bring in an article, never mind read it or be prepared to talk about it. All we have is my article for the five of us, again. Mr. Barnes, they’re not even listening to my summary. They only pretend to listen when you’re standing here. Don’t tell me you don’t know that. I’m summarizing my article for them and none of them brought an article to summarize for me. Why should Tyrell do that again?

“This is a bigger waste of time than putting my drunk-ass mom to bed after she pisses herself and almost burns down the apartment with a cigarette. I got my work done and now I have to come here to babysit and wait around for you to catch these lazy morons up. It’s not going to happen. They’re not going to catch up because they don’t do any work. I know you know that, too.

“You’ll make it look like they caught up by making the class easier. We’ll have vocabulary building Tuesday’s because these sorry fools won’t go to I’m 17 years old. I don’t need a damn word wall and I learned how to make an outline in fifth grade. They tell you that having smart kids and dumb kids together will make the dumb kids smarter, right? I don’t see it. No disrespect, but Chris was in my group all last year and he’s still the same dummy he was. What if he rubs off on me? Did you ever think about that?

“I notice Kristin isn’t here. What a surprise…Maybe I could write a summary for her tomorrow. Would you like that, Mr. Barnes?

“C’mon…I mean seriously…the center of gravity in my educational universe should not be the ten least productive people in this class. Yet here we are, slowing down our orbit and staying close to the ground, hoping they might accidentally absorb something.

“Y’all are seriously holding me back. Let my people go! The smart kids are tired of getting screwed by this romper room bullshit puppet show you have to do for people who are barely here and don’t care. Smart, motivated kids should be united into a single classroom where we can get some work done.”

Tyrell received a verbal admonition for using inappropriate language and failing to nurture the Community of Scholars.


This article is dedicated with fondness and apologies to:

Tyrell, Sandra, Massiel, Briana, Qi Ling, Adrian, Amber, Robert, Shelby, Karen, Engedesew, Maria, Daysi, Adriane, Anicel, DeAngelo, Henok, Nilaja, Vanessa, Doris, Yuri, Cuiyun, Jillian, Marvin, Erika, Tomalika, Walter, Carolina, Gavie, Alfonso, Yodit, Jose, Edilson, Monica, Danielle, Fergii, Yancy, Christian, Fermin, Ellen, Eduardo, Raquel, Andrea, Keysi, Kathya, Oscar, Veronica, Joel, Violeta, Nanci, Corey, Italo, Amonie, Deamonte, Latoya, Oscar, Ingrid, Sixin, Kenisha, Jamaria, Keilah, DeCheyla, Shari, Henrietta, Kevwe, Amie, Esmerelda, Elvi, Kenrry, Hadiza, Sinia, David, Bobbie, Victor, Merlyn, Yosef, Luis, Ruth, Shanell, Ishola, Joi, Joselin, Ellen, Yared, Xi Lin, Darnell, Kimberly, Alima, Reynero, Cazzandra, Diamond, Dayrin, Crystal, Fabiola, Ronchonae, Luis and Leroy.

You deserved better than I could give you.

Mr. Gwynn



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