Thriving School Psych Thriving Students

Color Me Badd

Don’t fret. This isn’t a post about the 1990s R&B group that infused mild rapping into their vocal styling that was so “bad” it had to add an extra “d.” It’s about graffiti.

As some readers who have been with me a while may recall, my introduction to one of my middle schools involved some delightful graffiti. Adventures in graffiti continued when my “Positive Graffiti Wall” went awry. My general rule with the students regarding graffiti (and most behaviors) is to attempt to channel it for good, not evil. Graffiti is an extremely powerful way for my budding adolescents to express themselves. My main task is to make sure that the “art” occurs on paper, no spray cans make their way on campus, and kids can’t claim anything but their school.

I am presently fighting a losing battle with the graffiti outside my office.

It all started with a small “Money Over Boyz!” marking on the wall outside my office.* In one week, it has exponentially multiplied to cover not only the wall outside my office, but the door as well. And while I’m mildly curious about who loves whom and who rules, it is clearly not “graffiti art.” Luckily, middle school kids are kind of impulsive, so they don’t think twice to put the same tag on their backpacks and every notebook as they put on the wall. So our school policy is to have the tagger clean it up, and our investigation process takes 2, maybe 3 seconds.

We have a mystery on our hands though.

My friend and I were examining the graffiti and have used our super sleuthing skills to narrow down the possible culprits.** We know the following:

a) Tagger is likely a 6th grader, as there was a diss of a current 6th grade teacher
b) Or, tagger is a disgruntled 7th or 8th grader who still holds a grudge (less likely)
c) May or may not have a Learning Disability as does not know how to spell a certain four letter F-word, nor a certain 5 letter B word.
d) May or may not be like Color Me Badd, purposely spelling thigz wrong 2 be kewl.

Basically, I am not a very good detective, so I opted for Plan B: Offer rewards to my counseling group if they agreed to clean it up as a community service project. Surprisingly, they agreed. In an effort to teach executive functioning skills, I let them try to figure out how to go about it. Needless to say, we spent the entire hour trying to figure out where to get the paint, who to ask to get it, locate brushes, ask the Principal if it was okay, etc etc. The bell rang and there we sat with a can of paint we couldn’t open, no brushes, and a giant wall of graffiti. I was delighted.


I was pleased because an unintended learning experience occurred. When we processed their experience of group, they all said something along the lines of “It’s hard work to paint over graffiti and it’s frustrating.” Now I cross my fingers that they think of this the next time they want to exclaim that in fact, Money is over Girlz.

*In hindsight, I should have pulled a NYC Transit Strategy and taken care of the small things before it set up a context in which graffiti is ok, and segues into more problems, the so-called “Broken Window” theory. It is not the case that I believe money should come over boyz, I just got busy.

**Finally, an opportunity to wear my newsboy cap and use my pocket spectacle.

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