Sunday, September 26, 2010

Problem Child

From the Apple

This is probably the number one problem that young teachers have - the student who misbehaves. He gets something out of making poor choices. It works for him! For your entire career, you will have students like this so now is as good a time as any to figure out how to best work with kids who misbehave.

While letting the parents know and getting them is involved is always a good idea, you can't always depend on parents to offer the consequences that will make a difference. First of all, they are sending you the best kid they have. It's not like they are keeping all the good ones at home! Regardless of how this child behaves in your class, they love him dearly and is they could control his behavior in school, they would. They are probably exhausted from doing everything they can just to manage the behaviors at home. What they want is a teacher who understands their child and cares about him anyway! Normally I work toward making all of the reinforcement and consequences self-contained within the school day. You can let Mom and Dad know how his days are going but I usually don't depend on the family to come home after their own exhausting day and be the reinforcer. You can't always depend on their consistency and that will frustrate you and will not help the behavior if the parents are inconsistent. Of course, if you have parents who really want to get involved, their extra reinforcer or consequence will only move the change more quickly.

With the particular child that you describe, it is hard to know what he can control and what he can't but sounds like there might be some of both If he can control it and just chooses to be distracting, that is the easier to distinguish. If he really can't control some of the behavior, you have a different problem. That is where RtI might fit in.

I know you learned all this in school but now is the time to apply what you know. Sounds like you already have a behavior plan for the class that is probably working well for the class, but is not enough for him. I know you have set up class expectations or rules and that the children know exactly what is expected. So... what to do next?

1. Make sure to develop a relationship with this child. If he likes you and wants to please you, your job will be easier. Invite him to spend lunch with you one-on-one or to come in early in the morning or help you in the afternoons. Find out what he likes (this will help as you choose a reinforcer for him) and what makes him tick.

2. You have already gone to the positive (Whoo hoo!), making sure to praise other students for the behavior that you want in him and certainly to praise him specifically when he makes good choices. Keep that up, even when it is hard, and the last thing in the world you want to do is praise him! He is responding to attention so make sure he gets lots of it for positive actions.

3. Ignore as much of the inappropriate behavior as you can. That means that it will increase for a while because he figures he needs to do more if you don't respond at first, but over time if he does not get attention from you or from the class, the behavior will diminish on its own.

4. Chart his behavior for a day or two to get a baseline. What exactly is he doing, how often? This will help you target a single area and will help you know when things are getting better.

5. An individual plan for that child is also the way to go. Figure out what motivates him and offer it as the reinforcer, such as being the line leader or even an extra PE or extra computer time or something that you can arrange in the school day as a pay off for earning a certain amount of points. Make the amount of points attainable, so he can begin to know what it feels like to make good choices. The reinforcer has to be something strong to hold his behavior throughout the day. You might even have to break the day up into smaller pieces and allow a reinforcer after shorter times.

I know that you already know all this and have probably already begun to work on your plan for him, but this is the type of student that every teacher has. Learning to help him use his energy and positive traits in a productive way will make a huge difference in his learning success and the class' peace of mind. Make sure to let us know how it goes!

Friday, September 24, 2010

The distracter

From the Star
Have you ever had that student in your class who just does whatever he can to make sure that all of the students are distracted? You know - that class clown. Well let me tell ya, I have one little live wire in my small little quaint class. He just doesn't seem to stop. We have conduct cards in place but he doesn't seem to care if he gets checks for misbehaving. There are no consequences at home. So... I have been relying on my learning and experience (as as that is!) to try to use as much positive reinforcement and praise as I can... but let me tell you, it is pretty tough with how often he is off task. Now I am going to start a rewards chart with him for in-seat on task behavior. Hopefully this will help me turn the corner with him. I will keep you informed.
I'm writing this blog to tell new teachers that there is always going to be a kid like this this or so it seems to me so far, but that we must not give up. We just have to work together and share our ideas and support.
These are the behaviors I am seeing. He stands up while he works, taking things off others desks (including mine!) and offering them to other students. He loves to talk the whole time that I teach a lesson. He likes to sing in the middle of my small groups and tap his pencil, kick a box or anything else that makes noise to distract others. He loves the attention and loves when the students laugh at him. He races to shut students off from going out the door, to the bathroom, and to the water fountain. He really loves to interrupt my small groups by coming over and dancing and then making all the students laugh and then asking me a question.
Although I am having a little trouble with this particular boy I am still loving the year and my class and know that with a little determination we can work together to turn this young man around. I have complete faith that things will get better with this students.... Till next time....

Friday, September 10, 2010

3rd Grade is Amazing!!!

From the Star
So, I know what you all are thinking - there is no way this pre-k Special Education major who griped all last year is saying that she likes intermediate. Well, mark my words and remember this day, because that is exactly what I am saying. It may be the fact that we are straight grades this year (I'm just 3rd grade instead of 3rd-4th-5th) or maybe it's the fact that I am in my second year and I am able to use my knowledge and resources from my crazy first year, or maybe it's that I have 13 kids, but I truly do love it. And yes, I remember that third grade is a stressful FCAT grade but I feel really confident. I have such a small class and a great team leader who I work with side by side each day to come up with the best skills and curriculum that is going to best show the full potential and success of my 3rd graders. I can say that I am truly blessed this year to not only be teaching the same grade as my team leader but also because she is so knowledgeable and helpful. What a difference a great mentor makes! Together we are making great strides. Of course, this is my second year and I don't really get assigned a mentor, but that is really what my team leader is. I really think new teachers need three years of support instead of just one. The guidance that she has given me and the ideas that she lets me share have helped me to grow. She really knows how to boost my confidence and helps me to build on my strengths while helping to improve my weaknesses. What a gift!
I always thought my first year was so difficult because I was not made for intermediate, but I have now come to realize, just like my students in an assessment, the difficulty comes from a lack of background knowledge and confidence. This year has been much less stressful and much more productive for both me and my students. I know now that when things get tough that I can make it through. So for all you first year teachers - You will grow and become more knowledgeable and successful in your skills. The stress WILL start to vanish and the tears will stop flowing. Until then just know that it is normal to feel completely overwhelmed and stressed out. And don't be ashamed or embarrassed let it out and let those tears fall. It is all part of being a first year teacher.