Ever been charged with teaching a student who exhibits severe behaviors? If so, then you can relate. It’s that moment when the student walks in the door – and you immediately know if it’s going to be a good or troubling day. I had the latter with one of the students I support this week. His behaviors were extreme – kicking, screaming, scratching. Though we were able to end the day on a positive note, I have spent much time since revisiting my interventions, wondering what more I could have done to help him through the period of rage. You see, this wasn’t the first time this has happened, and I feel certain it won’t be the last.
During these times of self-doubt, I need to step back and not dwell too strongly on isolated incidents. On Friday, I was reminded of this lesson by one of my workshop participants in Gooding, Idaho. I had finished teaching a section of the content and we were on break. Just as I was questioning the clarity of what I had presented she told me how much the information made sense in light of what I had covered the last time I visited. She then proceeded to tell me all the different take-aways from my past sessions she was now applying to her work. I was so busy obsessing over one section of the content, I failed to look at the cumulative effect of my work.
It’s normal to question yourself and look for ways to improve skills, but be careful not to dwell on individual incidents too long. Look at the cumulative effort of your work. It’s hard to assess the effectiveness of your support when you are in the middle of it. When it comes to our students, our goal is long-term healthy development, and that is not something you are able to easily assess during the course of the school year.
Though outward behavioral change may not be as evident as I would like, the student I mentioned earlier in this post seems to be trusting us more, and that’s a start. It seems we are making a difference – but I wasn’t focusing on that fact on Friday when I was driving back to the airport. I was questioning one of my interventions. Luckily, I drove over the Snake River in Twin Falls, Idaho, and God gave me a breath-taking reminder to step back and look at the big picture. It was a beautiful thing.