That Student

Sep 17, 2017

I often hear from parents who want to talk with me about “a student” in their child’s class. You know the student; he has a colorful vocabulary, is an independent and divergent thinker, and at times can be very physical in expressing his emotions. The parent is concerned about how the needs of the entire class suffer due to the needs of this one student. I have dealt with this issue on every level:

Frustrated Parent, I agree your child deserves to be educated in an emotionally and physically safe environment. This is a reasonable request, and as a parent of four, I understand.

Parent of Student-in-Need, I understand you want to be supportive, and are at a loss of how to help your child, but do not want him or her to feel ostracized.

Classroom Teacher, I know you are under increased pressure to raise the academic rigor in the classroom, while so much of your time is consumed supporting the diverse behavioral needs of your students.

Administrator, I believe you see the need, but feel exceedingly limited in available resources.

If we are going to tackle this issue, we must first adjust our perspective. The world in which we live is very different than the world in which we were raised. Schools, neighborhoods, and society were much safer when we were young. We never saw graphic, violent or sexual content to which children of all ages are now regularly exposed. Our schools are a reflection of our society and these factors impact the behavior of children. This does not excuse inappropriate behavior, but it does help us understand it.

Given the world in which we live, we have to find a better way of supporting student’s diverse needs in the context of our current general education reality. So, here are some thoughts for administrators:

• Staff members K-12 need more training on best practices for supporting the behavioral needs of students. The discipline methods used 30 years ago focused on punishment of misbehavior. In today’s classroom, these strategies are not nearly as effective. We need to utilize strategies that create long-term behavior change, rather than simple containment of behavior.

• We need to acknowledge that our students’ social and emotional needs are just as important as their cognitive development. Academic rigor is important, but it can’t be more important than helping our students be emotionally stable.

• We need a full continuum of services for students needing social, emotional and behavioral support. We need to advocate for allowing our counselors to do the job for which they have been trained. Unfortunately, non-social/emotional aspects of their job seem to consume most of their time.

• We need a clearly articulated plan that details how situations are handled when serious behavioral problems occur in the classroom. This does not mean providing parents with a stair step approach of consequences for misbehavior. It means detailing the specific resources that have been allocated to support behavioral concerns in a proactive, rather than reactive manner.

I am not saying any of this is easy, but it is critical if we are going to help our students be successful once they leave our schools and enter into the adult world, where all these problems exist on a much larger scale.

Beyond Poor Choices

I know I’m stating the obvious, but changing behavior can be difficult.  Want to start off on the right foot when faced with this challenge?  A critical first step in dealing with inappropriate behaviors is determining which are the result of poor...

Generalizing to Extremes

As I lay awake last night staring at the ceiling, it was clear to me that my original idea for this week’s post would have to wait.  Given the incident that occurred at yesterday’s presidential rally, I believe there is a bigger issue to address. I’ve been...

The Concerning Colorful Spectrum of Language

Though actions may speak louder than words, we best not underestimate how language modeling shapes the behavior of the children we are collectively raising.  I guess it’s a hazard of my profession, but I regularly see and hear the world through the eyes and ears of...

Teacher Dads

Dads, today I celebrate you as teachers.  In fact, I believe it is one of your most important roles.  Fathers are always teaching, continually by example, and most of the time without even knowing they are doing so.  In this regard, I have seen some masterful work.  I...

Predictable Routines Needed

“The only person who likes change is a wet baby.” This quote from Mark Twain seems appropriate given the changes occurring in homes as another school year ends. Parents, we’re lucky. Our kids have had nine months of consistency thanks to the hard work of teachers. We...

One Chapter at a Time

Relieved. Happy. Discouraged.  Exhausted. These were some of the adjectives teachers mentioned when asked how they were feeling about the school year ending.  Although the responses varied, all teachers agreed - they were ready to have some closure with their...

Surrogate Teacher Moms

“Do you have any kids?” I once asked a teacher friend. “Absolutely,” she said. “I have a classroom full of them.” I laughed and walked away, but that thought stuck with me. Let’s face it - some of the best mothers in our lives weren’t our mothers, in the biological...

Get Physical

I’ve done a great deal of yard work over the past few weeks and have been reminded of an important behavior strategy. It’s one I don’t talk about nearly enough, given its effectiveness. Of course, with most people’s busy schedule it’s also hard to come by. The...

Look for the Foundation

Did you know that behaviors have a build-up effect over time?  Most teachers do.  And although there is an ebb and flow pattern to the behaviors of students, we see them all at the tail end of the school year – the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Fortunately, we have...

Coming Together

So I’ve been thinking about this post all week.  Though the original inspiration hit me in the middle of the eclipse last Monday, it was driven home again yesterday.  (Being a spiritual man, I believe sometimes God circles back around and gives me reminders – to make...