Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Challenging classes

We all get that class that we find a little challenging.  The day starts with thinking, how am I going to get through this.  Student X is an absolute pain in the arse.  Student Y is going to talk through my instruction. Student Z is out of his seat and student A will do anything they can to get out of work and distract the class.

When I find these thoughts entering my consciousness it's time to step back and have a good look at myself.  Each of these kids are someone's special little person and the time spent worrying can be better spent planning how to work with each student.

Note that I didn't say deal with each student.

If you're coming to me and saying, I have student X can I put them in your class period 1, then you will get a look.  If you enter the room thinking the worst, it can be a self fulfilling prophecy.   Time is often better spent figuring how to get a positive outcome in the classroom than working on potential consequences for something that might not happen.  There would need to be a pattern of behaviour and attempts at behaviour modification before withdrawal is ok. 

Sometimes allaying the anxiety can start with a parent phone call.  My calls typically go with, "I have noticed that student Y is sleeping in class/distracted/moody/finding it difficult to concentrate.  I have tried frequent reminders/moving them/positive reinforcement/hand signals/consequences/private chats/interaction with student services and they have been unsuccessful.  Is there anything that might have caused a change in behaviour?"

This can open up a parent to give reasons and hints as to next steps.  The student might get upset that you have spoken to their parent (well.. stop the behaviour and I will cease), or change my behaviour (give clearer instructions/change pedagogy/change level of work presented), alter the environment (behavioural expectations, seating, stimulus level), provide additional support (removal of privileges, at home tutoring) or require additional supports (mental health, eyesight, hearing, auditory processing, autism, ADHD, ADD, emotional regulation, PTSD).

In many cases the request for assistance and escalation through BMIS processes are predictable as the teacher has few strategies (other than fear of consequence) to engage students and done insufficent preparation to prevent entirely predictable situations.  It's my way or handball them to admin.  This is career limiting - if you can't deal with these students you will not be considered for promotional positions.  Reflection, de-escalation, communication, conversations with other teachers, interaction outside the classroom, connecting with interests, story telling, enthusiasm, encouragement, mindfulness, peer mentoring, positive re-inforcement, goal setting, class building, finding success, collaboration are all alternate strategies that can have a positive result without using punitive consequences.   

Kids at risk have the highest needs and are also the ones where the biggest rewards for effort that can be achieved - and often the rewards are years down the track and only recongnised with hindsight.  There are such special people in the department that know this and make a difference.  It's always important to strive to be one of them.

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