Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Do It Now or Else

In Instant Discipline? from Blogush by Paul Bogush, he states, “Why don’t we take this approach with kids who are “behavior challenged?” Why do teachers expect to tell them something once and then if they don’t do it “punish” them. What if teachers approached behavior just like academics. Teach it, review it, reinforce it, opps you made a mistake lets try it this way, here’s why its important, here’s how it impacts your life, your future, and if that doesn’t work try something totally different expecting not an immediate turnaround but slow growth over the course of the year.”

I think Paul makes great points but I can also see why teachers don’t react this way. I have been told many times:
*It is not our job to teach students to behave.
*I don’t have time to fool with a student who misbehaves.
*The student doesn’t respect me, so why should I work with that student?

But I don’t see how we can afford not to spend the time on behavior management.

This reminds me of a student who drove me crazy the first half of the year. He was disruptive and refused to follow directions. This made me angry and frustrated and the student obviously felt the same way. I kept records of how many times each class he disrupted the class and made a chart of this behavior to show everyone when we had a conference with the parents. They felt so bad but had no solutions. All of a sudden it hit me, I had the power to work with the student and help him find success in the classroom. The parents were not in the classroom and couldn’t control their son’s behavior when they were not with him. I needed to change my behavior before I could change his.

I actually spent some time charting my own behavior and what my reactions were each time this student misbehaved. I thought about what actions he exhibited and why he did this. Then I noted my reactions and the consequences for both of us. I was amazed (and somewhat embarrassed) by my results. I actually realized that I was the cause of some of his bad behavior and was reinforcing it by my own actions.

I first had to decide what I would change in my own behavior when he acted a certain way. Once I identified this, I was able to change my reactions when it happened. This change in me shocked him enough to actually change his behavior. Each time his behavior changed for the better, I rewarded him for this behavior. I also kept records of the behavior and charted them to see if there was a change from my original charts. Needless to say, there were big changes.

I also sat down with the student to discuss assignments that were frustrating to him. We tried to brainstorm ways that he could show me he understood the concepts in other ways. We also looked at what barriers were causing him so much difficulty with the classwork and what other tools he could use to help him complete assignments. We did try different tools until we found the ones that helped him be successful. Once he was able to be engaged in the lesson, the disruptive behaviors decreased. He also seemed to try harder because I was taking the time to really help him.

I was able to call home and report on positive behavior changes. The parents were very relieved and shocked about the change in behavior but curious as to why this was happening. I explained to them that I decided I needed to change my own behavior in order to help their son. I explained the different things I was doing and how the charts were showing this change. They were so grateful for the effort I was taking with their son that I had their full support. Their support actually encouraged me to continue in my efforts.

By the end of the year this student who was making Ds and Fs as well as being suspended often from school for bad behavior had started to make Bs and Cs in my classroom. In fact his good behavior started to spill over in other classes because his self esteem had also improved. I’m so glad that we were successful in changing his behavior or it would have been a miserable year for both of us. Just like Paul mentions, it is slow growth and takes time, but it was worth it!

Original image: 'Grr!' by: Martin Kingsley


miracle said...

your blog is very informative for future educators like myself!
awesome job :)

Anonymous said...

This is a very inspiring entry. thank you.

Kind of like, "be the change you want to see."

Lona said...

It's difficult to admit our mistakes and our weaknesses but when we can, miracles occur!
Thanks for your post.

loonyhiker said...

miracle: Thank you for your kind words.

loonyhiker said...

Mitch: you said it exactly and that is hard to do.

loonyhiker said...

Lona: I found that my students actually respect me more when I admit my mistakes. I think it is important to model this for them too.

{emily} said...

You make a very valid point. Sometimes one much change their own habits in order to help others change theirs.

siobhan curious said...

This is a lovely story, and reminds us that when we engage authentically with our students - instead of trying to "control" them - we can make a big difference, in their lives and in our own classroom experience.

not another arrogant American said...

And self-esteem is earned, not granted

loonyhiker said...

Emily: I only wish more people would see it that way. It is too easy to point the finger at others.

loonyhiker said...

siobhan: and with teens, control is a BIG issue!

loonyhiker said...

not another arrogant American: and I'm not sure that we work hard enough on helping students develop this.