Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sleeping is Not Acceptable Part 2

sleepingAs I mentioned yesterday, I became involved in another discussion that was recently started by a teacher in my Ravelry (a knitting/crocheting site) forum (Please check out yesterday’s post for my response). She says,

“I’m working on a project so they might get thrown in throughout here) regarding motivating students. Especially in regards to students who A) sleep and/or shut down as a means to dealing with frustration B) lash out (verbally or physically) as a means to dealing with frustration and confusion and C) whether or not you should address these issues to the class or individually.”

Here are some responses from other members of my Ravelry group:

Helen Guate responded:

“I haven’t had too much trouble with kids who actually fall asleep; with the one where it was happening last year, it was clear that the kid wasn’t getting enough sleep. Mom said he insisted on staying up as late as she did, and she never went to bed before 11. They had to leave the house at 5:30 to get to school on time, so there was your answer. I talked to mom about it, as well as the student, but without too much success (he didn’t come back this year). Mom’s inability to set limits with him was a huge issue. Not the same as kids deliberately sleeping as an evasive measure. One student, J, does lie on the floor and also frequently turns his back to the class, and I make him get up/turn around - I tell him to do so, perhaps 100 times a day sometimes. It has improved over the years. He is autistic.

When kids close their eyes (for Deaf students this effectively cuts off all communication) I tap their shoulders, but if they don’t respond there’s not much I can do. This really frustrates me, and I probably don’t always handle it well, but I think the best thing is to wait it out and give natural consequences. I might do an activity that child particularly enjoys and not repeat what they missed while their eyes were closed. This usually improves when their communication improves. FJ always closes his eyes briefly when he is mad, though. I ignore it since it’s just a few seconds.

As far as aggression, I am strict about that with everyone. Whether I deal with it individually or as a class depends on who and how many of the kids are being aggressive. I try to use a combination of approaches. You have to keep everyone safe, so in extreme cases I have restrained kids. If the kid hits frequently (can’t go a few minutes without aggression), I give a certain number of warnings before removing them from the activity, by force if necessary. I know you guys have some rather extreme limits as to whether/how you can touch kids, but I will sit in front of them and hold their hands during a time-out if need be to keep them there. Again, with very extreme cases, I have used a hug-type restraint until the kid calms down. Once the time-out is over, return the kid to the activity. At the same time, praise every little accomplishment. I look for tiny things with the severely aggressive kids - an angry glance with no aggression gets praised; they have controlled themselves. Responding well to something that provoked a tantrum yesterday gets huge praise. When this is a big problem, I set up reward programs, either individually or with the entire class if several kids are aggressive. I do scold kids, and tell them that hitting or whatever is not acceptable, etc. Of course you must keep the scolding appropriate - address the behavior and not the kid, no abusive language, control your tone and volume of voice (signing). If I raise my voice, it should be so the kid gets the message and not as an outlet for my anger.

I take the same approach with bad language, insults, and other inappropriate language, although if a kid is aggressive I am a bit more flexible with this at first - I never allow bad language, but angry outbursts are preferable to aggression and you can get rid of them later. If other kids complain, I explain that X is learning not to hit people now, and will learn to be more respectful later. I’ll never forget when FR was new, and ate extremely messily, G asked me why I let him eat that way. This was hilarious, because when she was new, G had to wear an apron while eating, and still managed to get her uniform filthy somehow! I told G that FR was new, and was learning other things, and we would teach him to eat politely over time. I reminded her that she had been just as messy when she was new. She immediately took a napkin and patiently helped FR to wipe his face, and never again complained about his eating.

With younger or more sensitive kids, I often turn their chair around instead of removing them completely from the group. I also do this with E, who can’t stand up or walk on her own. This is amazingly effective with some kids, and will have them begging to be brought back into the activity in no time. It also has the advantage of me being able to continue working with the other kids while I supervise the timed-out kid. If the kid continues to lash out, obviously turning the chair around isn’t enough, but it has worked well for me in some difficult cases, including L, by far the most aggressive kid I have worked with at this school. Sometimes it can be used at a later stage when the child’s behavior has improved. I swear L used to learn twice as much while in a time-out than any other time! He would stand there, watching us and repeating all the signs, etc. I could never get him to do that at other times. Although I didn’t speak directly to him or involve him in the activity, I would sit so he could see me, since as I said he paid more attention then.

We all know to use good behavioral techniques through all this, of course. Be consistent - I have rules for myself even if I don’t share them with the kid: three warnings about hitting and then a time out. Ask the kid to participate three times and then turn their chair around. I usually use three - it’s easy to remember and I think reasonable both for the kid and for me. Apply the rules ruthlessly; this helps prevent your anger/emotions from interfering and teaches the kid what to expect from you and that you are fair.

I also try to teach them alternatives, according to their needs. The autistic kids often need very basic coaching - you are angry. Tell G to stop. Tell me that L hit you, don’t hit him back. Sometimes you have to give them the exact words they can use at first. “You can’t call me a &$#@. Say: ”I’m mad and I don’t want to color.” Respond to such appropriate communication - give them an alternative to coloring, or offer a preferred activity after they color a certain amount. They need to see that communication works. When very aggressive kids threaten to hit or begin to hit and don’t follow through, I praise the lack of violence and prompt them with acceptable alternative to the threat.

I have also found that communication skills (specifically lack of them) and aggression go hand in hand with most of my kids. While not all SPED kids have language deficits, I do think that in many cases there is a problem there, even if it’s just not knowing how to express strong emotions. Kids who can’t express basic needs will either draw into themselves or lash out. So I really focus on language development with any kid with aggession problems.

I think being strict/demanding is good for the kids, but can’t be the only persona you present to them. Even with the most rebellious kid, you have to try to keep things mostly positive. They are still doing some things right and need to know you see that. They also need to know you care for them, so they need affection as much as (maybe more than) the other kids. Try to remove situations that provoke them. Don’t seat them next to kids that annoy them or other aggressive kids. Teach the other kids to be respectful to them, if that’s an issue. Basic common sense things like that help too.”

Mama79hi responded,

“I have a lot of sleepiness in my class. Sometimes it’s because of the meds and when they start kicking in, sometimes the kid isn’t getting enough sleep at home, sometimes it’s because they’re little and it’s nap time in the afternoon (this happens mostly at the beginning of the school year when they are first coming to a full day program with no nap) I talk to parents about meds etc and to our nurse. If it’s just tiredness I talk to parents about that. There have been stories like the mother worked in a group home and left early or stayed out all night leaving a much older brother to watch my kid and the older brother just didn’t get them up in time for school or didn’t bother to mess with getting them to bed early the night before. It isn’t going to help me or them at all to fuss at them for falling asleep- usually not their fault.

DH used to teach high school-reg ed before he was a principal. If someone fell asleep in his class he’d bang on their desk! lol

Aggression- if it’s bad like trying to hit/bite/etc someone else, I usually remove them from class for time-out but sometimes it’s so bad I remove the rest of the class or have my para take the rest of the class somewhere while I stay in the room with the one throwing chairs around until they calm down. I had a little girl 5 years ago who was tiny but threw 15 heavy metal kid chairs around the room. I believe because of things she did and said that she had been being abused and I guess it was her only way of acting on her frustration. There’s always a reason for their behavior somewhere in there.

Still I agree with Helen and mostly do the same things she does with regards to these behaviors.
I use a lot of different rewards and change up the reward systems often because my kids need that. I have on a few occasions had to restrain a kid in time-out, or take a kid’s hand and make him pick up the toys he was playing with and threw across the room. They have to see that in the end they must do what you require.
Verbal- I don’t put up with any bad language and I am very careful not to ever say anything like a curse word (in school or not- if I let myself use curse words I might slip at school some day :-)

If my kids say things they usually are imitating what they heard at home or on tv. I just say we don’t say things like that in school. I try not to make a big deal about it so they don’t think, “ooh that word makes the teacher mad, I think I’ll use it again!” something like that. If you draw too much attention to that they might just use it more often to get a rise out of you.

I learned when I started with the kindergarten (5 years ago) that I do have to give them words sometimes like Helen said. I have to tell them the things they can say and sometimes model it for them. Like, “JS- you are mad, tell C you are mad. But JS, C just needs that piece of knex for his motorcycle. Now C, tell JS why you need that toy/piece of knex. Now JS, may C have that? Ok C, tell JS thank you for giving you that piece.” This goes on pretty much all during playtime. It’s my major justification for having such long playtime (other than the awful schedule I have this year with virtually 1 hour of instruction time all day). They simply don’t know how to tell others why they are doing things sometimes.”

Tinaprice answers,

“I’d agree with Helen and Karen. Be consistent and clear is the key. I too remove children for time out, (I use the turned around chair as well, hate sending children out of the teaching and learning zone) after 3 warnings. I also intervene and restrain when this is called for, when a child is not safe. We are trained in restraint procedure and do this in pairs if possible, with a third person observing. You have to be so careful as it is very easy to asphyxiate a small child if you do things incorrectly. We always make a record afterward in a special bound and numbered book and tell the parents before the end of the day what has gone on.

I also rely heavily on Assertive Discipline, using the ‘I need you to….’ wait/repeat phrase (until you get the response you want, then thank). For this I will go as far as 5 repetitions, counting down on my fingers so that the child can see how far I am prepared to go. They usually move on 4 reps!

However I think the most important thing for me is that when things are over, even if I am cross and flustered, I try to show the child that it is OK now, and we can move on together. I sometimes talk about the past, in the way Helen mentions, trying to get the child to see that I am always on their side and that they are moving forward. This is a very positive move and helps the child to know you are still in a positive relationship with them.

What is very interesting to me is finding out why the children behave in these ways. Pat suggests discussion with parents and again this is critical for me. The chaos and unhappiness that some of my children experience is shocking to me! It leads me to make sure that they have firm, caring, kindness as well as teaching when they are with me. I think a problem for some mainstream teachers is that they have an idea of home life that is at considerable variance with their pupils’ experience and this leads to a mis-match of expectations.

Finally I think we fail to use uncontaminated praise. If someone does something well if is better to say, ‘You are doing that well, good job’ and not embark upon a dissertation about their failure to do this so well in the past. Who would want to hear that? If someone says something genuinely positive to me, I remember it for ages and it makes me feel so good about myself. That is what I want for my children. The number of times I have caught the eye of the class teacher and made the ‘hush!’ gesture. If we got the children to think ‘School! I can do this! I am good here!’ we would win so many battles so easily!”

Readingteacher adds:

"I have not had too many intense situations so far. I have had students put their heads down in refusing to cooperate. I let them know that this is their choice and that there are natural consequences to the situation. The student can choose to do their work now, or later on during their free time (recess or after school) I give warnings first such as….EC this is your job now, the expectation is for you to write three sentences ….. I give the students time to process and make the correct choice. If they do, I will say…Thank you for choosing the right choice or something to that effect. If the student does not cooperate they are supposed to go the buddy room, where the teacher in that room will process with that student when he/she gets a moment. (I try not to let this get that far.) Some of my students do not understand that process. It works better for general ed. students. My students are more concrete in their understanding, so my requests are explicit and the consequences are as well. With that said, there are many times when I have to change up what I was going to teach to make it work for the student. I give them choices within the daily tasks so they have the need for control fulfilled. I will tell them, this is what we need to do…what do you want to do first? I might have choices within the choices too. When students have no control in their environment, I try to give them some control with our environment. It validates who they are and allows them to say, “I make a difference and it’s OK.” So I try my best to be proactive with the behaviors I deal with instead of being reactive. I am not perfect, but I try."
Do you have anything you want to add or respond to? Please join in the conversation!

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Hard work can hurt'
http://www.flickr.com/photos/42846332@N00/3075723695 by: Dave C

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