It is 10 minutes until the dismissal bell rings. You are trying to keep your students from climbing the walls, probably giving last minute directions and trying to supervise a great deal of controlled chaos.
But you are a pro! Chaos is no problem but there is always that one student who is your “Crazy Maker” for the current school year. They are challenging everything you ever learned in Behavior Management. You have tried everything from phone calls home to behavior charts with amazing rewards to control this one little darling’s outbursts, or lack of focus or their tardiness to your class but nothing has made a bit of difference. This is the student that makes you pray for snow days and thankful for dentist appointments!!
You have pulled out the Champs Behavior Management Encyclopedia, talked on the phone to his/her parents for hours, and then called your mentor teacher in tears. It’s not like you JUST started teaching, for Heaven’s sakes!!
You should be able to handle “Little Diablo!”
But unfortunately, no matter how versed we become in handling students’ problem behaviors that impede learning there is always a new student who comes along with conduct issues you never imagined existed!
They do not respond to your old “tried and true” sure fire interventions that worked in a snap with that student last year or 3 years ago. So now what?
Do you retire early? Start looking on for jobs that require the same skills as teaching but do NOT include smart mouthed, noncompliant children (I REALLY don’t think there are any)????
When I reach this point with one of my little darlings (and I have SEVERAL times), there are a few strategies I pull out to try and honestly, they usually work! So today, I decided to tell you about my Final Frontier of Behavior Interventions or my “Backup and Punt” routine when nothing is working and I find myself going nowhere and making no progress with a student.
I cannot guarantee they are full proof because every kid is different, but why not give them a shot if nothing else is working??? For additional behavior interventions, click here.
1. I Notice You.
You know this one, if you have been teaching anytime at all. You probably do it already to a certain extent. You just need to ramp it up a lot for your stubborn behavior problems!
This behavior intervention requires you to “Notice” things about your troubled student. NOT be overbearing or “Chat them up” every time you see them. Just very small “Notices” as in:
“I noticed you have a really cool Star Wars binder. I liked the newest movie.”
“I noticed you reading a Minecraft book. My son likes Minecraft too.”
“I noticed you watching the basketball game after school. I like to watch basketball too.
Take note that none of these goes too deep, turns into a major conversation or requires that the student answer you. You may get no response the first couple of times, but eventually you will. But don’t be obvious or overbearing about it. A comment once or twice enough in one day and hopefully in a couple days, the student will answer and you can learn more about him or her.
2. Repeat Back
I have read and really believe that a lot of behavior problems stem from students not being able to communicate their needs and their feelings. Imagine you were REALLY upset about something but you cannot call your best friend this time and tell her all about it. You can’t even sit with your spouse at dinner and bounce ideas off of him/her. It would be very frustrating to keep all those feelings bottled up inside.
As humans, we have an overwhelming need to share our problems and frustrations. Sharing makes two people feel closer together and can create a very strong bond.
Our students are no exception, they WANT to share, but are afraid of ridicule or others talking about them. As adults, we share thoughts and feelings to those we trust without the fear of being judged (for the most part!). Students don’t understand that they are NOT the ONLY person who has experienced their struggle and they will not be laughed at or made fun of if they share with an adult or trustworthy friend. However, most troubled students lack that trusted adult or friend so they must keep their concerns and fears locked up inside.
This is where #2 comes into play. If you do have the opportunity to speak with a disruptive student in private, it is very important you let them speak, and you just listen. Sometimes, this is VERY difficult, especially with a kid who is stopping your instruction and causing a train wreck in your class every day!! But try to refrain from lecturing about the importance of school and listen to their reasoning.
Their thoughts and explanations will give you MAJOR feedback most of time and may even give you an idea to improve their conduct in your class! However, the REAL synthesis of #2 comes from YOUR response after the student finishes speaking!
After they express their opinion, it is YOUR job to say:
“What I hear you saying is… (and you insert the what they said or give a very clear summary with very similar words).”
NO reactions on your part, just a simple response from your confirming what the student said and that is ALL. Usually, the student will be expecting you to react with lecturing or worse so when you simply summarize their feelings, it will surprise them and spark their curiosity about you.
This strategy of mirroring their words back to them shows the student you’re listening to them and you care enough to repeat it back for clarification and understanding.
I bet there are plenty of kids out there who have never had anyone care enough to repeat their feelings back to them and try to understand something from their point of view!!
I know this sounds VERY basic for a kid you are really struggling with, but sometimes we need to get back to noticing our students and really paying attention to them on an individual basis.
These two very simple, everyday strategies can recenter you with a student who you feel has wandered away from your influence or is going through a trying time at home or at school or a new student you don’t know much about yet.
The truth is these very small things can be very powerful when introduced with patience and without pushing the student too far to share. Give them additional tries if they do not respond to the first couple prompts. It takes time to establish trust, but that time is always worth it!!