What Are YOU Willing To Do Differently In Order To Have Your Student Behave Differently?
Emails frequently come in, asking for assistance regarding students who are, for a whole host of reasons, not learning. Inattentive. Defiant. Disrupting the learning of others. Not doing her work. Out of his seat. Blurting out. Hitting others. Tantruming. Anxious. The list goes on and on…
This is not an elementary issue. This is not a middle school issue. This is not a high school issue. This is not a public school issue. This is not a private school issue. This is an “equal opportunity” issue. In a given year, I typically assist students in grades preschool through the senior year of high school. And, since I often indirectly help the student, she may never meet me. She may not ever know my name. But, in order for me to help the student, the REAL target of my help is not the student. The REAL target of my help is the teacher, the one who wants the student to change somehow for the better. More attentive. More compliant. More cooperative. More in control. More school work completed.
As educators, we must be skilled experts in our areas of teaching. We must know what to teach and how to teach. But, equally important is the frequently minimized craft of managing students in the classroom. I’m sure you will agree with me when I say that to effectively teach any content whatsoever, we must first be able to manage the students whom we are teaching.
When a teacher asks for help in managing a troubling behavior of a specific student, the first question I ask the teacher is “What are YOU willing to do differently in order to have your student behave differently?” This is a crucial question. The student has absolutely NO incentive to change if status quo continues. When you begin to change how you respond to the undesired behavior, whether you start reinforcing desirable behaviors or you start punishing undesirable behaviors, the student’s behavior has a high probability of changing, as well. Ironically, this concept is true in any relationship between two people. Parent-child. Husband-wife. Siblings. Good friends. If you want the other person to change in some way behaviorally, your best chance of having this happen is by changing how you respond to that person when he or she is doing the undesired behavior.
Teachers are some of the busiest people in the world (you know it’s bad when you can’t find time in your day to use the restroom, and “lunch” is a 5-minute binge). It is not always possible to determine how much time a particular student’s behavior takes away from instruction, but if a student’s behavior IS depleting instructional time, the time it takes to implement a behavior plan for that student is usually well worth it.
Sometimes the best approach is to ask the teacher “What time of day—what hour, what class period, what subject—is THE ONE that you want to tackle first?” I’d rather a teacher fully commit to a simple strategy for 30 minutes or 1 hour and do it well (consistently and with integrity) than to attempt the strategy or plan for the whole day and not maintain consistency and integrity of the plan.
So, when you want to change a student’s misbehavior, be ready. You must first commit to changing YOUR behavior.