Responding to Behaviors

The beginning of the year is a bit of a three-week tornado. You’re getting used to the classes, the schedule, professional relationships, and the students. But now the routines have been established and the health plans have been distributed. Those little hurdles that you thought were big ones have given away to newer big hurdles and your only course of action is to respond minute by minute.

Things to remember to help you keep your cool.

  • Q-TIP, this we can’t take the credit for. “Quit Taking It Personally.” The students may have behaviors but they aren’t doing it “just for you.” More realistically, it may be the time of day, the subject matter, or the demands of the day that they’ve had to navigate and then they can’t keep their behaviors together any longer. There are many things out of your control when it comes to the student’s behaviors. Just take a step back and give it a minute.
  • Give them a way out before it becomes too much. Offer breaks, offer alternative activities, offer things to work toward.
  • Know that the goal we are working away from behaviors, especially work avoidance behaviors. Don’t be afraid to use small rewards like earning stars or praise to help make things better for the student.
  • Stay positive. Even when you are skeptical that the award system may not be working. Some students take longer to unlearn behaviors that are so much easier to use.
  • The behaviors aren’t going to go away. Even when everything works, sometimes there are moments when it is all too easy to fall back to old habits.
  • Let students learn from their behaviors. If they aren’t actually going to get hurt, let them continue the behavior and let natural consequences take place. If student is talking at an inappropriate time, let classmates or the teacher redirect. If the student is refusing the assignment, let them fail that assignment and hold off trying to rescue that grade.
  • But mostly remember QTIP. Walk away, take your break, smile because this will be funny later.

Behaviors come big and small. They all have a purpose. Heading and shaping behaviors for the purpose of making certain that students can work in groups with peers, be safe to themselves (decreasing self-injury behaviors), and make social connections can be a complete full time job. In a few months though, you’ll look back and realize how much the students you work with have grown.

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