That Is A Fine Hole You’ve Dug Yourself….

Behavior is an ongoing elephant to struggle with. Just when you think you might have a student’s specific behavior managed, something else goes awry and you have to start all over again.

We know the things we can do to mitigate some behaviors. Using visual schedules, keeping to routines, being a familiar face, establishing a rapport, and being consistent. But there is always that student that challenges everything. They show boat, trying to be the center of attention for anything. This also may be a student who is trying to compensate for their disability to not have attention drawn to their academic deficits.

It can be purely frustrating to deal with a student who would rather be sent out to the office than deal with an attempt or ask for help directly. But have some ground rules before you lose your mind.

  1. Always have an escape plan for you. Some students have refined the art of being kicked out of class. Phrases such as, “I wasn’t doing anything!” are usually a last sputter of a student as they are on their way out the door. But they are purposely trying to raise your anger to push you out of control, because that amuses them. Realize if they push too far you may need to take a minute. Try not to show that they got to you because for whatever odd reason, the phenomena of a student who remembers nothing else can remember that they annoyed you and the sequences to get there.
  2. Remember the student does have a choice. They can make poor choices. They can also not enjoy the consequences of poor choices. And while I am on the subject of consequences: celebrate the times they make a positive choice for the situation(s) at hand. Again, for some students, this idea of positivity is a very difficult concept. For a few students, positivity is not natural.
  3. Be aware of the student who is ‘all or nothing’. These are a slightly different sort of student who face challenges with regards to positive rewards. They enjoy positivity, but then one negative slight and the world they view collapses around them. These are students who tremble and the idea of being imperfect or not understanding the situation. They would rather get in trouble than produce anything that is not quite as wonderful as they think the product should be.
  4. The student who refuses to do the activity/lab/assignment does not have the right to ever prevent their classmates from doing their activity/lab/assignment. This includes using technology to harass their classmates or making comments about classmates.

So what do you do if you have a student who is at this point? This is where a relationship with administration is important. Catching onto a pattern of behaviors helps to guide a discussion with behaviorists and other members of the IEP team. We are also not above “bribing”, often a week or two without issue and we might go off campus and get pizza and bring it back for the student. Smaller prizes, like a weekly piece of candy or chocolate might be more reasonable for some situations. But the part that is much harder is changing the perceptions of others. Those peers do not want to sit next to a classmate who will not stop laughing at another classmate whenever they speak. The peers that were made fun of no longer feel safe in class whenever that student is in the room. And those group members certainly do not want that student in their group. Additionally, because you were off dealing with discipline, you were not probably helping five other students in the class who are all supposed to be helped by you.

Behavior can eat at you, but having a plan every day when you walk in to renew that contract with all the students of any class is very helpful. Every day is a new day to return to try and move forward. When this does not work, other responses may be necessary.


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ParaEducate is a company run to help reach out to paraeducators or paraprofessionals in public K-12 schools, giving advice, talking about publications that ParaEducate produces, and other useful information regarding working in public school settings.

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