Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Responsibility , Respect, and a Recording Artist

Another run-in with one of my little ones today made me think about several things. One is that I need a name for her here because I'm sure I'll be writing/thinking/tearing my hair out over her a lot. I've decided to call her Beyonce. I choose the name because of a couple of experiences with her. On the first day of school I take a picture of every child in my class which I use throughout the year for a variety of purposes. She was the only child to truly 'strike a pose' for the picture and I loved it! The second event was during our free choice time when she was part of a group playing with Lincoln Logs (I found them at a yard sale). One kid was actually building with them but the others had found other uses. This little girl was holding one like a microphone and singing and dancing!

Today she had a fabulous morning and then things fell apart after lunch. It's a long story but I finally sent her to another classroom to calm down and when she returned it got ugly again. We brought in one of our after-school-care teachers who knows her and took her somewhere quiet to settle down. That worked well. I don't think I handled things perfectly, but I'm not sure there is much I could have done to improve the situation.

So, I'm left wondering what to expect of this six-year old. I've wondered this before. If a child's problems stem from parenting or family issues (I'm not sure that is true here or not), what does that mean? Should we cut them some slack? Should we hold even tighter to counteract the other?

I don't feel like I can expect the same behavior from a child with a difficult home life than I can from a child with a stable home. These are children. They are going to struggle with emotions, impulse control, focus, and so much more even when things are going well for them. When things are tough of course they will act out or shut down. How do we help them build skills to cope with life, much less teach the prescribed curriculum?

I feel as though I've rambled on a lot here without ever truly managing to get at the point or question that is in my head.


A. Mercer said...

Hmm, I've had these turn out fine, and some blow up in my face. Have you contacted the family? I'd try to a parent conference, or a home visit.

Definitely start out with the positive, how she is charming, etc. Ask the parent what works for them when she blows out. That sort of behavior is not unheard of in a six-year-old, but is not routine either. Is simply refusing to following directions, or is she physical in a way that threatens others students or her own safety?

The problem that I find often (but not always) happens is that the parent is using a level of punishment (corporal, yelling) that while legal for them, will not be for you. In this case you will have to find other ways to build a relationship with the student (not impossible, but not easy either).

poulingail said...

I have had lots of experience with this type of behavior. I think it is part and parcel of teaching kindergarten because many of the students haven't learned the rules, and expected code of behavior yet. So advice...
1. take a deep breath. you're in it for the long haul
2. be sure to keep yourself outside of the behavior so you can respond but not react
3. call upon the school psychologist or adjustment counselor to have a conversation with the child. They get the story out in no time flat and you can get back to teaching instead of being the shrink.
4. watch for and record the signs (or tells) that she has so you can be ahead of any outbursts.
5. set aside some time for a private conversation to be sure she can verbalize the rules in a conversation.
6. use this conversation to establish a team like approach so she knows you are on her side working toward a positive outcome.
7. let her see forgiveness and opportunity of improvement every step of the way.

All of these things only work if you can keep her in the classroom, safe from harm or harming others, and following the accepted rules. She likes to perform so why not give her a time each day where she knows she can do a specific job. She can turn off the lights when leaving the room, or announce it's time to go to your special, etc. Things like this can be small but can also give her something to work for later in the day.
As Alice said, contacting the parents is a good idea. They will often say, "Oh she does that at school too?" You can create a team approach with the parents that cements a bond should things get tougher down the road.
There are many behavior schemes that you can use. The adjustment counselor can help you out with those if and when needed.

A. Mercer said...

I like Gail's response, and kinder is a time when everyone gets to discover these behaviors in kids (parents, child, and teacher).
I find it easier when the parent says, "she does that at home too," that Gail pointed out, then as she says, you get to be partners. The parents that say, "I never have that problem," are either lying to you and/or themselves, or are use a level of "control" you can't go and wouldn't want to go to, and the kid is acting out because school is the only place to let off steam.