Explore Nueroscience in Education with Dr. Lori Desautels

Building Relationships = Positive and Effective Classroom Management

What do we do with students who are oppositional and easily engage in power struggles in our classrooms?

First, we observe.
We observe for patterns, times of day, what precipitated the outburst or aggression or who is involved. If it happens abruptly, without time to observe, we remind the student of class guidelines, state the guidelines that were broken in a very matter of fact way tone ( a loving detachment) we reinforce the consequences, quietly and one on one as to not create a bigger drama than has already occurred. If you choose to call a student out in front of their peers be prepared for bigger issues!

For me personally, there are three or four reasons a child or adolescent would consciously or subconsciously choose to act out, withdraw, or play with the the guidelines in an antagonistic way!

I am referring to the needs of children.
power, attention, trust, and need to succeed which is sometimes a paradox because this need looks like a fear of failing, but everyone wants to love, be loved and be accepted. No exceptions!

According to educator and author Rick Levine, social autopsies begin with observations and turning a problem into a learning opportunity

So once we have observed and written down all that has occurred, we go to the student and ask : What happened? What is going on today that felt so difficult for you? What can I do to help you so that this doesn’t happen again? Let’s look at this and find out how we can work it out. Where should we begin?

Then we begin to affirm and affirm and affirm and look for the positives even if we can only find one we find it state and build on it.

If the need is power and control, can we find some leadership opportunities in the class or in the school that will give this student a feeling of more power and control

If the need is attention, we remember that negative attention is better than no attention at all! So, what types of interests,  aptitudes and skills does this student have? This is why at the beginning of the school year, we must collect as much information about that student as possible so that we have a pool of ideas to pull from.

Choices and Voices, allow the students to create lessons, tests and teach what they are good at!

When you build community in your room you are setting up an environment that addresses the issues before they occur.

I have found through past mistakes and failures on my part, that when I feel I am getting heated and so angryand I am going to  lose a teachable moment, I am honest with my students and suggest a 10-15 minute break for both of us!! Please understand that children and adolescents who are struggling with oppositional behaviors, can reach a point of no return!! When this happens , there are no words or teaching strategies that work … only some space and time, experience and then REFLECTION and DISCUSSION to talk about how to prevent it from happening again.

HOPE is key, because as trite or as philosophical as this sounds, the moment you begin to see the best in those students who are struggling, they will pick up on this and see and begin to feel this also… Create moments of affirmation and success… use post it notes all the time! Use story telling, especially for the secondary students. They are never too old to hear a story. When the heat is on and tempers flare and the class begins to feel chaotic stop teaching and change directions … pull out a favorite book or audio tape , relax, and let the room settle…and pick these out as a class before you actually need them or begin to use then as a diversion.

Remember to communicate with parents early on so they feel that they are an important part of the educational environment in your room. Make the positive calls home catch the students in moments where even if John comes in and sits down without turning around to chat with his neighbor, you have observed this and reported it back to him in an uplifting way!

Remember the story from my book of Mr Pickett, catching Andrew in a great moment. This one comment changed Andrew’s feelings about the class and therefore his work ethic!

Below is pasted an experience I encountered many years ago that I have written about. I hope you enjoy it and learn a little too

Use one another as you build on your organic teaching styles that will always be malleable, and moving forward in a direction that aims for improvement even in the smallest doses.

Fall 1988
Mohawk Trails Elementary

The tension and malicious words struck the late afternoon classroom with the unexpected and brutal force of an ambush. Running through the door Brad screamed a language I was not prepared to handle. Three years prior, these words were not a part of my training as I arrogantly or maybe innocently sat in room 124 of Jordan Hall studying the pragmatic strategies and techniques of behavior management and Individualized Education Plans in one of many special education courses.

As he slammed his books on the desk and flung his chair against the wall, the class was startled into a quiet that I dreaded… Noise. I pleaded for any noise because it was much easier to swallow my ego and pride when there was classroom chaos distracting and drowning out my ineffectiveness as a young teacher as the vulgar words poised in mid air leaving me feeling helpless and alone. I just stood there frozen for 10 or 15 seconds waiting for a bigger more experienced person… just anyone to step in and make this all go away. It didn’t happen. I felt the sweat forming above my eyes and pooling under my arms. A distant pounding of a heart beating at an uncomfortable pace somewhere announced its cadence in my ears. Hearing Brad’s rapid breathing as his head slumped forward seeming to hang by a thread with all he had left, I hesitantly approached his desk. “I’m so sorry Brad. I am so sorry.” That is all I could say.
Maybe it would be enough?

December 2009

Twenty one years later recalling that afternoon and still feeling its contentious effects, I know those words, “I am sorry,” were enough. They were enough because some place deep down beyond textbooks, courses, and intense teacher training; my heart took over and responded from a place of understanding that could’t be taught. Brad did not give up in school and though he had difficult days, as his home environment continued to present stressful and oppressed experiences, he discovered the steadfast reserves in his heart that innately belonged to him.

Three weeks ago I received a call from Brad, now 32 years old. He asked if we could meet for coffee. I was overwhelmed with the thought of reconnecting with him once again. As I shuffled, stalling, and shuffling some more across Guilford Avenue, I hesitantly walked through the double glass doors of the small coffee shop in Broadripple, my head filled with questions as to how this meeting would unfold. My shuffling and doubts disappeared as his familiar grin greeted me at the corner two top. The small gas flames burning inside the circular stone fireplace reflected the warmth felt in my chest as a young man timidly waved his arm in the air calling me back…back into that classroom of learning and teaching so many years ago. We talked about life and the places we had traveled. Preparing to leave, I began digging for my keys from the bottom of my purse. It was somewhere in that moment a mountain of gratitude leaped inside every cell of my body-for Brad had found a place in the world and was living well.

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