I got to go to a PD session that I enjoyed - and I also got some ideas to take back!
Practical Strategies for Improving the Behavior of Attention-Seeking, Manipulative and Challenging Students (Grades 1-12)
It was put out by BER (Bureau of Education and Research), and provided by Cindy Jones, who will be retiring very soon. I pre-judged her, as she shared her age as 75, and I thought that there was no way she had been with students since pandemic teaching. I was wrong to pre-judge, of course. She had a wealth of experience, and she's worked with children in terrible situations - for them and for her. After listening to many of her stories, I realized that I had it good in comparison. Throughout the day, she shared reasons WHY children may be acting up. I won't put all those reasons here - they're good to know, for sure. For this blog post, I want to document the actions we can use to help with these behaviors. Cindy put on a "workshop" - she told us to shop for ideas we'd like to take back for us or for our peers - there was no need to use it all. Some things she talked about that I won't include are building relationships, rewards, and contracts.
Two types of students who attract our attention for myriad reasons:
No matter how much attention they get, it's not enough. Praise publicly, correct privately. Give them attention up front, asking about the puppy or the football game. Move close to them as you're teaching. Drop their name during the lesson. Distract them ("___, what are the instructions?"). Ask them for a favor. Clarify desired behavior ("When you finish your work, you may..."). Give affirmations.
Consider using Compliment Cards
. Have these pre-made, so they're easy to find and hand out. Students can make their own as well, should you have a box of them for them to use.
These children want control at all times. They are often oppositional and disrespectful. Praise and correct privately (or use non-verbal gestures). They're testing you. Give two choices ("Would you like for me to help you get started, or would you like to get started on your own?" "Would you like to do this now or after school?"). Use Teflon Responses. Use distraction. Change the subject. Dodge irrelevant issues ("We're not talking about that. We're talking about...." in a calm tone). Use empathetic statements. Don't take it personally and get furious - instead get curious. Discuss misbehavior later. Acknowledge that you can't make them do things and you hope they make good choices. If they do damage, have them make restitution. When they argue or refuse, say, "You do or you don't. I hope you make a good choice."
Some ideas we can use:
Beginning of the Year Relationship Agreement
Create one chart for each class, or combine the charts into one with student consensus/buy-in. Have four quadrants: student to student (no drama, positive vibes, one up to it, kind words and actions, help each other, share), student to teacher (pay attention, kind words and actions, be responsible, smile, follow directions, put forth effort), teacher to student (listen, be patient, give warnings, provide affirmations), and student to classroom (pick up after yourself, care for supplies, hands off others and their items, follow seating expectations). On Fridays or Mondays, go over how everyone did and how we could all improve. Choose one thing to improve upon. (I used to do this as a plus/delta chart - I've gone away from it for various reasons.)
Some of these I thought were a bit below my grade level (7th grade), and some of them made me laugh, no less. Cindy shared different kinds of body movements + catch phrases we can provide for students who are doing well. "You are worthy" + stretching arms up and then moving them down as if bowing to the student. "Do, do, do, do, you did a good job" + disco fever dancing like John Travolta. "Go (name)" + washing machine action. Then there are small ones - the "microwave" is a teeny wave with your pinky finger. The "flea clap" is your thumb and pointer finger clapping (like the number 20 in sign language). I also liked the silent cheer - like clapping for a Deaf audience - hands up, open, and shaking. A peer of ours shared the Confetti Cannon extension on Chrome, too. She said we'll probably get pushback at first, but then students will start asking for affirmations.
Cindy gave us many ideas for brain breaks, and I was reminded that kids need breaks to feel more connected (to each other and to their teacher) and to shift their mindset (and their feelings about the class, or the teacher, or stressors). Ideas to use: look for hidden objects in a picture, visual puzzles, thumbs up/down/sideways for trivia questions, word or math puzzles, pen flips, draw in the air to answer a question, stand up if a statement is true, take six steps with your partner to share an idea, "would you rather" questions with a partner, question of the day, "have you ever" questions ("I have!"), "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean", etc. I've got a book of them that I haven't used yet this year. It's okay to take two minutes for this. She knows that kids can be derailed by this, but says it takes about a week and a half for them to get in the groove and keep it to two minutes. My 12 year olds need state changes after 12 minutes, maximum. "Give me a thumbs up if you can..." repeat the last sentence I said... tell me one thing you just learned...
Create small (business-card sized) cards with cues you feel you need to give often. They may say things like, "Please get started on your work," "Please consider if what you want to share is good for our class," "Eyes on your work," and include good things too, such as, "You're doing great today," and "I'm proud of you," and you can use them to relocate students "Please take your book and move to ..." Cindy had a poster of Alaska in one end of the room - for kids to "chill out" and work independently. She had another poster of Hawaii - for kids to go on a little vacation. They can't live there, as it's very expensive. They could go there to draw or fidget or breathe.
Note: If these are overused, you're probably not really listening. They'll catch on and know you're not really empathetic. Stay out of judgement, and recognize the emotion.
I am so sorry to hear that.
That must be really difficult.
I was worried about you.
It sounds like you're angry / sad / upset.
I am here for you and ready to listen.
I know what it's like. You're not alone.
I don't know what to day. I'm just glad you told me.
How can I help you?
Use low-volume spa or classical music or nature sounds during quiet work (or Yanni, Jim Brickman, Kenny G...). Use something like "Conga" when students are up and moving around for an activity. One quote she kept saying, "The more you yak, the worse they act."
The person near the person misbehaving... "Sarah, thanks for getting your work out. John, thank you for sitting so quietly and waiting patiently."
Before we learn, we need to be regulated. Breathing ideas: Headspace app, smell the rose, blow out a handful of candles, figure eight, hand breathing,
Don't get into a power struggle - you'll lose. Cindy said that being in a power struggle is like wrestling with a pig. You both get dirty, and the pig enjoys it. Instead, use Teflon Responses... These should be said with a neutral voice and a neutral face. If you can, after you say it, walk away / move along. Some responses I liked:
I argue at 3:15. Come back then.
I will ponder that point later.
I'll be interested to see how that works out for you.
I see things differently.
I'm moving on now.
And now it's time to...
You've mistaken me for someone who wants to argue.
You and I can talk about that later.
I hope you make a good choice.
Let students know what's coming next. "In five minutes, we'll be returning to our seats."
Where am I wrong?
In the hallway or without an audience is best. Let the student know... "The story I'm telling myself about why you are behaving this way or note doing your work is... Where am I getting it wrong?"
Wrong - Right - Praise
Tell the student what they're doing wrong, what you want them to do, and praise for any compliance. Ex: You're talking to a peer. Please read your book independently now. Thank you.
This past week:
I tried the Teflon Responses the most. I also used the "Wrong-Right-Praise" twice. I was able to move on to the next thing I had to do without more resistance. However, it made me feel like a robot. I know my face looks much better when I smile, and I felt as if I was being a cold non-feeling robot when I put on my Teflon/neutral face. It doesn't feel like me. It's no fun. I'll keep using bits and pieces from what I've learned, and it's going to be a work in progress.