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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Behavior...Really? How to Respond When a Child Acts Up...

Yesterday was the first time I have not had a "first day of school" in fourteen years.  I started teaching in 2000 and last year had to go on a leave of absence after the first nine weeks.

It was very emotional but at the same time I was very excited that my family member's son had his first day of school.  This little guy was amped up.  He attended VPK (voluntary pre-k) and has been super excited about kindergarten.

He came home on red his first day of Kindergarten.  That makes me so angry as a former Kindergarten teacher.

Every year I made sure that the first day of school was positive for my students.  Yes even when I had to redirect them.  The first day of school sets the tone for the school year and Kindergarten sets the tone for their school career... At least that's my philosophy.

Now when I had a child in my class that acted up...

The first thing I always did was kneel down to eye level and ask in a quiet voice "Is everything alright?"  You would be surprised how many kids start crying and share their concerns.  It might be something as simple as they forgot their crayons at home.  Now this seems minor but to a young child it's major.  By asking if everything is alright it serves several purposes.

  1. It shows you care.
  2. It lets the child express any concerns and allows you to alleviate the worry.
  3. It guides your classroom management.  (I can delve more into this if you are interested)
The second question I would ask is "Did you get enough sleep?"  You might be surprised to find out that the police picked up daddy last night or the new baby sister (who the child shares a room with) work up to be fed in the night.  These items do have a bearing on how well a child behaves.  Oftentimes I've observed my own daughter get more active when she is tired in an effort to stay awake.

Finally I ask "Are you getting enough attention?"  Some children are used to having more attention and will do whatever it takes to get attention.  Some are used to getting negative attention at home so that is how they seek attention in the classroom.  Is it a good thing? No but at least you have an idea on how to create a management plan that will fit this child's needs.

Now my family member's son did not get asked these questions.  He was the only kid on red in his class on the first day of Kindergarten.  If he was asked these questions the teacher would have learned that his grandma (whom he spent a lot of time) had brain surgery and almost died this summer.  She is still recovering and it is a long journey.  In addition in the last year he lost two family members who were close to him.  A child deals with loss or change differently than adults.  They do not always know how to handle these situations and it manifests itself into "behavior."  Some compassion really does go a long way.  The teacher also would have learned that he has a little baby sister who he shares a room with and doesn't always get adequate sleep.  By asking if he is getting enough attention also shows that you care.  If a child needs a little extra... Having a secret thumbs up or eye wink symbol representing "you are on track" just for that child makes him or her feel special and takes a second.  A little effort goes a long way...

I know it is not my son but the "mama bear" is coming out because as a veteran teacher, I have strong feelings about compassion and knowing your students.  Before sending home a red the first day of school, I would have sent home a questionnaire or set up a conference.  I would have sent home information about my classroom management system and had the parents sign off on it.  I would have told the families that we are "practicing this system this week" and that citizenship grades will begin next week.  I would not under any circumstances sent a child home on red the first day.  Period.

What are your thoughts on this topic?

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