Sometimes it is very obvious what is driving the classroom management discipline issues of a tough case. You may even be dealing with a student whose classroom management discipline issues were evident in every grade leading up to yours.
Regardless of the things that you think you know about this student, it is necessary for you to make an extra effort to understand everything that may be driving the inappropriate behavior...in short, you must truly get to know this child.
If you understand everything that is happening with her to the greatest extent possible, then you can individualize your classroom management discipline approach to achieve results in the shortest possible time.
Your sources of information should include as many of the following as possible.
The student file will contain valuable information about past academic achievement and discipline issues. Read carefully! One little scrap of paper may lead you to the most important details, such as:
These are all true stories from my experience!
If the student is a recent transfer, you may need to actively encourage the process of getting the file shipped to your school, especially if the student is from outside your district. Do it...it's worth the effort for your individualized classroom management discipline plan.
You know those parent-teacher relationships you have been working on with your students' moms and dads? This is the time to use it. Contact the parents directly by phone. Ask if they can come in to meet with you face-to-face. If their schedule won't allow it (or they are simply not willing), then talk over the phone. Identify the issue and ask them what they have found that works.
Don't expect that parent input will provide a dramatic solution to the problem. In many cases, less-than-effective parenting may have either caused or exacerbated the problem in the first place. The parent may have no ideas about how you can influence their child's classroom behavior management since they have no influence over it at home.
Regardless of the information you obtain, take this time to build those parent teacher relationships even more solidly...you are going to be working with the parents extensively on this classroom management discipline plan and you need to be on a first-name basis as soon as possible.
Let him/her/them know that you are going to be working really hard to help their child be successful in school by improving their classroom behavior and will need their help and cooperation.
They are part of your team, and you are part of theirs.
Whether the student was problematic in lower grades or not, her past teacher will have insights into behavior. As with parents, you want to know what they believe makes Joanna tick, and what worked (or didn't work) to keep her on task in the past.
Be very careful about the weight that you place on this information. There is a universal human tendency to label, categorize and pigeonhole other people, and once a person is labeled and mentally stored away, very few are willing to reconsider their judgment.
(Kind of sounds like your family, doesn't it? Are you still being labeled for something you did when you were 16? I thought so.)
Listen carefully to this input. Even if it is obvious that the prior teacher essentially gave up or perhaps resorted to extreme and punitive measures, you can still glean clues about the personality and motivation of the student from the way they responded to various approaches.
TIP: You may have to make a phone call to another school, or even another state if the student was a transfer. Make the effort - it's worth it...for you and your student.
Your principal may have worked with this child before (you'll certainly know this is true if there are a lot of classroom management discipline referrals in the student file). Even if the principal has not been involved in disciplining this student in the past, she may have insights on the family, or on incidents with other students with similar issues.
The principal, like the parents, will be actively involved as you move through this process, so it pays dividends to get her on board early by seeking her input and knowledge.
The guidance regarding the principal applies to the counselor as well. Be sure to touch base.
Often, a student with chronic discipline problems has been given an IEP since their behavior has interfered with their learning, or perhaps their learning difficulties have contributed to their behavior. Either way, the Special Education teacher will likely have insights that can be valuable. He will also be instrumental in implementing any eventual plan that you devise.
As with other teachers, cautions about labeling apply in this situation as well.
If a medical condition exists, the nurse may have been involved in the management of it in the past. If not, she may still be able to fill in your background knowledge.
We are trying to put together the most-complete picture of this student that we can. When dealing with these critical classroom management discipline issues, never rely completely on your instinct. Instinct can guide your search, but it must be validated by the evidence that you find before proceeding with your evaluation.
I am often amazed that teachers don't take even the simplest step of opening a problematic student's file to see what patterns were evident in the past. Malpractice does not legally exist in the teaching profession, but a doctor who treats a patient without understanding all causes of her condition is no worse than a teacher who implements a behavior plan that aggravates an easily-identifiable underlying issue.
It is hard not to draw premature conclusions based on observed and experienced classroom behavior management. Guard against drawing the wrong conclusion by quantifying what happens every day.
For example, keep a simple paper log to note how many times you must redirect a student, or e-mail yourself at the end of each day to summarize the behavior issues that were evident. This log becomes part of your comprehensive assessment as you form an individualized plan or work with school resources.
You may be surprised at what hidden patterns emerge when you apply a little scientific observation.
As touched on above, keep an open mind about root causes and don't form concrete impressions until you have all information from all possible sources. This child may have been "branded" by past teachers, but you must for your own impression anew.
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