Saturday, September 5, 2015

Teaching A Functional Class is Tough

One of the disappointing and stressful parts of my job is when you are the one in charge and a problem comes up that you cannot fix.

In my case, a student has decided to present challenging behaviors.

Yes, there are protocols. We always change the environment, use positive reinforcement, change our strategies and redirect. These always come first. We never know with this student what will be motivating. Sometimes it's saying that Dad wants something to happen, while other times it's using a timer or alarm with a beep that does it. Once the student might work beside the others, seeing that everyone is working, and another time the student wanted to go for a walk and get out of there, so they worked to earn some freedom.

But lately, the mood swings, from working to suddenly hitting the teacher or peers and fleeing the table, have been all-consuming. It takes a lot of energy to stop a speeding train and that is what this feels like. The behaviors escalate quickly and are headed straight for me.

Here's the thing to remember; this class is the only place public education has to offer. This is the bottom rung. I must provide learning opportunities that address what the state and government wants and fits the needs of my students at their developmental level. It's a challenge I accept most whole-heartedly.

When a student misbehaves this violently, safety is first. This means safety of all the humans comes before education. Not comfort, or making things easy, but safety. Are you hearing me?

This means, other students may move to another area of the classroom to work, or even be removed from the class altogether right in the middle of their lesson. This means that no matter how loud or how violent the student gets, we cannot give in to the urge to let them sleep, or to let them go home, if that is what they want. This is not comfortable for us, as teachers, nor the class, but it is what is best for the student who needs to learn boundaries. School is for work.

And boy is it work!

The part where all the interventions and strategies do not seem to be working from day to day is maddening. I understand that this student has a 2-3 month adjustment to new routines. This is a new school year. Everything is new. Just like counting your blessings, you have to reward the student for the small steps and breakthroughs that they give you. I hand out rewards that are earned like they are Halloween candy. But sometimes even that is not what the student wants.

I know that all the things I am doing are right, however it still wears on the body. I'm tired physically when I'm deflecting blows and doing any kind of physical restraint that I am trained to do. I'm tired mentally when my thoughts are bouncing from one strategy to another. Thank goodness for my teaching partners who take over for a bit when the student isn't responding to me! Emotionally, it's exhausting to think that you have to go in to work on a new day and could see a replay of the day before.

Preparing yourself for a day like this requires a lot of energy. It requires patience, doing what you can to prepare the physical environment, prepping and debriefing the wonderful people who help, and finding the positives in the negative.

If you can't do that, even for a moment, it feels very depressing. I have to really chill out at least one day of the weekend before I can focus on making the changes necessary to prepare for a new week.

Then I deal with all the other things that come up: consults with therapists, students who forget their lunch, health problems of students, signing up for meetings, late buses, paperwork, and band-aids, for example. I hope no one ever says that teaching is easy.

I love 3 day weekends. More time for me. More time to prepare. My students asked me if I were going to be thinking about them Monday when we don't have school. I can always answer "Yes!"

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