I am writing this blog post for one specific reason. I needed it. I searched everywhere for information on how to deal with a disruptive student in the elementary classroom. All of the typical vague recommendations came up, but nothing concrete that I could actually use when everything else had failed.
I had tried redirection. I had tried positive reinforcement. I had tried giving choices. I had tried empathy when I gave consequences. None of it made a difference in the daily struggle.
I had a kid that I am sure many of you are familiar with. He was a sweet boy, but behind academically. He had learned at his previous school that if he misbehaved the teachers left him alone and didn't push him on what he didn't know. His naughtiness was a disguise so that the other kids wouldn't know how much he didn't know.
The frustrating thing was that he was very smart and capable when he tried.
I have had many students like this, so I am sure that you have had them too. You want to root for them and pull out your hair at the same time.
When our spring conferences came up, I made sure to schedule a conference with his mom. I wasn't sure what the plan would be, but I knew we would have to work together to address this little boy's behavior in class.
I tried searching for ideas. I talked to my principal. I talked to another teacher who had a similar student in her class. I talked to the school counselor. I talked to anyone and everyone.
Here is the plan I came up with (and the plan that you could try too).
1) The good thing about my situation was that I have a really good relationship with my student. I like him and he likes me. I was able to build this up over the past couple of months by constantly reminding him that no matter what he said or did, I still liked him. I paid attention to what he was interested in. I complimented him when he deserved it. I never gave him a consequence without telling him how great I thought he was despite his poor choice.
2) I ran my whole plan past his mom before I explained it to the student. This way if he came home complaining, his mom would understand what we were doing at school. She was also able to explain the plan to him at home - away from his friends.
3) If bad behavior occurs as school, he will go down and work in our school's main office. He won't be in trouble and won't need to talk to the principal or anyone else. He will just be going somewhere he can work without distracting anyone else. This will help him get his work done, and help the other students get their work done as well. When one student is consistently misbehaving it has a huge impact on how well the other students can concentrate.
4) When he has completed his work, he is welcome to come back to the classroom. I will be happy to have him back in class, and we will be starting over. If he needs to return to the office, then he will with his next assignment.
5) Now, if he is able to do his work in the classroom, he will earn a break after each task. This was especially important for my student because he is an ELL kid. (English Language Learner) His poor brain is working so hard in school that it gets worn out. After an assignment is completed he is able to play a game on my laptop. He loves www.CoolMathGames.com.
At first, I was hesitant to give him this many breaks, but another teacher reported that this is what she has had to do with a similar student. He is working about half the time and having "free" time half the time. I felt like this gave me permission to do this with my student - something I wouldn't have done before.
Well, we are just a couple of days into the plan, and it is working beautifully. My student has worked harder and gotten more done than ever before. Even better, he isn't distracting the other students at all! These have been the best two days of school in a long time. We are all happier.
I am so proud of my little guy. I know that if he keeps this up, he will get to grade level by next year. He deserves to go into fourth grade feeling confident in his abilities.
I hope this helps you if you are searching for a solution to a difficult student. With kids you never know what will work when. There will probably come a time when this plan doesn't work anymore. i will share what I try next and how it works.