Today we have a guest blog post talking all about behavior management, which I am sure many can relate with during this time of the year. Enjoy!
All teachers have had or will have an experience with an extremely challenging student. No matter the reason why, it can make for a very challenging year. The year it happened to me, I was extremely stressed. I had several students who were giving me a run for my money anyway and was on my own with no teacher’s aide. I had some self-help strategies for myself but now, (of course hindsight is 20-20, right?) looking back, I realize which ones really helped me, and what I should have tried but didn’t.
Of course, you will dedicate all you can to the helping your student but also you need to help yourself! First and foremost, seek all the assistance you can get at your school. Start with school resources like the IEP team if the student is already on an IEP. If not, do an immediate referral to the “Student Success Team” (or your school’s version of this). Get the guidance counselor involved and communicate with her on a regular basis. Do the same with your principal. The principal may be busy, but if this is an extremely problematic situation, keep her informed and let her know what kind of help and how much support you need.
Take any help that peers offer you. I had several wonderful colleagues offer to do so. In the past I may have said, “That’s so sweet, but we’re okay,” but that year, I took them all up on it. A first grade teacher gave me suggestions and materials, and invited me to send the student to visit her often. A specialist teacher offered to allow my student to come down daily to look through her books and borrow them. I resisted at first, but soon realized how helpful it was and she soon had daily visits from my buddy. Unless the suggestion is completely unusable, try it! If it helps you, it’s worth it. The less overwhelmed you are the better.
As a teacher, you always need to be flexible but if you have an extremely challenging situation, give yourself permission to be extra flexible. For example, you may need to start a math lesson late to address issues that arise. When your student is out of the room, you may need to skip handwriting in order to help your other students understand what is going on and answer any questions. My principal was supportive and understood that if it was a difficult week, I might not finish every single language arts lesson at the expected time or give a math quiz the same day as other teachers.
Remind yourself that your student is not having these problems and causing stress intentionally. He or she may be dealing with an issue that they can’t solve themselves. I think in my situation I did try and remember this, but at times I could have done more. It will help keep your relationship with him or her healthy. Communicating this with your students could also help them deal with the challenges.
As women, teachers, and mothers, we are always taking care of others and we are always hearing that you need to do nice things for yourself. After a long, stressful day, I know I often just want to watch TV and go to sleep (for some, that’s not even an option!). That year was kind of a blur, but I know I tried occasionally to do nice things for myself outside of work. For example. I started getting those terrific shellac manicures once in a while. I made sure to occasionally meet up with girlfriends, some of whom were teachers, to go out to dinner or get a margarita, and to commiserate and support each other.
Finally, something I remember from the end of the year is that I was feeling guilty and somewhat disappointed at the achievement test scores of my class, especially in math. I recall talking to the math specialist and feeling on the verge of tears. In retrospect I was being much too hard on myself! I realized the students who needed help had been getting help. I had brought them all up to the Student Success Team, they were being supported, and basically I needed to take some deep breaths and relax a bit. The message is don’t be hard on yourself.
We work so hard as teachers and we are under a lot of stress. Sometimes it is easy to forget to take care of our own needs. During those tough times, perhaps some of these things that helped me will help you, too. I’d love to hear any suggestions you have to, so please comment and let me know!
Bex Mawn is the author of the Reading and Writing Redhead blog.