Managing Behaviors in the Classroom: A Personal Reflection
This week at our preschool it is evident that the "honeymoon phase" of the beginning of a new school year is officially over. We have several students who are now exhibiting aggressive and non-compliant behaviors on a daily basis throughout the week. Some behaviors are fairly benign, such as walking away from circle time, not wanting to participate in music class or getting a little rough during free play and on the playground. Other behaviors present as much more aggressive and even dangerous, such as turning over a table, trying to leave the classroom (eloping) and throwing chairs/toys/etc.
As a supportive staff member, I see these severe behaviors pose many challenges in many ways. The behaviors affect everyone in the room, both adults and children, inevitably hindering the teaching as well as the learning. Here is list of some of the issues that face a school/classroom when significant behaviors emerge frequently:
- Maintaining the safety of the other children and staff in the room
- Maintaining the safety of the child(ren) exhibiting the behavior(s)
- How to continue teaching through/beyond the behaviors
- Ensuring there is enough staff to manage all the children effectively
- Keeping data on behaviors while they are happening
I am a licensed and certified speech therapist. I am not a behavior specialist. I have attended some trainings on how to manage behaviors in a classroom setting and now have several years of experience working with aggressive and challenging behaviors; however, many factors can affect an outcome and each child and situation is unique. Is the child on various medications that may be contributing to the behaviors? Are they being abused at home? Do they have a medical condition that is causing these behaviors? As we collect data, ask questions, try various strategies and attempt to build rapport with these students, concerns mount and spirits grow weary. I find that I am currently spending the majority of my time "putting out fires" rather than addressing the communication needs of my students.
In April of 2011 I wrote a post entitled "Behavior Modification During Speech Therapy" where I addressed this exact issue and shared techniques we were given then to manage and prevent behaviors. The expectations for our staff and the techniques we are mandated to implement have not changed in over 3 years, but with each new student, new challenges arise. In these early days of a new school year it is vital to shape behaviors, eliminating the bad and celebrating the good. There are days when this is easier said than done, but reminding myself of the lessons I've learned can offer the boost of encouragement I need to be an effective and caring educator each and every day.
Are you dealing with difficult behavior issues during therapy? How do you handle them?