Some would say I am technically a first year teacher but this is anything but my first year in the classroom. Currently, I’m a special education teacher at a brand new Charter School in the Point Breeze neighborhood of South Philadelphia. With my elementary and special education degree and a recent graduate degree in guidance counseling, I’ve had the opportunity to be in many different types of classrooms in all different types of schools. This year has given me the opportunity to showcase all of my skills and merge them together in hopes of understanding the system and what is needed to help all students succeed. My school has recently come off the “persistently dangerous” list but we are far from meeting our goals. The biggest issues I’ve come across so far, deal mostly with behavior and its impact on teaching and the learning environment.
Behavior and school climate is a topic that impacts every person in a school. As a special education teacher, I often deal with students who require behavior goals as a part of their individual education plan. Since my students have difficulty learning, some cope with this stress by acting out. I’ve had many teachers look me in the eye and say “what else can I do!?” At first, I didn’t want to tell the teachers what to do but it quickly came apparent they were really asking for HELP and I needed to step in! There are many perks to being a first year school – one is the open system. I have the ability to help wherever is needed in whatever capacity in order to help our students. So I started to think about what to do…
Most of my problem behavior students already have behavior goals – my first step was to meet with these students and show them these documents and talk about them. Most of these students already understand that they misbehave and truly just DO NOT CARE (or so their teenage self thinks) which is the worst feeling – it makes you truly just want to give up. But I couldn’t just give up, I had to work harder and think outside the box. Next, I looked into the implementation of students functional behavior assessments and positive behavior support plans – what was this school doing last year and what is feasible right now to implement? Individual daily reports could work but how do you make sure all your students who are in different classes are using this plan everyday? How do you collect the data everyday and make it work? These are all questions I struggled with in my head. So I had to step back and look – it’s not just about the student…is it?
Think about laws – they are there so the majority of the population follows them and there are no issues. Those that do not follow get in trouble and those who consistently do not follow them, end up in jail. Lets think about schools – there are rules so the majority of the students follow them with no issues. Those who do not follow them get in trouble and those who consistently do not follow them, end up suspended? I understand the logic but does that fix the problem? NO. These students just end up farther behind academically and therefore cause a ruckus because they are confused/frustrated. With research on alternatives to suspension, the wheels start turning. There needs to be another step before suspension/expulsion. It needs to teach students about their behaviors, it needs to gives them the attention they are asking for but also show them where their behaviors will take them in life. With that idea, I started designing.
My ideas let me to design a Behavior Boot Camp. Behavior Boot Camp is a mandatory monthly intervention workshop that is designed for small group behavior skill based training. The mini-courses would work on anger management techniques, goal-setting and mentorship to facilitate socially appropriate behavior among students at-risk for developing chronic behavior problems.
This intervention is considered a secondary intervention, which is intended for those students who need more support than is provided by school-wide and classroom interventions. While these students benefit from explicit teaching and reinforcement of appropriate behaviors at the universal level, they continue to exhibit inappropriate behavior as evidenced by repeated discipline referrals in a short period of time (e.g., 3 or more office discipline referrals in a month or marking period). The purpose of secondary interventions is to provide students behaviorally at-risk for increasingly restrictive interventions with additional structure, supports and instruction to:
1) Prevent them from exhibiting more intensive and pervasive behavior problems.
2) Help students navigate their social environments successfully.
Our students need to be taught about character education and appropriate behavior, not punished every time they do something wrong. With my counselor education, I was able to pull out a few things that I would have done in small group interventions and create them for Saturday School (if you don’t have a Saturday School, think of other ways you can get students without taking them out of class…lunch or after school groups – remember, these students need to be in class as much as possible). The instruction should take approximately one hour, maybe more depending on the number of students who show up. Students will also complete an hour of planned community service which helps bring the character education together. My first lesson involves character education and goal writing. My goals and objectives are –
Students will discuss responsibility, how to choose the right thing and how to respect themselves.
Students will list what type of things they have control over/what they have choices about.
Students will identify 2 short-term and 1 long-term goal.
Check out the lesson here Behavior Character and Goal Setting Lesson.
Updates will come as soon as our first Behavior Boot Camp – January 14th