Skip to main content

The Gift of Behavior

     If a picture is worth a thousand words then what's the value of an action? How do we quantify that? Have you ever sat and just people watched? It's something my dad loves to do. He gets a kick out of watching people hurry about and interact with each other. I have often caught myself sitting and observing the people around me. I find myself wondering what they're thinking. What is going on inside their head that has caused the particular expression being displayed on their face at that moment. It intrigues me. It all serves as communication. Every facial expression, movement, word, or disengagement communicates something. But what if words can't be found? What if the way someone chooses to communicate makes it difficult for anyone to see, hear, or try to understand them and in fact causes the exact opposite...causes people to stop listening, engaging them, or trying to understand them? This is what is happening in classrooms across the country. I know it is not isolated to my classroom, my school building, or my district.
 In our classrooms we have students who exhibit behaviors that are undesirable. They don't know how to communicate in an appropriate way and so they communicate in the only way they know how...through misbehavior. It is frustrating to deal with misbehavior especially if it continues for a length of time. It drains your teacher's heart and creates a classroom environment where the learning is disrupted.
Brown Christmas Present With Red Ribbon 
 What would you think if I told you to look at this behavior as a gift? I know this is a crazy thought, but hang in there with me as I explain my thought process. If behavior is a form of communication then I can track it. I can collect data which will lead me to patterns and trends. I can then use that information to put plans into action to address the behavior. Misbehavior is not a gift any teacher ever asks for. However, if we change the way we look at it, then maybe we can work to understand the behavior. Maybe the behavior is stemming from a gap in their learning and the behavior is a way to avoid failure. By using my data I can put strategies into place which will address their learning needs.

     We need to be asking ourselves to look deeper into the behaviors our students our exhibiting and look for answers, ways to help support them. There are so many reasons why a student misbehaves and none of those reasons are because they like to be in trouble, because they don't care, or because they want to ruin your day. None of us like to disappoint people and our students are no exception. When we take these excuses out of our conversations then we can start to look for the real reasons behind what they are trying to communicate.

     We are their advocates. We strive to meet our students where they are and teach them according to what they need. If we are looking at the whole child, then we have to encompass their behavioral needs into the planning. Many times I think we view behavioral needs differently than academic needs. We think of behavioral problems as the job of someone else. We feel our 'job' is to teach and someone else needs to come 'fix' the behavior issue. If we identified an academic need we would immediately start researching and planning strategies to support our student and encourage progress. We can do the same thing when we identify a behavioral need. Look for strategies which will support your child and encourage progress in that area of need. I join forces with a team of people to help develop behavioral supports for my students. I pull from my OT, PT, resource teachers, speech-language teacher, fellow general education teachers, administration, my PLN group, as well as the student's family. Together we make a plan and we implement it. We modify and adjust as we go through the journey of correcting the behavior. It is a process, but it also rewarding. We look at every piece of data as a gift that is going to help us reach the next stage of progress.

     The students who are misbehaving are communicating with you. What are they saying? What are they trying to tell you? Most importantly...are you going to take the time to listen to them? They may not be communicating the way we would like them to, but they are communicating. There's no doubt about that! Look at the gift they're offering and decide what you're going to do with it.

                          Liz Savage


Popular posts from this blog

The Power of Yet... much power in one word.  It brings to mind the notion that something is not action yet to be completed.

      A good friend of mine...a mentor, who happens to also be my principal,  Bethany Hill, recently posed the question on Twitter... "What if we viewed  barriers and obstacles as opportunities?"  My mind immediately went to the  amazing obstacle course that our PE teacher currently had set up in our  gymnasium.  I was visualizing my little first graders' eyes as they walked into the  gym and saw this colorful array of obstacles.  Their eyes lit up with excitement,  some of them literally jumped up and down with pure glee at the challenge  before them.
      Next, I thought of how they intentionally took the challenge and began to  problem solve how they were going to maneuver through the course.  They  didn't know how they were going to do it yet...but they were determined to  figure it out.  Not one child said, "I can't do this.  I…

The Struggle is Real!

There is a moment that every teacher reaches when working with struggling learners.  It's that moment when you stop and say, "What else can I do?  I've done everything I know to do and yet nothing seems to be helping."  As a teacher, it is one of the most helpless feelings.  Watching a student struggle and become frustrated or even want to give up is a horrible experience, but it is the reality of what happens when a student continuously "doesn't get it."  They eventually do not want to try anymore.

I found myself in this place, once again, with some very sweet, precious, and most importantly hard working students.  They were working their little brains to the point of exhaustion every day trying to read.  Again and again we would go over our letters and sounds, reading strategies, and sight words.  Again and again they would struggle to identify the sight words we had just discussed.  We were building our spelling words and breaking them apart every da…

Do You Know Me?

We are by nature compiled of little mannerisms, habits, obsessions, and characteristics. They make us who we are. They are formed by our experiences, sensories, emotions, and thoughts. These little nuances determine our behaviors, our focus, our likes and dislikes, and the challenges that we will carry and have to overcome. They are tiny parts of us but knowing these pieces are HUGE in helping the people around us communicate with us. 

I have an enormous sensory issue. I hate touching paper, wearing jeans, and loud noises. Certain textures of clothing and food make me cringe and want to run away screaming! Some of these sensory issues could easily control me...if I gave them permission to do so. As a child they totally did. I would wear dirty clothes straight out of the hamper rather than wear something I knew would make me uncomfortable. I couldn't turn the pages in my book because of the feeling I got when the paper rubbed together. I had issues with writing because of obsession…