Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Searching for Answers to Tough Behaviors- Together

Getting to the route of behavior problems in students is one of the aspects of my job I find the most difficult but also happens to be one of my favorite parts of the job. Getting to the bottom of a child's behavior- what motivates him, what causes the outbursts or defiant behavior is something I see almost as a puzzle. The answer is rarely obvious and I find it frequently takes multiple perspectives, different hypothesis, and taking a deep look at the student's behaviors, motivations, and how he reacts to consequences. 
Unfortunately, in the time when we're still hashing out what's going on with the behaviors and trying to develop a workable plan I find that I cannot get the student, the behaviors, and the plan out of my head. I'm constantly thinking about the student- analyzing what he said, how he reacted, what I could have done differently, why he did what he did- throughout the day. I think about it driving home, making dinner, putting my daughter to bed, and reading for pleasure. It's the kind of thought process that will exhaust you when you are trying to relax.

If only it was easy- if only children were programmed so we could apply an equation and get the outcome we want. If only there were clear answers so we could write a prescription for a particular behavior plan and be done. 

The tough part is that we often assume there is an easy answer- especially when it's a child we're not working with. We do it as parents and we do it as teachers.

 "If only she did x, y, z the behaviors would disappear".
 "He just needs ..." 
"If he was in my class he'd never get away with that!"

When we're talking to our coworkers or making isolated judgments on the fly we often fall back on these quick assumptions. We feel good saying, "We're going to say no more of this behavior so now it will stop." I've seen many groups of confident teams end meetings on a child's behavior with this sort of plan. Kind of an "OK, now that we're all on the same page and we've talked about what behaviors are bothering us we can easily fix them by just telling the child the behaviors are wrong."  

I've also seen a lot of confident teams come back together frustrated with the child and with each other when that initial "just put your foot down plan" doesn't work. 

The worst part of that is when we get frustrated with each other from these plans. Collaboration and getting multiple perspectives is essential to getting to the root cause of a behavior. But once a plan doesn't work and we start to get frustrated with each other as teammates we turn to judging one another instead of keeping open lines of communication, truly listening to each other and considering the different perspectives as a way get to the bottom of a behavior.

The child in all this, of course, is left with a behavior plan that probably frustrates him and his teachers. It is not a recipe for success. 

Trying to keep an open mind, accept the different perspectives and search for the answer is what makes a behavior plan succeed.It's exhausting and trying and seems to take away from so much of our actual job of teaching academics. It's easy to get angry at the child, our coworkers, the teaching profession as a whole, parents, society- anything that seems to make our job harder. Yet when we get past the anger, look at the child and manage to find what drives the behavior we can turn the corner on behavior, which allows us to turn the corner on academics as well. 

Until then I find myself thinking, analyzing, re-thinking, planning, plotting, obsessing. There has to be an answer here- we just have to find it. 

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