There is joy to be found in hard work…..if I just put in the effort in the beginning.
Every new teacher has probably heard the phrase, don’t smile until Christmas. Although I disagree with this statement, it actually somewhat holds true. However, if you are really holding off smiling until Christmas, plan for a miserable experience.
I have always lived by the 3 week rule. In the first 3 weeks of school, I do anything and everything in my power to teach, re-teach, and reinforce rules, procedures, and expectations. I find every nook and cranny in my schedule to work in those structured social skills lessons to build a foundation of essential skills my students need to attain their goal of learning. Putting forth that effort on the front end prevents you from having to management the problem all year long.
A common question I get is, “How do I know when my students are ready?” My answer is always, your students will let you know. They will tell you they are ready, in fact they may beg and plead for you to stop because they are “ready”. Don’t listen! When they start begging you for work and asking when class is going to start, then you know they are ready. If you start to relax and the problems arise again, then you know you need to go back to boot camp. You may not need to do it with the intensity initially required, but that will only be determined by what the behavior is telling you. Teach social emotional skills, rules, and procedures continuously and be sure to review them periodically. If you only take care of business at the beginning of the year, you run a serious risk of failure. Put the time in at the beginning for certain, then continue to review and tweak throughout the year.
It’s a tough job working with kids with behavioral challenges. In fact sometimes there are long periods of time with minimal progress or reinforcement for your efforts. Feeling a bit down during these times is natural. During these times it’s also easy to fall into patterns where your interventions are not being implemented with integrity and fidelity. It becomes easy to blame the student for the lack of change. This is a trap that can be hard to escape from once you are in it. You have to remember that these students are with you for a reason. If they could make the decision to be better on their own, they probably would have done so long ago. However, the fact remains that they did not, and most likely the ability to generate change within themselves has not emerged. So therefore the responsibility is handed to you to generate behavior change in your students. You must live every day with the mindset that you are the one that needs to adjust, adapt, modify, and manipulate the environment (including your person) in order to promote change in the student. Do whatever you need to do to motivate yourself to implement your interventions once misbehavior starts. It could be self-talk, positive reminders, or even as simple as taking a deep breath. Now that you’re ready, do the hard work that needs to be done. Operate under this mindset and you all will reap the benefits of your labor sooner rather than later.