This may seem incongruous with some of what I have previously stated. Yes your students need you and yes you are a vessel for change, but in order for you to realize the potential effects you make on a child, you have to recognized that you weren’t part of the problem to begin with.
As stated earlier, students are with you for a reason. If they could make the decision to be better, 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. All that said, the problem didn’t start with you.
I have been slapped, kicked, punched, grabbed, choked, pinched, poked, spat upon, bitten, cursed at. I have been given a new name, gender, ethnicity, and sexual preference a countless number of times. I’ve been told where I can go, what I can do with myself once I get there, and how I’m going to be sent there in a myriad of not so kind ways. I’m going to describe for you a few situations you may recognize that despite your best efforts, you may not be able to avoid.
Once I attended a parent conference in which I was accused of having sketchy theories on behavior, poor management skills, a very poor understanding of students’ needs, and although the term child abuse was not used, I’m pretty sure it was implied. That being said, the parent in the same conversation said they were confident that the best interests of their child were being considered by your friendly neighborhood monster (ok the monster part was added by me). I took the opportunity to explain in detail to the parent all of the interventions along with rationale for the strategies that had been taught to the teachers and modeled by myself throughout the course of a week. I also provided documentation of pre, during, and postvention data showing evidence of the student’s progress. SILENCE. “Well, we just wanted to make sure you were doing your job”. Are you kidding me?!
One day I stopped by a class to see how one of my first year teachers was doing. My job takes me many places and allows me the pleasure to meet many different children, most of which have severe anger concerns. Many times I follow them if they change schools to help the transition process. One such friend is a young man of 11 years. He’s a great kid. He and I exchanged pleasantries and he was glad that I had come to visit him. I provided lots of praise, welcomes, and offered my support to him in his transition. It was a wonderful visit. However, on this particular day I picked a bad time as one of his classmates was visibly upset. The visible looks of happiness on our faces clearly upset this classmate who is 8 years old. In my opinion this boy was clearly looking for attention from me and chose to actively ignore him. To put it bluntly, I think this little guy had never been ignored before because he showed me exactly how he gains attention in a way I cannot ignore. By the time he was finished the room looked like a mobile home community after a hurricane. As he deescalated he curled up into a ball and slept like a baby. It was the cutest sight you had ever seen.
Oh but it was not over…
A teacher, yes a teacher, tells a parent that I recommended that a good alternative to hitting the teacher in the face was to let the student hit her hands. Anyone who knows me knows this goes against every thing in my mind, body, and soul. Hitting clearly is not a good alternative to hitting. See even in writing it doesn’t make sense.
Next….oh did you think this was over?
A parent calls me to schedule an ARD (its a Texas term, for most of you its an IEP meeting) because of behaviors on a bus. As I am in the process of contacting the necessary people, the parent calls me again to ask why I can’t get it set up right away. Now I’m good, but I’m not that good. Afterall, I do still have students and teachers to work with in between phone calls and messages. Let’s just say she was less than cordial in her appreciation of my ability to attend to her request.
What am I trying to say with this long set up? Yes, I work in a field in which positive results are not just wanted, they are expected. Yes, I live in a society in which children and their parents (and sometimes their teachers) have been empowered and in many cases enabled to engage in these types of behaviors. Yes, I choose to be here and by definition I have put myself in these situations. It’s my job, and I love what I do and sometimes we I need to pause and remember my purpose so I can move on. What gets me through each and every day is that I can emotionally remove myself (also known as rational detachment) from the situation. Why? Because IT’S NOT ABOUT ME! We work in a field with emotional children who behave in irrational ways and say irrational things. Likewise, some parents get very emotional about their children (and rightfully so) and therefore say and do irrational things themselves.
When you are able to recognize the parts that are not about you, the easier it will be for you to make it about you, in a positive and proactive way. Remind yourself of this each and every day. Although you are in the business of promoting behavior change in others, ultimately your self-worth is separate from other people’s behavior.