Thursday, August 27, 2009

Thought for Friday

This past Saturday, I was asked to give a presentation about behavior management, specifically for kids with autism. It was for a group of volunteers who work with kids with disabilities on increasing their swimming skills. It was an experience, for a variety of reasons, but there were also parents at the meeting to speak about what it's like to have a child with autism. One of the parents who spoke, who was also the vice president of the Northern Virginia Autism Society, said a quote that really stuck with me.
"You know, it's really about them {the kids}, not you."
I think this is a really important idea to keep in mind as we start the new school year. I think it can be interpreted in two ways.

1. It's a budget year. Let's face it--we're not getting raises, student to teacher ratios are increasing, and there's just not a lot of good news to go around. People are unhappy--not just because of work but also personal issues, perhaps. There just seems to be a lot of bad news to go around these days. Regardless, we are at school for the kids. We always have been, because, as we all know, teaching is not a job one goes into for the monetary rewards. So despite the administrator talking about what you don't/won't have this year--just remember what you do have and that we are here for the kids. They didn't cause this economic mess--it's not their fault. It's really about the kids.

2. The begining of the year can be quite stressful for kids. They have to learn new routines and procedures. They have more demands placed on them than they probably have in the last month or so. Their home routines become less flexible because they have to catch a bus or beat traffic to get to school. Students may be apt to show more behaviors at the beginning of the year when they are unsure of what to do or testing the boundaries with their new teacher. This happens in all kinds of classrooms--self contained or otherwise. This is, of course, a time when we must be strong teachers, put our collective foot down and insist that our students do their best with the tasks and demands placed before them. This may cause behaviors--but we have to remember--we are doing this for the kids. It's about improving a child's skills--whether they are academic, vocational, or life skills.

3. The last way I feel this applies is based on one of my thoughts from last year, when I had a student with autism who would melt down if he didn't get his way. Getting your way all the time is not what happens in the real world, so we couldn't let that happen. My general thought was: If I was planned (lesson-wise) and I used my strategies for handling behaviors consistantly, I had a good day. I had done my part of the bargain.

Sometimes, students did not have a good day--they did not like the academic or social demands I asked of them--but I did my part, therefore, I had a good day. One child out of seven was not going to bring me down. Students do not always have good days--no one always has good days.

I'm not going to say that every day was a good day, even with that outlook. There were some days that I was less than planned. There were some days when I did not use my strategies in the best way possible--but I'm a human and I will make mistakes. But having this mind set really helped me to cope and not take things personally, so I could look at behaviors objectively and then figure out other strategies, ideas, and steps necessary. It helped me to end each day and start the next one new--giving everyone a clean slate. This helped me--maybe it will help you!

I know these aren't the deepest and most profound of thoughts, but I do think they are worth hearing.

Happy Almost Back to School!

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