This week a student drew a picture on my floor in marker.
What would you do in this situation?
- Call the parents
- Send the child to the office
- Give the child a detention
- Get the child to clean it up.
What if I told you that this was the child’s first time doing something like this? Would that change your decision-making process about your intervention strategy? Could it be an indicator that something out of the ordinary is happening with the child?
What if I told you that the child most likely didn’t grasp the consequences of their actions? Would that change your mind about your course of action?
I actually didn’t choose A, B, C or D. I calmly removed the markers from the student’s reach when the child was busy working on their assignment and said nothing to the child at the time of the incident. The other students in the class noticed the drawing and a few came to me throughout the period and expressed their outrage about this small drawing. As each kid came, I said thank you to them for caring about our classroom and that I would be handling the situation.
I decided not to intervene about the drawing immediately because this drawing was not stopping us from learning. I also felt like I needed a bit more information about this child before I made a decision. I have been teaching this child for two years and I had a feeling that the child may need help understanding their actions.
As a teacher who delivers instruction to over 300 children every week, it is difficult to know the story of every child. That is why I rely on the relationships with the homeroom teachers to add more information to some situations. After school, I went to speak to this student’s teacher about the incident. When I sat down with her this is how the conversations went:
Me: Do you think Sara (name has been changed) understands the consequences of her actions?
Teacher: Absolutely not. In our classroom, she often loses focus and drifts in and out conversations with others. When I walk with her outside she sometimes loses track of our conversation and asks me to repeat myself. She often doesn’t realize she has done things like bumping into others or broken something until afterwards. So, she could have easily drawn on the floor without realizing that she was harming something.
Me: What do you think I can do to help Sara understand that she can’t draw on the floor?
Teacher: Let’s talk about it with Sara together. We can get Sara to understand if we are patient and explain things to her a couple of times. Let’s ask her what strategies she needs to help her draw only on the page.
Me: Great. I know that you have been sending materials with her so that she can use drawing as a focusing strategy in my classroom. It has really been working. In the past, she used to wander around the classroom and stop others from singing, playing instruments or doing their work. Now that she has been using the drawing strategy, I can ask her questions, I hear her singing and she doesn’t touch any other students. I really want to keep this strategy in place but we need Sara to understand that she can’t draw on the floor.
Teacher: I agree! If Sara is unable to identify some strategies I am going to suggest that I make a bin up of materials that she can draw with that won’t harm the room if she accidentally draws off of her page. How does that sound?
Me: Sounds great.
Every day teachers are faced with a million decisions about how to maintain a safe, inclusive and engaged environment for learning. This is just one example of how many decisions we need to make that may not be as clear cut as following a prescribed rule. Every child may need different strategies in order to develop their ability to be a member of the classroom that contributes to that positive and productive environment.