My dad’s name is “Bill”

Over the past couple of months, I have been working with a team of teachers and behavior specialists to help one student in my music class who is struggling with disruptive and oppositional behaviour. Through the process I have learned a couple of things. First, that the situation will not be solved overnight; it takes a lot of thought and time to implement a program in order to witness change. I have also learned that five heads are better than one when trying to instill positive behaviour plans. But ultimately, the biggest thing that I learned only happened this week….

When the student first started to have trouble within my class, my first step was to look in the student’s OSR for evidence of a Behavior Support Plan. I read the plan very closely and I decided to implement the suggestions from the plan. The plan indicated that the student should count backwards from 10 when they became upset. I tried this strategy, but I received no response from the student. The plan also suggested that the student go to a quiet spot in the room when they became upset. I asked the student to move, which they did, but they scribbled all over the floor with markers in their quiet spot. Overall, the Behavior Support Plan didn’t seem to help the student be successful.

Next, I met with the classroom teacher. As a planning time teacher, mirroring the language and behavior management system of their regular classroom can be very effective. It requires a lot of flexibility of the planning time teacher but when situations arise that need intervention, this can be a great place to start. Unfortunately, the classroom teacher was dealing with many of the same behaviors that I was and did not have much advice for me.

Then, I met with my colleague to brainstorm some ideas to help the student in my class. My colleague and I came up with a tracking system to try and figure out if there were some triggers that led to some of the student’s behavior. I went up during the lunch break and just observed the student about 10-15 minutes before they came to me every time I taught them and continued to observe them in my class. Observing them in different settings was incredibly helpful. I could see what happened directly before they came to me. The student struggles greatly with recess and comes inside regularly with issues that have happened outside. I also witnessed the ongoing, major conflict that exists between my student and another student called “Bill” in the classroom.

I know what I need to do now in order to help the student. I need to help them transition from the playground to the classroom to help them in music. I have started going up a few minutes early for this period and touching base with the student before they come to see me. I tell them something positive and initiate a conversation about their life. These three minutes twice a week have really made a difference.

Until this week, the one issue I still didn’t fully understand was why this student hated “Bill” so much. The student never wanted to sit near “Bill”, would never work with them and the mere presence of “Bill” annoyed them. Through one of conversations this week things became a little clearer when the student told me that their father’s name was “Bill”.

Taking the time to listen and get to know our students can really make a difference in building a relationship and thus helping us to manage their behaviour.

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The Author

Tammy Axt

I am a teacher of students with special needs in the Peel District School Board. This is my first year in the role and I am in the middle of a steep learning curve! I am loving every minute of this new experience with my amazing and cool students.

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