Classroom management (aggression)

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by REW, Apr 29, 2018.

  1. REW

    REW Rookie

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    Apr 29, 2018

    I have been trying to research this topic, but have come up empty handed. I’m a student teacher and seeking advice on how other veteran teachers have dealt with aggressive behaviors that severely impact the learning environment. Especially, if the student has been known to be aggressive to the teacher as well as other students.

    FWIW, while I’m new to the elementary population I have taught preschool for over a decade. I’ve dealt with my share of aggressive behavior. I’ve always had an assistant who can help keep the other students on task while I address the behavior or vis-versa. How do I teach a whole group lesson or a small group when I have multiple students who are essentially ready to throw a punch at anyone for no reason. While I would do things differently from day 1 (like more documentation, involving admin- in case further evaluations can be implemented like EC or guidance services). Right now, this is negatively reflecting on my classroom management (or at least I feel like it is).

    I’m a huge fan of figuring out WHY a behavior is occurring, times of day (triggers), and finding a plan from there. Sometimes it’s a rough home life (modeling what they’ve seen), a undiagnosed special need, attention seeking, and so forth. I have never encountered a situation where I can’t problem solve the behavior and improve it. They are all wonderful kids with good hearts, just need guidance. How do I balance tending to these needs, keeping my classroom safe, and still teach?
     
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  3. Been There

    Been There Habitué

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    Apr 30, 2018

    This topic seems to come up from time to time and often generates many of the same responses - you can look them up on this forum. Some have suggested providing a punching bag or a similar device that students can use to expend their aggressive energy before settling into the classroom routine. I personally think that the problems teachers face with aggressive children may be resolved by employing some of the same techniques that animal psychologists use with unusually aggressive dogs, cats (including lions and tigers) and even birds - you can look them up on the internet. They don't dwell on an animal's mistreatment by its previous owner (i.e. rough home life) or its need for attention or some other unknown psychological malady.

    I've watched a few TV programs that show animal trainers working with highly aggressive dogs and cats. Although I don't recall what they did specifically, I remember thinking that their effective methods might actually work with children too!

    Your success with aggressive students will hinge on your willingness to try unconventional methods. If you're ready, I've just found one (this is a link) you can use to help your students learn to socialize with others. I believe the training concepts demonstrated in this video may be applicable to both animals and humans - just substitute the word child for dog and imagine children in the video instead of dogs! Here are some ways to flip the video so that it will apply more to your situation:
    • Parallel Walk: Have the aggressive child participate in the same activity as the rest of the class, but by himself (away from the others).
    • Short Leash: Make sure the aggressive child is responsive to your voice directions (voice control)
    • Long Leash: Be prepared to rein the student in (i.e. isolate him) as soon as he begins to show any aggressive behavior.
    • Read the Child's Energy: Is his body language suggesting that he is looking for trouble or that he is ready to socialize? (i.e. tail up of down?)
    • Stop/Start, Change Direction: Use a P.E. activity so the student can practice intermittently starting and stopping a physical activity (e.g. play red light - green light). Then transition to another similar activity in which he is part of a team/pack of three students.
    If it works for an aggressive canine, why wouldn't it also work for an aggressive child? Don't you think it's worth a try?
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2018
  4. Obadiah

    Obadiah Groupie

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    Apr 30, 2018

    If I might elaborate a bit more on Been There's post, I've observed that much student behavior, positive and negative, is Pavlovian. Although personally, I am not a behaviorist (who emphasizes conditioning), behaviorism does tend to explain many animal and human behaviors and provide resolution to many negative behaviors. Students (and adults) tend to habitually behave. If a negative behavior is dealt with instead of teaching the class, that behavior could become a habit that consistently disrupts class time; on the other hand, and here's where it gets tricky, sometimes the behavior must be dealt with during class time. I remember one workshop where it was suggested to move the offending student(s) to a separate spot in the room in order to talk with them after the lesson. In severe cases, if the school system allows for this, a student can be sent to the office to hold them until the teacher can intervene. I have sat students in the hallway, but that was an unusual hallway where I knew the student would be safe; in most school settings, that should be avoided.

    When I approach an aggressive adult, I avoid standing directly in front of them because that can be mistaken for aggression on my part. Instead, I stand somewhat sideways, so that I'm still in a ready position to block further aggression and I'm still in a confrontational position. With children, depending on the circumstances and age of the child, this might also facilitate calming the aggression. When I counsel students for aggressive behavior, I avoid preaching and yelling, especially yelling. (It's bad enough to have a student out of control. It's even worse to add a teacher out of control). Yelling or teacher aggressiveness teaches the student that might makes right, so to get your way, you need to become stronger than the other person.

    When counseling the student, I focus on the student. My ears are more powerful than my mouth. To encourage the student to talk, (and it's best to allow the student some calming down time first), I rarely respond with "why?" because the student's answer is usually "I dunno." I will encourage elaboration from the student by repeating their response. Sometimes I will end my repetition with a conjunction such as "because". Eg., the student says "I hit Shannon." I say, "You hit Shannon because...." My major rule for such discussions is that the student speaks to me in the same polite tone of voice that I speak with to her/him. I rarely solve a student dispute by moving their desks away from each other or giving some kind of command such as to ignore each other or stay away from each other. I prefer for the students to communicate their grievance with each other and decide how they each could respond differently and be friends. Often, especially for minor disputes, I have the students go to a corner of the room (again, not during class time) and discuss the solution, but the rules are "Speak softly and nicely to each other and don't touch each other in a mean way." I've also found that integrating such lessons into class time is helpful (but I'd caution not alluding to actual situations in the lesson that would embarrass or aggravate students) and I've even incorporated some role playing situations. Another way to integrate is during language class. For example, if students are connecting sentences, one or more of the sentences could be about friendliness or empathy.

    The best book I've ever read on this topic is
    Siegel, Daniel J. and Tina Payne Bryson. No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind. New York: Bantam, 2014. E-book ISBN is 978-0-345-54805-4. Library nbr. is 649.1.

    One final note of caution, personally, I avoid rewards, especially individualized incentive charts/rewards in which the student is basically rewarded because of his/her excessive misbehavior or rewards involving food. If I might elaborate a bit on food rewards, processed foods with sugar and sugary snacks tend to mess up a child's dopamine system. This can eventually lead to Type II diabetes and/or obesity. More immediately, any reward system can cause the student to develop an obsessive reliance on rewards or cause a student to only achieve in order to obtain a reward while disdaining the desired behavior rather than learning to appreciate more acceptable social decorum. An interesting side note on this, in your research, you might want to Google how some researchers have altered negative student behavior by administering fish oil to assist the students' brains in using serotonin.

    Don't blame yourself for student misbehavior. There is much a teacher can do, but there is much that a teacher cannot do. We are not the parents nor should we be. The most important factor in student behavior, in my opinion, is parental guidance.
     
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  5. Been There

    Been There Habitué

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    Apr 30, 2018

    Obadiah delivers again! He underscores the importance of several basic training concepts that are clearly shown in the video: body language, tone of voice, absence of extrinsic rewards (notice there is no excessive praise, e.g. "Good job!"). Today's teachers also need to learn basic counseling techniques that are not routinely included in credential programs - follow Obadiah's examples and you can't go wrong. Think of yourself not just as a teacher, but as a TRAINER of students as well!

    The last part of his response reminded me of how I used fruit-scented markers to help mold student behavior. My use of the special markers to write new words on flashcards stirred up such interest that even the most challenging students acquiesced and couldn't wait to take their turn - they learned to wait. I had them close their eyes so that they had to associate the individual scents with the new words. As you might imagine, the markers helped to: a) redirect/extinguish undesirable aggressive behavior and b) accelerate the learning process of my underachieving students!

    Lastly, if possible try to involve the aggressive student in helping to develop a viable solution to the problem. Refrain from asking yes/no questions. The key here is to communicate your need for his help in thinking of ways that will show his "good side" to the rest of the class. For example, you might ask this reflective question, "What might you do to show everyone that you know how to be helpful?"
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2018
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  6. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    May 1, 2018

    This information looks like it would supplement my Love and Logic material. We have had only a couple of fights between students, but we have had to do some major deescalations to keep them from happening.
     
  7. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    May 1, 2018

    I found myself musing on a related note today. While I'm sure we could point fingers at home lives or mental/physical/emotional issues or what have you and still probably be right as to those being major factors we may never be able to completely overshadow, I wonder if we're not doing enough behavior education in the lower grades.

    Now, a big part of me hates the idea that teachers are supposed to teach kids behavior (and I think we have another thread on this matter), but I also recall my own preschool and kindergarten experience back in the late 80s (oh, how old am I!) involving quite a bit of "here's how to behave in the classroom and get along with other kiddos". My own daughter's preschool has a large share of interpersonal education. It's not to excuse parents from teaching basic manners, but at the same time plenty of parents might be able to teach their kids manners for a family or small group of friends but not know how to extend that to a full-sized classroom.

    So while I balk at the idea of having to teach a 7th grader or what have you basic social skills, teaching in preschool and kindergarten does seem perfectly reasonable.

    This all leads in a roundabout way to the question: Are our preschool and kindergarten so academic we're forgetting to sufficiently practice behavioral and social skills?

    An article I read sometime ago was written by a mother who tried so hard to get her kid academically prepared for school that when conferences rolled around she found her kid couldn't get along with others or handle problems at an age-appropriate manner or follow directions.

    Another anectdote involves a colleague. Some parents were fussing, for good or for bad, that our kindergarten was too academic and the kids weren't learning "how to be in school". I personally thought that was a fair thing to learn in kindergarten, but a colleague said "That's what preschool is supposed to be for."

    (And what of the parents who don't send their kids to preschool?)

    Having more focus early on toward appropriate behavior and social skills probably won't fix all problems, particularly those extreme cases, but if you're thinking in terms of Tier 1, it'll probably help a lot of kids.

    To what to do with the group that is ruining it for the whole class, there are so many interventions, but all of those do wind up taking time away from the rest of the class, which bothers me. The main focus of your general ed teacher should be the vast majority of the class, not the three ones causing a riot.
     
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  8. Obadiah

    Obadiah Groupie

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    May 2, 2018

    5:00 this morning, I heard the beginnings of the bird chorus. It began with a few soloists, then duets, and finally the entire choir. I thought, as I snuck back into bed for a final snooze, unlike humans, modern society has not altered my backyard animals' behavior for the worse. True, they've adapted, but the birds still sing in the morning. Perhaps the woodpeckers peck at their cellphones to text to each other, but they don't neglect their daily search for food. Sometimes I see the two rabbits chatting, but they never neglect their burrow under the bush by the shed, always keeping an eye out for the neighbor's cat. Perhaps the robin has a television in her nest at the edge of the woods, maybe her favorite show is Batman and Robin, but she has work to do and is constantly busy.

    I was reminded of my mom reading aloud Bird Life in Wington by John Reed. (I think I found the right book when I Googled it this morning). The anthropomorphic birds in the stories illustrate appropriate social behavior. Although this is a biblically based storybook and might not be appropriate for public school settings, perhaps similar illustrations might be utilized in teaching. Elementary students love observing animals, and the teacher could easily make up a quick moral or even a make-believe story to coincide with an observation. Even Solomon did so in Proverbs, noting the industriousness of ants or how the spider cleverly uses its many appendages almost like hands. And growing up, I always remembered Aesop's tales and the resulting lesson.
     
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