How much should family tragedy influence behavior expectations?

Discussion in 'Behavior Management' started by waterfall, Apr 4, 2014.

  1. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    Apr 4, 2014

    I got a new student a few weeks ago who has pretty much had everything that could go wrong happen to him. His mom recently died of a drug overdose, and he was the one that found her. His dad died after drunk driving when he was younger. He currently has no family that really wants to take over as his guardian and is being bounced around between his grandma and and an uncle. The grandma has also been in and out of the hospital since he started attending our school. He's been in 5 schools in the past 2 years, is very far below grade level, and I'm sure his life wasn't great even when mom was alive either. Obviously this poor kid has a lot going on.

    He's also been in a lot of trouble since he came to our school. He's extremely defiant and will just outright say "no" when asked to do even a simple task such as sit at a table or get out a book. He's been physically and verbally aggressive with other kids on a daily basis and will lie just for the sake of seeing if he can get other kids in trouble. When called out on it typically says something like, "So? You can't do anything to me, I can do whatever I want." I only have him for 45 minutes a day, so it's not a huge stress for me but his gen ed teacher is pulling her hair out. He also often will sit there and yell, "This is dumb, I hate school" etc. during classroom activities, which is disruptive to everyone else. Luckily the admin will let us send him to the office (I've been in schools where that wasn't an option), so he can be removed when he's impacting everyone's learning, but as far as a consequence he doesn't really care about going to the office or missing recess. We found out he liked helping the younger kids and worked out a system where he could help in kindergarten if he completed a task first. He's earned the reward twice, but if he's told he can't go when he hasn't earned it, he throws fits all day and is worse than ever. We're starting a new behavior plan next week.

    Anyway, our school psych is getting upset with everyone because she thinks we're not sympathetic enough to his situation when we discipline him for his behavior. She doesn't want him in the office. I don't really know how I feel about this. Obviously, of course there are valid factors behind the behavior and he has more going on than any kid should have to deal with. But I'm not sure it's helpful to just let him slide on everything either, especially when it involves aggression with other students. I've talked to some of his previous teachers and none of this behavior is new. The psych points out that it's not new because even before the death of his mom, obviously things weren't great at home then either. How much do you think a kid's home life should influence expectations at school?
     
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  3. schoolteacher

    schoolteacher Habitué

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    Apr 4, 2014

    I work at a school where many children have experienced serious trauma in their young lives.

    My expectations for behavior do not change based on a child's personal issues. I hold them accountable for their behavior and expect them to show respect for everyone.

    However, I give lots of support to those that need it. Children who act out in the way you describe are in desperate need of my support. While it may appear that this child does not mind missing recess or going to the office, in reality he does. He wants what every child wants - to feel that he belongs, that he is loved and that he is valuable to others.

    He doesn't know how to achieve these things. And that's where I come in. I need to set it up so that he feels he belongs, that he contributes to the class community, that he is important. Once I do that, he will start to see himself in a different light.

    I have to see beyond his behaviors. I have to see him as a person who is reaching out for help. I celebrate the smallest steps he makes towards my expectations.
     
  4. Proud2BATeacher

    Proud2BATeacher Phenom

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    Apr 4, 2014

    I also work in a school where at least 60% of our students have experienced some type of trauma or abuse. This is the first year that we have less then 10 students in care (group home or in foster care). Every student needs expectations and consequences (whether positive or negative). This student may just be pushing the limits to see if you really "care".

    If he is below grade level, he is probably doing what he can to be kicked out of class so that his peers would not think that he is 'dumb'. You may want to pull him aside and talk to him about work expectations and appropriate ways to tell you that his work is too hard or that he needs help. Maybe part of the plan will be to check on him first to make sure that he understands what he is doing and if you can't get to him right away when he needs help, then he is allowed to draw or he is allowed to go to another area in the room and 'take a break' until you are ready.
     
  5. agdamity

    agdamity Fanatic

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    Apr 4, 2014

    Could he meet with the school counselor some? I agree that part if it is probably attention seeking/ wanting to feel loved and cared about. I think adding some extra positives will help eliminate some of the negative behavior. In my last district ( I was there for six years), I had a student lose a parent every year. It was heart wrenching, but it always helped when they had somebody at the school (counselor, favorite teacher, etc.), they could talk to as needed.
     
  6. comaba

    comaba Cohort

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    Apr 4, 2014

    Beautifully said. :love:
     
  7. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    I do think part of it in his gen ed class is that the material is way above his head, but the material in my class is on his level. He's about in the middle compared to other students that come to my sped class, and several of those kids are in his gen ed class as well. That's the weird part...he does complete work (in my class) but he will not follow a simple direction such as me telling him to sit at the table. The other day it was literally a 10 minute fight to get him to just sit down at the table I asked (I was testing kids at the other table, and I don't like having other kids right next to them listening and possibly making them feel uncomfortable when they're tested on oral reading). Once he finally sat down (after I took his i pad away) he completed the test I gave him and got a B on it. So it's not that the work is too hard for him. He has completed every assignment I've given him so far, but any time I give him any type of directive (sit here, get out a book, get a pencil, etc.) it's a huge fight. Today my para referred him to the office because he completely blew up at her AFTER he had already completed the required assignment, so I don't think his motivation is necessarily getting out of work. He also has been sent to the office at lunch and/or recess every day for either being physically or verbally aggressive with other kids.
     
  8. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    Apr 5, 2014


    Yes, he's on the check in/check out program daily as well as an extra counseling session per week with the school psych with options to see her other times as needed.
     

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