I need some advice

Discussion in 'Special Education' started by mincc, Sep 9, 2007.

  1. mincc

    mincc Companion

    Jan 8, 2007
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    Sep 9, 2007

    I started my new job last week. I love teaching, but I am in for a rough year. I have a class of severely emotionally disturbed children, most of whom should not be in a public school. They are defiant, rude, uncooperative and so full of anger and sadness it is unbelievable. Several have been violent. What I was told about them on my interview is much different than the reality.

    They CANNOT sit still. I know they cannot help it. It is almost impossible to do anything, because they are all over the place. I have some support, but not a whole lot, it seems like no one wanted this class. Most of the staff look at me with pity. The problem is that most of kids need meds and their parents refuse. The other problem is they are a volatile mix of kids who have (most) been together since K and should have been separated.

    I have different people telling me different things (very few helping), to the point they are overwhelming me with all of their suggestions. I literally have no time to process all of this because I am constantly on my toes with these kids. I made up some behavior plans and I am planning on dealing with all of this on a day by day basis because it seems the best way. Is this a good idea?

    My aide is a gem and we are determined to hang in there.

    I guess I just need some moral support. :love:

    Btw, I worked with emotionally disturbed teens in a residential facility before this and they were angels compared to these kids. There, I had supports in place and everyone helped out-we were all resopnsible for each kid. Here, I am NOT going to have that type of support system. Example: It took 4 of us to get them to lunch the other day. During this, one teacher saw us struggling (me, the aide and 2 people who stopped to help) and just when we had them all pretty calm, this teacher tapped one on the arm and kind of high-fived him. Well, that started them all off again-hyper and jumping around like crazy.

    I have been given very little guidance, except for one woman who has been doing a lot for me, even though she is busy with her new position.
  3. JaimeMarie

    JaimeMarie Moderator

    Jul 13, 2005
    Likes Received:

    Sep 9, 2007

    I need more information. What grade (sorry I don't remember)? How many students? How many adults? Do you have the same group all day long?
  4. AnthonyA

    AnthonyA Rookie

    Apr 4, 2007
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    Sep 9, 2007

    If I were you, I would pummel them all into submission. :D

    Sorry, but all I can think of is to try and make you laugh a bit. (although it's quite clear how serious this is).

    I had a position over the summer and dealt with children who sound more or less like the ones you had.

    I had 8 different classes, so I wasn't in one class for more than an hour.

    I can only suggest that you contact some of their parents and see if they can be of any help.

    That's what I did when some of the children were just too much.

    It helped somewhat.

    I feel for you :(

    Hopefully some of the other members here will be able to give you some much needed advice/help.

    Good luck and hang in there! No class/year lasts forever... ;)
  5. teachersk

    teachersk Connoisseur

    Jun 1, 2007
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    Sep 9, 2007

    My suggestion would be to make the classroom as structured as possible. It may be hard to switch gears if the kids are used to what's been going on already (and I'm not sure how you have it set up...), but it's never too late to try to make the transition.

    I teach in a self contained classroom and have children with all different disabilities. I have one student that is ED, the rest have autism, MR, ADHD, etc. and their disabilities are severe enough to separate them from their peers and place them in my self contained classroom. Though autism and emotional disturbances are very different from each other, there are techniques that work successfully in both cases. When I started in this class last year, they had basically been "let loose" in the classroom and there was no routine, structure, rules, or anything. They would do worksheets that the teacher printed from the internet (if you were lucky), and watch TV. Kids were throwing things, ripping stuff off the wall, screaming, it was like a scene from a movie. It was a long and drawn out process, but I slowly gained control of them by structuring every SECOND of their day.

    I can guess that you probably have multiple grade levels/achievement levels in one room, because ED/BD classes usually work that way. But, this doesn't mean that you can't work on all of the same subjects at the same time. I would suggest doing some color coding of your classroom. This may sound silly but it REALLY helps with boundaries, sharing, etc. Nobody can "steal" his clipboard or her pen, nobody will be in each other's space, etc. I have colored electrical tape on my group table dividing it into sections. Each student knows their "color" -- all notebooks, folders, pencils, baskets, erasers, everything, is color coded. This way nobody can steal, double up, get in someone elses area, etc. This all just kind of falls in with the structure. Everything in my room has a distinct, labeled, place. Usually, the electrical tape outlines where it is supposed to be. With some of the kids, they even have a square on the table where their paper is supposed to sit. It really sounds crazy - and I have regular ed teachers come in all of the time and laugh at our electrical tape - but there are clear boundaries throughout my room. Every student KNOWS where their supplies are, and they are given the tools they need to be successful.

    The next thing I would do is look at your schedule. Decide what you're going to do. You need to look realistically at what the kids are doing now - and not make a durastic change. For example, when I started, my ED student would not work for more than 5 minutes at a time without either tantrumming (sp?), becoming aggressive, or completely refusing to work or comply with any adult directives. I had to work with what I got. I started out with 5 minutes of work, 5 minutes of "free choice". I would create a teacher schedule for yourself, and then work on some realistic schedules for your students. We call "free choice" free choice in my school because it sounds much more grown up than "play time". Sometimes we call it "break" time - and breaks are a legitimate accomodation for students with disabilities. When you have a schedule drawn out (it will take a couple weeks to perfect...) -- post it on your wall.

    I would also make individual schedules for your students. I do mine in boardmaker because most of my students are non-readers or very low-readers --- so the icons are helpful. If you feel your students would benefit from the visuals, you might want to use boardmaker as well. Boardmaker is by no means only for students who are low-functioning or autistic. A visual schedule is such a powerful tool. I learned this last year from another special educator at my school. She kept swearing by them and I wondered what all of the fuss was about. It worked for helping with toileting issues, refusing to work, etc. It lays out the child's day and allows you to "blaim it on the schedule" if they become frustrated or angry. "It's not time for break yet, because we haven't finished math. Look." Also, this lets them know that as SOON as they finish their math (or reading, or science, or whatever), they are given a break. You have to be consistent with the schedules and not "try to throw something in there" because that will make them not able to trust the schedule. I would start out with literally a work, break, work, break type schedule.

    There are a lot of people who disagree with rewards, free time, etc. in a school setting. To be honest, we wouldn't be successful without these things. If you work hard in your job, you get a raise. That's your reward. There are "rewards" in the real-world too, I don't think this is too far out. Besides, if it works to get my kids successful in school, doing work, becoming independent, etc. -- I'm all for it.

    I would also go through some classroom rules and responsibilities with your students. Things that you expect out of them and things that they expect out of you. Write them all down on chart paper - brainstorm a bit - then go through them and make a final copy. You guys can all sign the bottom and date it. This way, when someone is "breaking a rule" in the classroom, I can refer to our chart, and tell them that by signing the rules, they were telling me that they understood these were the classroom rules. We also do "behavior baseball". I have a big chart that looks like a baseball field. Basically, this is all positive. I try hard to not focus on the negative behaviors, and because of this, the students try so hard to please me. On the behavior baseball chart, there is first base, second base, third base, and home base. Each kid has a laminated baseball player with a picture of their head on it. They all start out on Home Base for the day. If they finish their work, share a toy, help me out, turn in homework, get a compliment from another teacher, etc. -- they move a base. If they do something extraordinary (homework turned in all week, perfect attendance for the month, etc) they might even get a home run. At the beginning of each "season" (quarter in school) - we decide how many runs we will achieve to get a special surprise. It might be movie day at school, slipper day, pizza party, no homework for a week, anything that they come up with, really... They decide "79 runs will be a full week with no homework." We write the goal above the behavior baseball field, and each time they score a run, they get to put a marble in the jar. We count the marbles periodically, and when we reach the goal, boy are they excited!

    I would also consider setting up an independent work station type thing for your students. This is another way to make the kids feel totally successful and independent. You can put a table or a bookshelf next to a small work space (small table or desk). Then you can put independent work tasks on the table or book shelf (file folder games, puzzles, leisure activities that have some sort of educational value, cut and paste activities - they even make these for older kids. You create some sort of system to let them know the parts they have to complete and then what they get when they are finished. In my kids behavior plans, they have "edibles" listed, so I am allowed to reward with candy, etc. I have one kid that will do all of his work for a cup of goldfish, it rocks! I would start out with just a few activities in this area, and then move to five or six. It starts out like 15 minutes of independent work, and moves to like 45 minutes of independent work! If you have older, higher functioning kiddos, you can even put clipboards with worksheets as some of their tasks. I have seen kids EXCEL with this method. We have a little boy at our school who in the regular classroom would not do ANYTHING and we started him out on the TEACCH work station in my classroom and man did that kid fly through work. One, because it was structured in a way that he could do it and be successful with it, two, because he knew he got 10 minutes of free time when he was done. If you'd like ideas on how to set this sort of thing up, let me know. I have photos and everything to back the method up! It sounds crazy and for autistic kids, but it works with all kinds of students! My ADHD and ED students also totally fly through this system and it's allowed me some QUIET time to watch them work independently, it's really amazing.

    I just realized that if you have high school kids, none of this advice will probably work very well... I think it should be definitely on target for elementary or older elementary.... some of it may be good for middle school. High school is pushing it, so if that's the case, I am sorry!!!

    Hopefully something from this novel will be helpful to you in your classroom. Just remember, the more structured your day is, the less room there is for acting out. My kids literally do not have a free second of the day (except for their free time, and who wants to act out during their free time??)

    Good luck to you. Hang in there!
  6. tx ppcd

    tx ppcd Rookie

    May 4, 2005
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    Sep 21, 2007

    By law, if these kids qualify for special education services and are between the ages of 3-21, then they have the right to be educated in a public school. Secondly, they can help what they do...it's what you expect from them and how you structure the class. IMMEDIATE consequences for behavior and IMMEDIATE rewards for good behavior. good luck!!

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