Troubled Student - Need Advice

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by RMM, Dec 31, 2007.

  1. RMM

    RMM Rookie

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    Dec 31, 2007

    Hi,

    I am a first grade teacher and I have a little girl in my class who is very disturbed and I feel like I have very little support in trying to help her. To be honest, I know that I don't even do the best for her, but I do what I can for her in addition to trying to teach my other students.

    This little girl started off the year throwing chairs, tables, backpacks and books and breaking anything she could get her hands on. She spent almost every moment on the floor, under her desk banging things. She would write on the tables, chairs, floor, walls, etc. This 6 year old has even threatened to stab other students with a knife.

    In her defense, she now only spends about 25% of the time on the floor. If she writes on something, she cleans it up. And, she's only had one throwing episode in the past 6 weeks. I even got 3 weeks out of her where she did all of her classwork. Normally, she only does her math independently and will complete some lg. arts activities if I am at her side (something I obviously can't do all the time).

    At first a counselor would pull her out multiple times a week but both the counselor and myself felt that her behavior was becoming worse just so that she could get his attention. She now sees a counselor less than once a week.

    Then, she went through a spell where she wanted the nurse every day. I had to slowly wean her off that as well.

    But, the two weeks before Christmas break, her behavior went out of control again. (Prior to that were the 3 weeks of her doing all of her work.) I did everythig I could to keep her in the classroom and she did everything she could to get herself sent to the office. Finally, I would have to call a principal to get her so that I could actually teach my other students.

    The problem is, nothing is really being done about her behavior in the office. The assistant principal usually handles her and he used to be a counselor. I get the feeling he is trying to 'councel' her instead of trying to correct her behavior.

    This child is failing every subject and it's not because she is uncapable of doing the work. The fact is she is unwilling to - or maybe there is something psychological that is really holding her back. I don't know. I have asked if it would be possible for her to go to the resource room to get the one on one attention she seems to require to complete assignments, but no one seems to take me seriously on that.

    In my mind, I feel like I'm the only one trying to tell this little girl that her behaviors are inappropriate and can not continue. When I see her coming out of the office, she's laughing and smiling and has gotten stickers and pencils and treats. It seems like a reward and not a punishment.

    I've seen glimpses at a normal little girl inside this child and I want to try to help her realize what she can be. But, her parents (I won't even begin with them) and the administrators at my shcool seem to just want to put a band-aid on to fix a temporary problem without looking at the big picture. In my mind, without proper intervention and help, this little girl could wind up seriously hurting herself or someone else in the not so distant future.

    If anyone has any ideas on how I can work with her or ideas on how to get more support from the school administrators I would truly appreciate it.


    -RMM
     
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  3. chicagoturtle

    chicagoturtle Fanatic

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    Dec 31, 2007

    She may have some serious problems where she needs outside intervention. Does she have an IEP/504. What do the parents say? I am sure you are documenting what and when you can.

    You may find the book The Explosive Child by Ross Greene.

    Some administrators are more helpful than others- you maybe better off seeking help from the social worker or a SPED teacher. I don't know how things are handled in your school system, but there maybe a behavior intervention team or something that can help too.

    Good luck. I had a 3 year old like this last year and luckily I team teach so one of us could deal with any episodes that were going on while the rest of the kids were with the other teacher. Our case manager would come and stare at her and say "her mom needs to come pick her up" (sometimes mom was part of the problem- or at least stuff happening at home). Eventually we were able to prevent some episodes, but not all. Though I know there were some serious problems with her and some serious help beyond my control was needed. I did the best I can and I know you are too.
     
  4. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Dec 31, 2007

    What does the school counselor suggest? Perhaps the student needs an assessment for a behavior or mood disorder, and the counselor would be the one to set that up or make the recommendation to parents. The counselor or school nurse, not the administrator, is the one you need to push for this sort of assessment.

    If you suspect that her behavior is the result of being abused or neglected, you need to report that. Otherwise, without parental support there isn't a whole lot you can do beyond what you are already doing. It sounds like she's been improving a lot during her time in your class, and that's wonderful! She will have setbacks from time to time as she learns how to appropriately socialize with peers and behave in a classroom/public setting. Just keep up with the positive feedback, appropriate consequences for inappropriate behaviors, and care.
     
  5. mrs100

    mrs100 Comrade

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    Dec 31, 2007

    You described perfectly a child that we had last year. He was actually diagnosed with a stress disorder that caused rage. He is on medicines this year and is MUCH better. The difference is, our principle was not letting this behavior go on in the classroom. For one, it affects the other children, two, it is extremely distracting and stressful for you, and three, the problem is not going to get better. What i would do is ask to see the principal and vice principal together, and really express how serious this is. Let them know that you have not been able to give your best to your other students because of this behavior, and that you fear it may not be just a 'behavior' problem, it could be medical. They are required by law to give this child what she needs. They unfortunately sound like they aren't going to do that on their own. Good luck.
     
  6. MissFroggy

    MissFroggy Aficionado

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    Dec 31, 2007

    How are the parents involved in all this? What are they doing? How have they responded to you when discussing their child with them?

    I have found that no matter what we do at school, having the parents support and back up what we do is the only way anything really changes.

    Also, if going to the nurse, counselor or office rewards her behavior, you need to find a way in the classroom to deal with those things. Maybe it will be a "reward" for her to go visit her grown up friends in the office or whatnot when her work is done and she has had a good day. She can deliver mail or something.
     
  7. PEteacher07

    PEteacher07 Cohort

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    Dec 31, 2007

    wow, that sounds like a little girl i used to teach. i had my first year of teaching PE. she was VERY emotionally disturbed. in first grade, she got a hold of scissors and cut her off so her parents shaved her head. she used the cords of headphones and said she was going to choke herself. she did that with a jump rope in my gym and mentioned the word "suicide" several times. in kindergarten she actually had an aide that would follow her from class to class to help control her which did help. in first grade, there was no aide. she wasn't allowed to have scissors in class and had to tear things with her hands b/c of her hair cut incident. she was such a hot and cold child. her teacher told me that the second she would walk in the classroom, she could tell whether it was a "good" day or a "bad" day.

    her parents were so disconnected from her. i think they had kind of given up on her b/c anytime a teacher told them of her misbehavior, they were just like "ok" b/c i don't think they knew what to do her anymore.

    eventually she was transferred to another elementary school that had a special social adjustment class where there multiple teacher's aides to help her. my friend teaches music there and she said that she is doing better.

    i am sure you district has behavior specialists. ours does. she should be referred to them so that she can be observed by behavior people who can decide what to do with her. she may not need to be in a normal classroom situation anymore which is what our behavior people decided with my little girl.

    i am no expert, but i don't think counseling by your principal will help her. if it hasn't had any positive effects so far, its time to look elsewhere. this child is without a doubt disrupting your class on a regular basis and is preventing your other students from learning b/c you have to focus your attention on her. that can also have negative impact on your students b/c they will figure out that she is getting attention when she is misbehaving and they could follow in her footsteps. if she is throwing chairs and such, she is displaying behavior that is unsafe to you and your students.
     
  8. mrachelle87

    mrachelle87 Fanatic

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    Jan 1, 2008

    I had a child like this. Our counselor would give him candy when he got in trouble. So of course he wanted to be sent to the office. So, I would put him in the hallway when he disrupted class. He would sneak away if you didn't watch him, so I would have him stand in the door with it pulled shut with his foot sticking into my room. He did not have an audience, so he would stop. I would see his foot and know he was still there and safe. When he returned to class (whenever he asked permission) he would have to apologize to me and his classmates. The first time he wouldn't, so he stood in the hallway for almost thirty minutes. I am sure that some felt (and I am sure some on this site will agree with them) that I was cruel. But he stopped all disruptive behavior in my room and made a honor roll. Also I felt that the other 21 students' needs were more important than his need to control my class. The next year in 3rd grade he spent more time in the counselor's office instead of class (which is what he wanted) until the 3rd grade teacher decided to try my method. It worked for her also.:eek:
     
  9. RMM

    RMM Rookie

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    Jan 2, 2008

    Thanks for all the good advice. I've tried so many things with this little girl. What does stop the negative behavior in my class is when I give her one on one attention. But, I really can't put all of my focus on her all the time. I have students with learning disorders as well as students with very low reading skills that really NEED my help.

    Someone suggested using the district's resources. I was able to push for an evaluation by the district psychologist. However, he came into my class to do an informal evaluation on one of her few good days. He saw her helping another student clean up after an art project. I tried to stress to him that that type of behavior from her is very rare and I showed him the 10 pages of notes I have on her behavior as well as samples of her torn up, scribbled on, bizarre classwork. That was in October. I never heard from him again. The principal says she has requested he follow up but I hate to say I don't really believe it will happen.

    As far as the child's parents, I never know what to expect from them. Early in the year there was a situation where the child ran away from another teacher on the playground and had to be chased down. I called the mom and had her come in for a conference the next morning. That afternoon, the little girl was sent to the office for some other thing and the mom told the principal that she had never spoken with me and that I did not keep her aware of what was going on. The principal questioned me and I was able to show her documentation of when the mom and I had conferenced 3 times about behavior including that morning!

    The mom has also suggested I ignore the behavior like her kinder teacher did. Or, she would like me to insult the child by saying things like, "I know you can't read, so I won't give you a book" or "That's right, you don't know how to do add." Those are things I can not do.

    On two occassions I've had the little girl call her mom from the classroom to tell her how she was behaving. (This is something done on a regular basis in our school and it ususally works very well.) The first time, the little girl screamed at her mom on the phone, calling her names, telling her to shut up, etc. The other time, she refused to talk and just grunted at her mom into the phone.

    The only other thing I know about the family is there is a teenage half-brother (from the father's previous marriage) that lives with them. The mom says he is constantly in the office at the juior high. In comparison, I think to the mom the little girl's behavior is not so bad. She's not thinking to what the behavior will be like down the road.

    I feel like my principals (and the district in general) is looking to keep good relations with the parents instead of looking to help the child. I've suggested a home visit but everyone knows it will seriously upset the parents so it has yet to be done. I guess going into the new year, I'm going to have to be a lot more pushy on the child's behalf if I want anything to be done.

    Thank you to everyone who has responded. You all gave very good advice and stories to share. If you think of anything else I should try, let me know.
     
  10. Loomistrout

    Loomistrout Devotee

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    Jan 2, 2008

    Some things to consider:

    1) The office can't do discipline for you. Student will be coming back. Then what, send her to the office again and again? Think of the office as a time out or holding cell for violent behavior not as a cure.

    2) I wouldn't bet money on the parents. They have already demonstrated their expertise by raising child to this point. If managing this child is going to happen it will have to come from you in spite of parents and office.

    3) My guess is she has "learned helplessness" disorder. How do you get teacher's undivided attention? Not by doing what everyone else is doing. You will be ignored. You get the teacher (substitute Ma-Ma, Da-Da) by acting out. With the best of intentions teacher may be inadvertently promoting the behavior (helplessness) which is trying to be eliminated by standing over her. What may help in this situation is a technique, "Praise-Prompt-Leave", developed by Fred Jones which makes independent learners out of dependent ones.
     
  11. GardenDove

    GardenDove Habitué

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    Jan 2, 2008

    Let me just say, if this extreme behavior was happening in a classroom where my child was, I as a parent would be up in arms! This child sounds like she needs inpatient psychiatric services. This is totally disruptive to the rest of the class to allow it to go on! What about the other children???
     
  12. RMM

    RMM Rookie

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    Jan 3, 2008

    Most of the parents were familiar with this girl from kindergarten and actually notice the improvement. Honestly, no other parent has complained - yet. It may take that to get the attention of the office.

    - RMM
     
  13. RMM

    RMM Rookie

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    Jan 3, 2008

    Loomistrout,

    I appreciate your feedback and agree with it. Your first point is exactly how I feel. I send her to the office when her behavior totally prevents others from learning (sometimes I send her to another teacher's room where she sits until I am able to talk with her and get her to come back in peacefully.
    Point number 2, I'm in total agreement with!
    As far as point 3, I feel like I've tried to do but have been unsuccessful. Is there a book or other info from Fred Jones?
     
  14. Loomistrout

    Loomistrout Devotee

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    Jan 3, 2008

    TOOLS FOR TEACHING by Fred Jones. You can order copy and get info at [www.fredjones.com]. In terms of discipline-classroom management, time on task, reducing teacher stress Jones is the best, bar none, I have come across in 24 years teaching.
     

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