Why picking your battles is a poor strategy

Discussion in 'Debate & Marathon Threads Archive' started by Peregrin5, Jul 19, 2013.

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  1. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    http://www.smartclassroommanagement.com/2013/06/08/why-picking-your-battles-is-a-poor-strategy/

    What do you think about this article?

    I think he is using the phrase "pick your battles"in a different way than probably most of us think of it, however I used to think of it in that way when I started.

    He seems to use it to mean picking who you are going to call out on behavior, but now I think of it is picking what types of behaviors you are going to enforce and which ones you are going to leave alone.

    How do you feel about picking your battles in both senses of the phrase?
     
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  3. 2ndTimeAround

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    Having a different set of standards for certain kids in a classroom always backfires. So if I HAVE to let some things go for some students due to their EOCs, I just let it go for everyone in that class.

    Another way I pick my battles is by only making rules that I know will be supported by administration. I'd rather not have a rule than to lose respect down the line because I was trumped by a higher authority.

    What I won't do, which I see often, is let a kid use his phone simply because he puts up such a fight when I confiscate it. I won't get rid of the 'no phone' rule because it takes too long to enforce it. That type of stuff.
     
  4. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I will admit that there have been times and students over the years where I haven't enforced the rules and my policies like I should have. It usually happens when the student has a parent who I know will cause trouble for me. Sometimes it really isn't worth it. Maybe those sound like the words of a cynical, overworked teacher, but they're my truth.

    When this has happened, I've done my best to ensure that it hasn't happened in front of other students. I agree that allowing certain behaviors to slide for some students but not others breeds resentment, and that's not anything that I could ever support. When I've failed to enforce my rules or policies, it has typically been when it comes to retakes, make-up work, suspected cheating....Sometimes the battle just isn't worth fighting. I don't like having to justify my choices to my administration, especially when I've had an unsupportive administrator, when I've felt that the discipline office won't do anything, and/or when the parent seemed to have it out for me. I'd prefer to just ignore the kid until they're out of my classroom.

    I don't recommend this strategy for anyone. It's not anything that I'm proud of, but I can't say that I haven't done it.
     
  5. 2ndTimeAround

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    I can totally understand that, Caesar.
     
  6. Lynn K.

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    :yeahthat: I think this might be true of most teachers; sometimes it's just not worth it!
     
  7. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    As to this part of your question, here are my thoughts.

    I think that teachers need to be rule-followers. If the school's policy is no cell phones during class, then I think teachers need to make sure that there are no cell phones during class. When teachers decide to "pick battles" and avoid enforcing the cell phone rule, for example, it causes problems for the teachers who do enforce that policy. "But you're the ONLY teacher who won't let us use our phones! Wah!" It causes a divide between the students and the teachers who enforce the rule, and it's not fair. I don't have a lot of appreciation or respect for my colleagues who ignore the big rules, because they make my life a lot more difficult.

    With that having been said, I do determine which rules are my non-negotiables and which ones I don't care so much about. My school has a rule about food in the classroom. While I don't permit it, I also don't make a big deal about it if the student is being discreet about eating or when they ask my permission ahead of time. Our busing and school schedule requires students to go a long time between meals (with no built-in snack time). It's hard for me to go that long without a snack, and I'm grown. These are growing kids, and if they're hungry I don't want to deny them food. Not only does it help them concentrate (and they're surely not concentrating if they're hungry), but it also helps them be a lot less grumpy and whiny.

    Perhaps these two opinions seem to be at odds and I seem like a hypocrite. That may be true to a degree. I tend to view it as a blatant skirting of the rules versus a wink and a nudge.
     
  8. 2ndTimeAround

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    well, it is hypocritical, you're right. Because when you allow the food but the rule-following teacher does not, it causes a divide between THEM.
     
  9. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Meh. No one is blatantly eating in my class. That's unlike other classrooms where kids are texting in plain view of the teacher and everyone else. The fact is that if a student were discreetly texting in a way that I couldn't see, I wouldn't come down on that--obviously, because I wouldn't even know about it. But if the rule-breaking is obvious and apparent and the teacher doesn't do anything about it, that's where I feel like it's a problem. I can see a difference, and the difference is "She lets us eat in class!" versus "We can sneak food in her class!" I understand that others may not see the difference.
     
  10. Pashtun

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    I don't think you see your bias and justification for eating a bit in class. There is no difference, you have just chosen eating as "not as big a deal", other teachers may choose something that is not a "big deal" to them, but may drive you nuts.

    We have a no hat rule in our school. I tell my students who wear a hat, "you wanna wear the hat, you better be on point". So I am not a stickler for certain school rules, but I am not a stickler for other teachers and their application of their/the rules.
     
  11. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Fair enough.
     
  12. HistoryVA

    HistoryVA Devotee

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    I agree that the author is using "pick your battles" in a different way than I use it, but using his logic, I'd agree with him. I try very hard to be consistent as far as students. There may be certain rules I slack on, but if I'm a hardass about a rule with one student, I'm going to be the same with others.

    The discussion that followed I found more interesting, though, because I can't STAND that some teachers don't follow the school rules. Nothing irks me more than hearing "Ms so-an-so lets us eat in class" or "Mr. so-and-so doesn't call security if he sees a cell phone" when those are school rules that teachers are called to the carpet for not enforcing 3-4 times a year. Classroom rules- you're free to slack; they're your rules. Student Handbook Rules- nonnegotiable and I wish other teachers took that more seriously. Now that's not to say I haven't had the random student come up and say "seriously, I'm starving, can I eat this banana?" and I've let them. But they're standing in the hallway and wolfing that thing down and it's a rare day.

    There are many battles that I don't pick, though. I don't sweat whether or not students brought a pencil, I don't make them leave an item or put huge flowers on them. I don't care how many boxes of tissues I end up buying or play that whole "the bell doesn't dismiss you; I dismiss you" game, but I try to be consistent between different students.
     
  13. iteachbx

    iteachbx Enthusiast

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    Maybe it's because I'm in special ed but I don't think every student needs to be held to the exact same rules. Yes there are certain rules every student has to follow. But I'm a big believer in, "fair doesn't mean the same for everyone it means everyone gets what they need to succeed." Susie absolutely cannot sit at her seat for writing. She needs to be away from the other kids sprawled out on the rug to concentrate. So I let her. Tommy can't possibly sit at his seat and read for 20 minutes like the other kids can. So if he gets up to get a tissue 3 times and wanders a bit around the room I might let it go. Joey is extremely impulsive. He might get away with calling out a few times more than another student.

    I do "pick battles" (although I wouldn't call it that because I'm never actually battling students) with certain students and not others. Certain students have their own behavior plans that hold them to different consequences than other students.

    This is the part of the article I disagree with the most:
    It causes resentment.

    Choosing to respond to misbehavior sometimes and not others breeds resentment—because it’s unfair and students know it. From their perspective it looks like you’re playing favorites. Why does he get away with talking during lessons and I don’t? It’s a question every student will ponder and grumble over.

    I've never, ever sensed the least bit of resentment from other students and never, ever has there been any signs that they feel I'm playing favorites. It's possible to create a classroom environment where students understand that everyone needs different things to succeed. It's just about being calculated and consistent about what behaviors you are targeting with certain students and what behaviors that student isn't yet ready to overcome. Take Joey the impulsive kid who can't stop calling out for example. Yeah he's calling out but maybe for the first time he's starting to sit up on the rug and focus on the lesson. I'm not going to start shooting him down for calling out I'm going to celebrate the fact that he's sitting and he's focused and engaged in the lesson. When he masters this behavior ALL the time I'll tackle the calling out.
     
  14. Pashtun

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    This is how I feel.
     
  15. HistoryVA

    HistoryVA Devotee

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    Maybe being Special Ed does make a difference. As well as 3rd grade vs 11th grade! :) I should be able to expect a lot more out of my 16 year olds than you might be able to from your 8 year olds. Plus, if I have a student with an IEP or a 504, that will absolutely make a difference in how rules are enforced. But, for the most part, my students should be able to follow basic rules for 80 minutes, so I don't have to put much differentiation in my application.
     
  16. iteachbx

    iteachbx Enthusiast

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    Those things definitely make a huge difference. And like I said, there are certain rules are non negotiables. It doesn't matter what disability a student has, disrespect, bullying, being destructive to materials, etc. won't be tolerated. The things that are tolerated are usually little things that might not even be addressed in the official classroom "rules" like loudly tapping a pencil or not sitting in one's seat.
     
  17. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Perhaps it's just me but if a student is following vastly different rules than everyone else in my classroom, we need to look at getting that student into a classroom that can meet his needs rather than have him stay in a gen ed classroom.

    I also teach older students and while they will understand if a student who has obvious and I mean obvious differences gets treated differently, most of the time they WILL feel resentment if another student gets to follow a different set of rules, and while they may not voice this resentment, they will test the waters to see if they can get away with the same things, and that's simple not conducive to having an effective learning environment with 40 students a period.

    Maybe you could keep it straight about which students get to follow which rules if you only see 15 kids a day but when you see 180 it's near impossible.
     
  18. Pashtun

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    I have to imagine creating relationships with kids in high school is just not as effective as at elementary level overall.
     
  19. chebrutta

    chebrutta Enthusiast

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    I do get annoyed when other teachers don't follow the rules in regards to students. Gum is my #1 pet peeve. It's not allowed. Period. Yet there are a few teachers who allow their students to chew gum because "it helps them concentrate." That's nice. That's not the rule. And guess which teacher ends up with gum under her desks and chairs?

    It think the article completely ignores 504 and ESE students. Sure, there's a kid who gets away with talking while I'm talking with only a reminder to stay on task, whereas another kid would be assigned silent lunch. It looks unfair to the other kids. They don't know that the other kid has an accommodation due to ADHD.
     
  20. Ted

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    While I think the Smart Classroom Management blog has many very good, very thought-out ideas, I also believe there's a large gap between THEORY and PRACTICE.

    In THEORY, I would enforce the same rules for each student. And in THEORY each student would follow those rules and be angels in my class. And of course, this would be easier if I had 17 students instead of TWICE that many.

    But in PRACTICE, it simply doesn't work.

    Yes, here in the lazy, restful days of summer I tell myself that I'm going to be a fair, even teacher who will treat each and every child the EXACT same no matter what.

    Then school hits and all that THEORY goes to pot. Because papers start coming in, and meetings start happening. Parents start demanding and students start fighting/sneezing/fumbling. Lunches have to be made (no quick trips to Subway), etc. Oh...and of course we need to plan lessons, grade papers, and make copies.

    So, if "choosing my battles" makes me a bad teacher, or one who isn't doing his best... so be it.

    As Caesar pointed out, there are some rules on which I'll be a stickler and some which I'll slide. Because I can be a RULE-ENFORCER 100% of the time, or a TEACHER 100% of the time... or I could balance those percentages as best as I humanly can.

    So do I believe the author of that blog has a beautifully poised, idyllic classroom day in and day out? Laughingly, no... I really don't.
     
  21. BumbleB

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    I get what the author of the article is saying. Ideally, it would be best to enforce the same rules for everyone across the board. However, our students are not robots. Each student has unique needs. It just doesn't work out perfectly.

    If I see that a student is incapable of following the rules and norms of the classroom, I put them on a behavior management plan. If another student expresses that the student's "lack of discipline" is "unfair" (this rarely happens, and usually the complainer is a SPED student who lacks the maturity and depth to understand that everyone has unique needs), I can confidently assure the student that I'm working on it...and I usually pad the conversation with "I need you to be a great role model so that everyone learns the correct way to behave in class."
     
  22. Sm2teach

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    I agree with this. I have had impulsive students whom you can tell really cannot control all their behavior all the time. Whether it is ADHD or whatever, moving their name every single time would lead to resentment in that child. They begin to feel that the teacher doesn't like them and she is always on their case. At the same time I feel that I give the well behaved student the same amount of slack. I don't always move their names when they call out. A look is usually enough.
    It is hard to describe the balancing act teachers do until you are in that situation. I work on building respect between me and the students , so that the students want and try do do well. I have the support of a great administration, and each of the last two years I have helped transition 2 different behavior unit students into functioning students in the regular ed classroom.

    While my system is far from perfect, and it constantly changes to accomodate whichever students I have, I am often given the more difficult class because I will still teach these students, and they will know I love them at the end of the day regardless of how many times they got in trouble. "Picking my battles" in these kids makes them feel that I am not out to get them, and as they get control of certain behaviors we begin to work on others.
     
  23. Sm2teach

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    Agree
     
  24. 2ndTimeAround

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    And I've seen the exact opposite. More so with younger kids. When the EC students get special treatment the general ed kids do get upset. It doesn't teach understanding and empathy - it breeds resentment and sometimes a lot of it.

    Older students sometimes get resentful. We have many students with 504s and IEPs that use them as crutches. They, and their parents, have no desire to wean themselves from the programs. They don't want to try not having accomodations for this assignment or that. When classmates see a student that in their (and my) opinion getting special treatment that they long outgrew, it does cause a few issues.

    My school is GREAT about not letting behaviors interfere too much. But my daughter's school is horrible. One student will get in other students' faces, scream profanity, knock papers off of their desks, deliberately defy school rules like walking on the right side of the hallway, etc. The girl is old enough to know better and she can control herself when she is held to a standard because when she is under my leadership in a non-school environment (read - I don't legally have to accommodate for her ODD), she has very few problems. At school, though, kids just see Sally getting away with mess and little things like her not having to put away the glue and scissors really upsets them. I hear her classmates complain constantly.
     
  25. 2ndTimeAround

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    I teach a lot of advanced students who are very concerned about class rank and a lot of procrastinators. Extended time on reports and projects is a huge issue for my students. It isn't FAIR that Suzy gets two extra days than I do - I'm taking more classes than she is anyhow! For most of these students getting the extra time, they don't need it. They have long outgrown it. They and their classmates know that, so it really isn't fair. My work-around is that I always give an extra day to everyone. I always provide extra time after tests. EVERYONE has it available. It also helps with printer issues - no claims that their printer was out of ink or broken, or whatever. This has saved me a lot of aggravation. Extended time is never an issue in my room now.
     
  26. BumbleB

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    Then the SPED teacher should do something about it. He/she should remove the accommodation from the IEP, or if your district allows it, write "as needed".

    That is what I do when I observe that a student no longer benefits from a certain accommodation. Our whole purpose is to move them forward towards independence, not allow them to slack. So I gather observations, I talk to the student and see if they feel like they need it, I gather opinions from the student's teachers, and then make the change on the next IEP.

    Would it be ok (in your school climate) to mention to the SPED teacher that you feel like the student doesn't need extra time anymore?
     
  27. 2ndTimeAround

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    Yeah, it is a nice enough climate to suggest that. I have run into two problems though - the parents and/or children are dead-set against it and start throwing fits. That's enough to worry the powers that be to just back off. Or the argument about data backing up my claims comes into play. Well, if a child doesn't want to try going without the accommodations, then I can't gather data. I have been able to eliminate extended time on testing for a couple of students by keeping records of when they finished in relation to their peers. But extended time on projects is not as easy. If a teen has a crutch, he will use it, special needs or not.
     
  28. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I have found that this isn't always true. Over the years I've had many special ed students with accommodations who asked to not use them.

    "I just want to try taking the whole test."
    "Can I take that quiz without my flashcards and notes? I think I can do it."
    "Is it okay if I turn in my project early? I think I did a good job on this one!"

    My answer is, of course, YES! Many students are quite introspective and aware of their skills and abilities. Many of them have learned skills to help them be successful without "crutches". Not all kids are like this, but plenty are. I've always enjoyed seeing students move into this place of self-awareness, empowerment, pride in their own work and ability, and confidence.
     
  29. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    I don´t agree with this article. Just looking at this past school year, I had an ADHD student who absolutely could not sit still for listening time. To recognize every little behavior and face he made would be exhausting for me, time consuming (that´s what I would be dealing with all day long), and would take from the learning of the other 20 who were listening. So I think sometimes you do have to choose your battles, letting the small things go if it benefits the class as a whole.
     
  30. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Many of you seem to suggest that students get resentful when they are called out on things multiple times, but what I have found is the opposite. These usual problem students are so used to being held at different standards for so long that they actually like being called out on their misbehavior and corrected even if it happens often. They no longer feel separate from their peers.

    In addition giving them different sets of rules holds them to different expectations which they are brought enough to pick up on. It's not that you just want to concentrate on small victories the student has made, but that you don't believe he can be silent during an entire period of class or can meet the classroom expectations. Students understand these lowered expectations and see themselves as the stupid kids or the bad students and they rise to meet these expectations.

    There's the rare case that you will actually have a student who has special needs, and in that case the student either needs an iep or to be moved to a sped classroom.

    But I agree with Michael Linsin's philosophy and have used it in my class with 180 students a day and it had simply worked wonderfully and the kids really do appreciate it. I find that his philosophy has a lot of the Love and logic mindset built into it.
     
  31. KinderCowgirl

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    I also agree with this and had a similar experience this past year. There were things that if I pushed the student on enforcing would end up in a full-blown tantrum. If I'm asking her to sit up instead of lying on the carpet during whole group and she didn't do it, I'd let it go. (If she was hurting someone it would be different); but I think it would unfair to the other students to lose me and the lesson for the 10-minute tantrum we'd have to deal with just to enforce that rule. I would also argue that some kids are doing it to get attention and by giving them that center-stage, you are reinforcing the behavior.

    I do it with praise as well. There are students who I would praise for sitting quietly for a 10-minute lesson or entering the classroom quietly (because it so rarely happens) but other students will receive praise for something else. I don't think the other kids become resentful if you do it a tactful way.
     
  32. Pashtun

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    I suspect this is one of those examples where the differences between elementary teaching and secondary teaching is highlighted.

    I suspect most elementary teachers are willing to apply the rules slightly differently depending on the individual students involved. Whereas secondary teachers feel the rule is the rule and it should be applied uniformly.
     
  33. Ima Teacher

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    I'm secondary.

    I treat my students fairly. I'm certain that's one of the reasons I've been successful teaching middle school and some high school as long as I have. (Starting year 21 in two weeks.)

    Middle school kids are especially willing to do what you want when they know you care. For them, part of caring is feeling they are treated fairly. I don't make unreasonable requests in my procedures. I base them on school policies as well.

    Fair does not mean equal.

    My kids know I care about them. They know I treat them fairly. Because I'm consistent there, when I adjust things for student needs, the kids rarely blink an eye. They know that if I am changing something for someone, it is for a darned good reason that does not have anything to do with him/her.
     
  34. Ima Teacher

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    Sorry: iPad isn't letting me edit.

    It's also very important to teach kids the difference what it really means to be treated unfairly. Middle school kids often take it to be "I'm not being permitted to have my way". There are cases where they are in fact being treated unfairly. I encourage them to problem solve. What's causing the issue? What can they do about it? My students have problem solved their way through truly unfair situations more than once. One particular time I had to explain how one of the school handbook rules came into play. They were crying "unfair". It was, in fact, outdated, not technically unfair. I encouraged them to speak to the principal and council members who were in charge of the handbook each year to address the issue. They did. Problem solved.
     
  35. Peregrin5

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    I think it highly depends on what types of inequalities you present to them. I don't think anyone is saying you have to treat every student exactly the same. What the article is saying is that you have to hold all students to the same rules.

    My students know I care about them as well and one of the reasons they know I care is because I do treat them all equally and don't play favorites.

    You can treat someone fairly and still expect them to follow your classrooms rules to the T, and let them know you care for them.

    I'm sorry, I just don't buy that it shows students you care for them when you let them get away with things that others aren't allowed to get away with.
     
  36. Pashtun

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    You are excluding SPED kids with certain "issues" correct?
     
  37. Ima Teacher

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    I certainly never said that.
     
  38. Ima Teacher

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    You appear to be using "equal" and "fair" interchangeably.
     
  39. 2ndTimeAround

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    You are absolutely correct, not all teens will. I was trying to include non-EC students with my statement but shouldn't have made it totally inclusive.
     
  40. 2ndTimeAround

    2ndTimeAround Phenom

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    Jul 20, 2013

    I'm not the one you asked, but for me, it usually doesn't come up at the secondary level. I admit I will have a hard time accepting a 504 that states something like "Johnny should not be called out on his misbehavior." Or, "Johnny is allowed to tap his pencil loudly on his desk."

    I had a student with anger issues that was given special permission to leave the classroom whenever he wanted. He didn't have any documented disability, he was just a jerk. No 504 or IEP. He was at risk for dropping out and his assigned mentor struck up a deal with higher authorities to let him do what he wanted in order to avoid blow-ups with teachers. It did not take long before other students started copying some of his behaviors in order to avoid work too. And when THEY would get written up for leaving class without permission, it would really hit the fan.

    On the other hand, I had an autistic student that sometimes got overwhelmed during group activities. He would often need to leave the room too. He had a para that would follow him as he calmed down. It is obvious to the other students that this particular child would need some extra help somehow. Never an issue, especially since many of them had experienced his in-class meltdowns before.

    If a child's behavior is so severe in high school that he cannot abide by classroom rules, then he should either have a para with him to take him out, or he should not be in a general ed room.

    An exception that immediately comes to mind is the diabetic student. Of course I will allow one with diabetes to have a quick snack if they are feeling ill. Even if I didn't have paperwork mandating it. however, each time he felt ill enough to break the classroom rule I would feel obligated to notify the school nurse and his mother. Every time I've had diabetic students the class knew he was diabetic so there wasn't any concern about 'fairness."
     
  41. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Jul 20, 2013

    I guess I would need an example to understand how you treat students fairly but not equally.

    In regards to the example of not keeping Joey accountable for being in his seat during class because he seemed to be paying attention or allowing him to get away with not raising his hand because he is finally participating is certainly not something I would let fly in my classroom.
     
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