Losing My Mind

.. Well, whatever part of my mind is left, that is ..

I wish I could write an in-depth blog about the shit that happened today at school, but instead I'll sort of gloss over it and get to another issue that's been bothering me instead.

Today there was an incident at school that resulted in physical restraints, police, violence, bodily fluids and threats. Left me feeling a bit yuck - even though I wasn't involved in any way. It just disgusts me that this is allowed to go on in schools. Violent behaviours should not be mainstreamed.

Today also had me and another colleague out walking the streets (in a not so wonderful neighbourhood) looking for one of my students, who decided to amble home herself - leaving her older brother and me panicking - worrying about cars, child snatchers and all of those other worst-case scenarios. We found out after we walked the little boy home, that my dear L. had been picked up by her mother in a car. She had also told her mother that her brother was going to be walking home with friends, so he didn't need a ride. A nice fabricated story. Gah.

So, onto the issue. It's a classroom/student one.

Lately I've been stressing myself out a bit over D. in my class. Not publicly, I've been trying to keep it to myself - possibly because I'm feeling a bit useless and not happy with how things are going, how I'm doing as a teacher and how he's doing as a student. Maybe getting it all out there will help.

Without spending ages getting into it, D. was tested last year and found to have a  behavioural (possibly developmental) disability, which presents itself in sporadic tantrum throwing. He is a naturally bright little boy, but his schoolwork is strongly affected by his behaviour - meaning it only gets done when he wants it to be done. For the most part, he just does things at a different rate than the other students. His writing is at Kindergarten level, with early Year 1 maths and reading.

D. is defiant, to the point of stomping and saying NO! outright. He shakes his head, looks away, scratches his arms and head, stomps and kicks off his shoes and socks. He also screams. And cries. And screams some more. He'll back away from you into a corner, but run after you screaming the minute you turn away to ignore the problem behaviour.

I really do think of D. as a little dormant volcano. Usually quiet, sometimes rumbly, but when they go off, they really go off.

I can't even tell you exactly what it is that sets D. off. Some days it can be a child looking at him, some days it can be him not wanting to do work, some days it can be a routine change. It doesn't take much; he is very, very temperamental.

These are the ways I deal with D's behaviours; (as well as the normal classroom discipline procedures that all my students understand and follow as a class)

# Try and catch it before it escalates. If he's starting to show signs of erupting (so to speak) using distractions can help. It can also hinder, depending on his mood. Win-lose situation.

# Give him 2 choices - The good choice and the not-so-good choice. He is not silly; he knows exactly what he is doing, and what he wants to achieve out of having a tantrum (his own way). When I give him choices, it can take a while for him to decide, but it usually sways him in the right direction.

# Ignore the problem behaviour (which can be really hard, when he's kicking shoes towards your face) - plus, this can be hard on the rest of the class too.

# Praising his good behaviours - when he puts his shoes back on, for example. (I know this isn't very teacher-ish of me, but I really can't stand basically having to give him praise even after the worlds biggest tantrum. I understand the reasoning behind it, but it just irritates me. See? Wouldn't a good teacher just be happy to use the reinforcements without thinking about it too much? Bleh.)

# Praising the other students and their good behaviour - everytime they ignore one of D's tantrums, they are inadvertantly acting like good role models. Thank goodness my class are used to D. and are able to keep working regardless. They're really a good group.


Yesterday, all my efforts failed. He was working with his aide and in the middle of some reading, sneezed into his hand (yes - boogers). His aide asked him to go wash his hands, he refused. That's all it took. It all went downhill from there.

First I let the aide use her strategies to deal with D. None of those worked. She then left the room to go to another student elsewhere, so it was my turn. I spent a good thirty minutes employing every strategy I know, and he outright refused to do anything. He sat on his chair, shoved it against the wall and wouldn't move. For thirty minutes.

I gave him choices - nothing.
I asked him to explain why he was feeling cranky - nothing.
I asked him to leave the chair and sit on the floor - nothing.
I praised the other students doing their work -  nothing.
I distracted him with talk about his work - nothing.
I ignored him, and left him there to play a game with the class - nothing.

In the end, I felt like leaving the damn room myself and stomping. Thankfully, my colleague friend came and had a go dealing with him, and after it had been nearly an hour all up, she convinced D. to go to the floor and sit with her.

I was grateful for it, but at the same time felt really useless - why would he respond to her and not for me? Why would he go off the chair and onto the floor with her, when she used the same strategies as I did? Should I have spent the whole hour continuously working with him, pushing him, gently guiding him?

But in all honesty, it also pissed me off. How much time do I need to spend on this one child when I have twenty five other kids in that classroom who DO follow instructions, who do the work that is set for them? Yes, he has a certain behavioural issue. I'm not insensitive, I realise this. D. is quite mild compared to some of the other behavioural cases I've seen in the school - but when he is tantrumming, both him AND the rest of the class are at a disadvantage because of it.

Blah. Basically, I need some opinions from the teachers and non-teachers out there. Am I a crappy teacher for feeling fed up with it all, and what should I try? What would you do in that situation?

Now I'm off to really lose my mind.

Listening to old 90's music that I have over-played on my Ipod for the last few days. 98 degrees, anyone? How about Five? Bring on the smooshy boybands, guaranteed to make you smile from at least one cheesy lyric per song.

"Cos I'm losing my mind when you're not around.. it's all, it's all because of you.."

See? CHEESE! Hoorah!

Maybe tomorrow I'll enlighten you with a typical day in my classroom. Stay tuned, folks.

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