Out-of-compliance behaviors appear in our barometer children for two main reasons: they are a cry for attention or there is an organic component connected to the behavior (physically or physiologically stimulated and beyond the control of the child).
Sometimes our barometer children are simply in a pattern or habit of unproductive and/or unsociable behavior and don't know how to get out of it. How might we help a student who has already identified himself or herself as "the bad kid" or is already perceived by others as such? We've recently discovered a technique that has worked for colleagues in two different states. These dedicated primary teachers discovered each other on Twitter, which is how we happened to hear about them. Because of the sensitive nature of the subject, they've asked that we not reveal their names, but we are very grateful that they've allowed us to share their work with you, as it might be just what you need to help your most at-risk student.
The teacher who came up with this originally was looking for something that would help her difficult student begin to experience success, re-identify himself, and begin to exhibit desirable behaviors more regularly. It had to be easy for her and for others in the building to monitor.
She made an acrostic out of the student's name, using each letter to begin a statement of expected behaviors. The day was divided into three sections, since maintaining behavior and delaying reward until the end of the day were beyond his ability.
After a private conference introducing the plan to the parent and student, this teacher shared it with the class in a very positive manner. "In this classroom, we want every boy and girl to get what they need. Malik is still learning how to behave in school, and we are all going to help, because we want him to be successful. So, when we notice that he makes a change after one reminder, or acts respectfully, or is listening and learning, or is demonstrating self-control, or is kind and considerate, he gets to put a tally mark under that section on his clipboard. He will earn privileges by collecting ten tally marks in each section."
The paper was folded in thirds so that he had to focus on only a third of the day at a time. He became very motivated after a bumpy testing period, always counting his total after a new tally was added, figuring out just how many more he needed to earn his recess or visit to the principal. The students, who until this time had found little to celebrate about their difficult classmate, began to look through a new lens, and got excited about every success they caught.
After a few months the clipboard became completely unnecessary and Malik asked to stop using it. His classmates proudly announced to every guest teacher that Malik used to be the worst kid in the class but was now the best kid in the class. Malik had friends for the first time, felt good about himself, and to the great joy of his teacher was finally making tremendous academic progress.
The colleague who most recently implemented the system had this to say: "The system is working very well for my student because the day is cut into manageable-sized pieces. She can realistically see herself being successful. Her biggest challenge is rebuilding her self-image. She sees herself as a failure, and this allows her to see her many successes. This is also fitting really well with my classroom management system. I love that the school staff has investment in this as well. She, of course, had developed a reputation for herself, and you could hear the moans and groans as she moved through the building. Now, colleagues are also trying to find a moment of success for her throughout the day."
Below you'll see the acrostics these teachers came up with to help their students practice positive behaviors and re-identify themselves. Again, we thank them for sharing with us.