Over the past five years I have taught more than 450 workshops to educators all over the world. I consult with teachers and schools while in session. I meet one on one or with small groups for 25 minute sessions, and help fix at least one major problem in that time. A secretary takes notes during these consultations after which I write a detailed report and send it to the teacher with strategies, ideas and suggestions.
My latest book titled, That One Kid is made up of these reports. The following is an excerpt from the book. To pre-order visit www.tlc-sems.com
I meet with Shana Miledele and we talk about Patrick. He is driving her nuts (her word not mine!). She admits maybe being a bit too hard on him. He is labeled Oppositional Defiant and Shana has no idea what to do with him. He argues everything constantly! I explain to her where oppositional defiance usually comes from. Almost always it is traced back to a kid that gets so much attention at home they have no idea how to live without it. Sometimes mom is even afraid of this child. They run the show. There is only one strategy that I know works extremely well with this student.
It is called Challenge. I warn Shana, as I do every other teacher I explain this to; it does not sound nice. In fact it goes against much of what we are taught in teacher school and much of what I believe. Always encourage kids, always pump them up, and tell them how great they are. I agree with all of that with most kids most of the time. But oppositional kids are not most kids. With them this generally does not work. So we have to do the opposite. Think about oppositional defiance for a minute. Their nature is to argue everything we do and say. So our approach has to change.
Instead of encouraging Patrick to do his homework or sit in his seat quietly, I am going to say this. “I know for a fact you will not have all 10 problems done by tomorrow. I guess I will see won’t I?” Because he is oppositional he must prove me wrong. In order to prove me wrong the problems must get done. The goal is always to give myself the advantage in the classroom. Saying this puts me in a no lose situation. If his problems are not done (very possible) I say, “See I knew you would not have them done. I know you better than you know yourself.” Remember, oppositional kids hate this more than anything. However, there is a very good chance they will be done. If they are I say, “Great. But honestly, anyone can do their work one time. I know for a fact you will not do it for an entire week! I guess I will see won’t I?” I know for a fact you cannot sit still for 20 straight minutes I guess I will see won’t I? I know for a fact you cannot get everyone quiet after lunch I guess I will see won’t I?
When I was teaching school and traveling for workshops I would say to my class, “Listen, I am going out of town for a few days and I expect you to behave when I am gone.” Then I let most of them leave. As they are leaving I pull the two leaders aside and say, “Except for you guys. Did you hear what I said to the whole class? I lied. I don’t care how the whole class behaves. There are only two names on the sub report I am looking for when I get back; yours and yours. You see everyone knows you guys can influence the class to disrupt when I am gone but I do not think you have the ability to get everyone to be good. We all know you are leaders and can lead in a negative way but I am sure you cannot lead in a positive way. I guess we will see won’t we?” If nothing else I put myself in a no lose situation. If they behave when I am gone I got what I want. If they don’t they prove me right which oppositional kids hate more than anything.
CAUTION!!! It is critical that what you are challenging the student to do they really can do. I am saying I do not think they can do it but I know they can. If I challenge a blind person to read the board all I do is piss them off even more. This is why so many reward systems teachers use are a colossal failure. The student wants the reward but what they must do to achieve it is impossible. I remember in elementary school if we were good all week we attended “Fun Friday.” Good all week? I was not able to be good for half a day let alone a whole week!!
I recently had a pipe burst at my house and my plumber came over to fix it. We were outside talking when he opened the back of his van. He literally had 100 different tools. He saw me looking and said, “Yeah, I have 100 tools but I really only use the same four or five.” This is like challenge. It is a tool you must have in your van but not one that you will use often.
Focus on success. Shana tells me her class is much improved from the beginning of the year. Focus on this and be proud of it. If your school does not have it, create your own classroom on-a-roll. For kids that are improving. Pick up the pace. I advise her to move quicker through her lesson even if every single student is not paying attention. By waiting for the few stragglers you risk losing the rest of the class. Know who the slower ones are and after explaining to the whole class, individually help them. I am told that when observed the recommendation is usually to wait for every person to be completely ready. Obviously I do not agree. Shana is very easy to talk to and I really like her style. It is obvious she cares a lot about her job and her students.
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