Monday, January 21, 2008

Challenging Students?! (Carrie McLeod)

Dear Carrie,
Since I share an office with you this year, I notice that you have a few friends in your class that need daily counseling and reminders about appropriate behaviors. What I admire about you is that you never seem to get frustrated or tired of these repeat offenders. You continue to treat them with love and respect when you talk with them about their behaviors, bending down to their level to look them in the eyes and speak calmly. I never hear you vent or complain about them. Instead, you greet them daily with a hug and welcome. How do you keep such a positive attitude and manner with the most challenging students?

Dearest Melanie,
Thank you for posing such a sweet question. Ever since my first year, I have always been blessed with particular students who have extreme social and emotional needs. I have learned to embrace this challenge and have tried numerous approaches to reach each of them. As educators, we know that each child is unique and has different requirements to make him/her successful. The trick is doing everything under the sun until you discover what works with that one child. For instance, this year I have a handful of “usual suspects” as I call them. Though they drive me ABSOLUTELY CRAZY some days, they are also the ones that touch my heart the most. If you think about it, those “usual suspects” who you have taught over the years are always the ones you will remember the most. I have a “Mother Hen” syndrome and love helping and taking care of people. I know these students need me the most and I want to be their rock. A lot of how I deal with children has to do with how I want to be dealt with. I would never want someone to stand over me and raise his/her voice at me. If I don’t like it, I know my students would not like it. I preach the golden rule in my classroom- do to others, as you would want them to do to you. When something goes wrong, I want to discuss it immediately. That is why you (Melanie) see me having “emergency family meetings” in my office a lot with my special friends. I want students to always have a chance to explain their side of the story before I tell them my side. This makes them be accountable for their actions and words. This also sets up a mutual respect situation. I lower my office chair to be eye-to-eye with whoever it is. I want them to see that we are equal in the conversation to come. I always let them start by talking in a calm rational voice, and then I talk in a calm rational voice. We can usual come to an understanding quicker and easier this way.
Another large part of loving a child with these needs is knowing that everyday is a fresh start. No matter what went down the day before, I always start fresh with each of my kids every day. I greet them at the door with a high-five and welcome them to a new day. At the end of the day, even if it was a challenging one, I give them a high-five and tell them that tomorrow will be a better day. My students KNOW that I love them no matter what!

With sincerest admiration for YOU,
Carrie McLeod

1 comment:

dayle said...

Melanie really asked you the perfect question. She describes you so well. I have to admit that I sometimes do my "happy dance" when a really challenging child is absent, but I know that you just worry about where they are and what they are missing. I got to see it up close and personal in your room every day last year. You are a gift! dayle