With some of the most challenging youngsters, particularly those whose behaviour is chronic, ongoing, and apparently never ending, the feeling is certainly that you have indeed tried everything.
You have ensued the work is challenging, but differentiated, interest level is high. You have probably tried moving the pupil’s desk/table or seat. Contacted mum, dad, carer and most certainly tried a star chart or report card linked to a home school contact book. Even a completely individual reward system has been put in place especially for the target pupil, all to no avail. His/her behaviour remains confrontational, off task and disruptive.
In this type of situation it is very tempting to consider a change of class, either temporary or permanent, usually to give the other students a break, you some respite and for the named pupil, a fresh start. This can work, but all too often the wrong message is received not just by the pupil but also by the rest of the class, parents and colleagues. The message being, you can’t cope.
In extreme cases the continuing “drip, drip” on going challenge to you and the disruption this brings can lead to fixed term or even permanent exclusion.
Once you find yourself in the downward spiral of low expectation, negative attitude and constant frustration, the hardest step to take is to view the situation with an open mind and a fresh pair of eyes.
Teachers and support staff really do feel like they have tried everything without any measure of success and become more and more reluctant to continue in a situation that appears on one level, hopeless and even worse, deteriorating.
When this happens the time has come to recognise your problem, and that experienced by the pupil, establish with clarity what is the specific problem, be prepared to accept advice and consider change.
In order to see any progress, and remember it has taken the pupil some time to develop their behaviour traits, they will not change over-night; you must establish a baseline of what is happening giving clear and accurate descriptors. Without this step in place you have nothing upon which you can judge change or progress. You must also be prepared to consider the whole picture of the child, the environment, the home, peers and your behaviour as being contributory factors in the behaviour being displayed by the child.
In establishing a baseline or a benchmark to give an accurate description of the behaviour, the pupil’s abilities and your own strategies and approach, it is essential that you do not attempt to do this on your own.
You have no doubt, shared elements of the problem with some of your colleagues, who in turn may well have sympathised with you. Be prepared for others who may even compound the problem with comments such as
“Well I never have any problem with him/her!”
“He/she was fine last year in my class!”
Now is the time to work together with a colleague, who shares a professional trust with you. Step one in your strategy would be for your colleague to sit through various lessons with you and your class, including the named pupil, and collect information to later share with you. Key areas to observe and comment on are as follows:
Classroom Organisation; equipment accessible, arrangement of furniture, appropriate working environment, temperature, lighting, available space, outside environment (corridors etc)
Classroom Management; Your arrival time, clarity, pitch and volume of your voice, clear instructions, appropriate differentiation and timetable arrangements
Rules and Routines; clear, consistent and effective discipline/behaviour plan including rules, rewards and sanctions, positive expectations, behaviour expectations are taught not assumed, established routines (entering/leaving room, clearing up etc), link into whole school policies and expectations
The information gathered by your colleague or colleagues should be from a variety of teaching and learning situations, quite individual work, class discussion, teacher led activity etc and should be presented to you not as a critic but as a sharing of observed information.
You will be surprised at how your colleague sees the problem from their point of view and how it differs from your own. It would also be beneficial for you to conduct the same observations when someone else is teaching your class.
Information should be presented in a non-threatening manner and the intended outcome is for you to jointly agree a way forward.
Often the simplest and seemingly most obvious strategies and techniques can be highlighted using this framework. These may be simple but when included in your action plan and when your own styles of approach and management are changed, they can be very powerful and effect positive changes into what was previously and problem with no apparent solution.