I experienced my first challenge by one of my scholars on the first day of school. He came late to school and although I greeted him with a smile and encouraged him to join the group, I could tell by the look in his eyes that something was wrong. I knew him from last year because I taught his older brother. His mother is supportive, and I know I can always count on her to ensure that lessons taught at school are enforced at home. Additionally, the other third grade teacher and I had a home visit with him and his mom prior to the start of the year so that we could begin building a relationship with him. Lastly, I knew he had a Tier 2 Intervention Plan called Check In, Check Out (CICO). CICO is an intervention created by the school that targets students who need an extra layer of behavioral support. Scholars receive 3-4 targeted goals and teachers check in and out with them at the end of the morning and afternoon blocks. At the end of the day, if a scholar has a certain numbers of points, he/she receives a small prize. CICO proved to be extremely successful for my scholars last year.
This scholar, who I will refer to as Trey, refused to take part in our whole group exercises and soon began to tear up the classroom. He tore his cardstock desk nametag to shreds and threw the pieces around the room. He then proceeded to throw crayon boxes and pencils around the room. It was during this moment of the day that I knew that he would be the first student that I will begin my Focus Five plan with. Over the summer, I came up with a plan called Focus Five to target students throughout the day who I need to build immediate relationships with in order to ensure that I have a positive classroom culture. The Focus Five plan is for me to spend significant amount of extra time with these scholars each day by doing things like eating lunch or playing on the recess field together, and taking the scholar aside and giving positive praise, among other things. It is through this plan that I will speed up the relationship process in an effort to get this scholar to buy-in to the fact that I want him/her to learn and that I want him/her to feel comfortable in my class.
When I taught in New Orleans, I used a similar plan to create an incentive program for one of my students who wore a hat to school each day and would refuse to take it off and constantly avoided learning by walking around the classroom picking on other students to mask his low self-esteem. It took me a bit of time to realize that he did not want to take his hat off because he was embarrassed that he did not have a haircut. If I had not developed a relationship with him, he would not have confided in me about something so personal to him that was partly affecting his ability to learn in class. I knew he came from an unstable home environment and was practically being raised by his older sister. I decided that I would create a special plan for him that would allow him to get hair cuts on a regular basis while we also spent time building our teacher-student relationship. In no time, I saw a change in my former student’s behavior. He knew that I cared and that made a major difference.
Our kids have things that they deal with daily, and as teachers, we have to get to the root of what is stopping them from learning. We cannot solve all problems, but we can give it our best shot. The Focus Five plan will begin today in an effort to tackle potential problem behaviors early on through purposeful relationship building with Trey. I will be sure to blog the student’s progress and any details of the plan that I have implemented. Let us hope this plan works!