Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Never Taught, but Learned

There are no cute little printables with this posting. Sorry!    I love making materials, and trying them out with children.  Most of my days are spent teaching children, and getting them excited about learning and life.  I wish everything was rosy and fun, all the time.

Unfortunately, children are sometimes stressed.  Whether the anger is internal, or environmental; whether it's caused by a communication barrier or not; whether anger is caused by a misguided adult or confused child --all are variables with the same result.  Lashing out by a child (sometimes a strong child) can lead to upset adults, and psychological and physical trauma on both sides.

With some children, this is a frequent, sometimes violent occurrence.  I can tell you, that in my undergraduate years, and in my graduate school, there was no mention of aggression and certainly no tips on how to deal with this.   I was unprepared, totally.  In my first job at a residential school, I witnessed a parent beating his teenaged deaf child in my classroom, and a few extreme violent acts of students towards teachers (resulting literally in amputation of body parts).  My next job was no better, but then, I witnessed the reverse--retaliation of staff towards students (this time resulting in fired teachers.)   Of course, this was a while ago, and I hoped that preparation in college education programs would have changed; however, judging from reactions of graduate students that work with me when witnessing aggression, I'm not quite sure that such programs are willing to address this issue adequately. I feel personally responsible, then, to impart my experiential knowledge to young future speech pathologists who choose to have practicum placements with me. 

I've developed a few coping mechanisms for dealing with student aggression:

1.  For a student who is excessively anxious or stressed, I work with the child exclusively in his everyday classroom.  There are more people around, it's his or her natural environment, and it is a more natural setting.

2.  I do not restrain children unless the child is harming himself.  I physically back off when issues arise. I deflect blows or bites; I don't confront them.  

3. I try to "read" children---often the behavior the child is exhibiting is communicative. 

4.  I teach alternative means to escape from an activity---it might be as simple as pointing to a toy, touching a 'finished' icon, or saying 'all done'.

5.  I use a picture schedule for all speech therapy sessions--whether it's in the classroom, in a group, or in my speech room.  The student can see that there is an end to the time with me.

6.  The last item on my picture schedule is a very preferred activity.

7.  For the most anxious children, there may only be 2 activities on the schedule.  ("First, Then")

8.  With my graduate interns, although I try not to put them in the position where they have to deal with aggression, I do talk about this openly.  The tips I presented above, I provide to them.  I teach and model; hopefully, they will carry these lessons to their next setting.

It's too bad this was never taught to me prior to teaching.  I've seen a few teachers 'let go' due to an inability to deal with students. Were those teachers properly instructed in their college programs?  I know that I wasn't!

Do any of you have helpful tips?  Please post.

1 comment:

  1. I loved reading this post. I am at Starbucks and am loving reading your previous posts. Thanks for entering my giveaway and introducing me to your wonderful blog! I am your newest follower. :)

    Loving & Learning in Pre-K