Lazy and Badly Behaved Students...Two Big Mistakes Teachers Make
Once we realize that imperfect understanding is the human condition, there is no shame in being wrong, only in failing to correct our mistakes.
--George Soros, author
As the teacher of the high school's partially self-contained special education classroom, the difficult to teach, difficult to motivate, and difficult to manage students all eventually make their way into my corner of the campus. In my room I watch an amazing process which sometimes happens right away and sometimes happens after a year...the student relaxes and eventually, starts working to potential.
“He is lazy,” one teacher said “he is the biggest bump on a log.” Case number one has been standing in the hallway for years, failing class after class. When he went to class, he did absolutely nothing. Finally, he ended up in my room, and I got to work trying to figure him out. What I discovered was that the solution was very simple.
This student needed explicit instructions, one step at a time. He needed an example in front of him. One day he got frustrated, threw all of his books on the floor, shut down, and put his head down, unresponsive. The next day, he explained why. “You were giving me too many directions,” he said. Simple, and very true. Progress was made, and it started because he was able to communicate that to me.
The irony was that, when the instruction went in the way that he needed, his work was perfect. I am talking the exemplar every time, no matter what the subject. His penmanship was painfully accurate, his drawings like a textbook. Not one word was written, however, unless he was absolutely sure of the spelling. He went from getting straight F's to A's and B's.
“He is out of control,” I heard a teacher saying at a meeting, “he needs to be locked up somewhere.” Case number two had a reputation that preceded him...we knew he was coming years before he walked into my class. Of course, the behavior needed to be managed (at least somewhat) first, and after that we got to the academics. The truth? Of course, the bad behavior was a cover for very, very low skills.
This student needed to access high school standards at a second grade reading level. His assignments needed to be modified so that he could build his confidence as he experienced success. Nothing could be taken for granted. A breakthrough happened one day when he asked me how to read a calendar. He had never been taught.
This student had an innate sense of how to survive, even with the odds of a horrendous childhood stacked against him. As he grew academically, this inner drive only intensified, and got channeled in positive directions. He joined sports and kept up his GPA.
Both students needed instructional scaffolding. Effective learning environments use scaffolding to aid in the construction of new knowledge. The theory is (like in construction) that after the scaffolds are taken down, the building will be left standing.
Both students needed chunking. Chunking is a way of presenting information in small pieces. Chunking utilizes bullets, short sentences, subheadings, bold or italics, and short paragraphs. We all need chunking!
Scaffolding and chunking are just two effective instructional strategies for exceptional needs students. These are just two examples. As teachers, we need to make sure that we are addressing the four quadrants of Danielson's Framework for Teaching for each and every student.
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Are we planning and preparing for each student? This includes our knowledge of content, knowledge of student, setting instructional outcomes, designing instruction, using resources, and designing assessments.
How is our classroom environment? Are we creating an environment of respect and rapport, establishing a culture for learning, managing our classroom procedures? Is student behavior being managed? Is our physical space appropriately maximized?
What is the quality of our instruction? Are we communicating with students? Using questioning and discussion techniques? Engaging students in learning, utilizing assessment in instruction, and demonstrating flexibility and responsiveness?
Are we taking care of our professional responsibilities? Reflecting on our teaching? Communicating with the families? Growing and developing professionally? Showing professionalism?
Of course, no one teacher can do all of these things all of the time. My goodness. I look at Danielson's Framework for Teaching and know that I have so much more to do. The important thing is that we as teachers continue to grow and learn. If we dedicate ourselves to this, our mistakes and misperceptions regarding students will decrease. Lazy and badly behaved have turned into meticulous and hard working. In the end that is what it is really all about, isn't it?
Are you familiar with Enhancing Professional Practice: A Framework for Teaching by Charlotte Danielson?
A few of my other teaching hubs!
- The Importance of Routines and Procedures in the Special Education Classroom
The Importance of Routines and Procedures in the Special Education Classroom...Before the year starts, make a list of all the aspects of class that would benefit from the explicit teaching of a routine or procedure...
- The successful use of behavior modification in a classroom management program for high school
As a teacher of special education high school students, I believe that an important key to a productive classroom is the successful implementation of a positive behavior management system.
- Creating a Learning Environment in the Classroom for Exceptional Needs Students
Creating a Learning Environment in the Classroom for Exceptional Needs Students. Special Education students with mild to moderate learning disabilities thrive in a specialized environment that is designed to assist them in achieving academic success.