I’m a first grade teacher. How do I get ready for the upcoming school year?
Back to school brings a flurry of excitement and preparation. In these last weeks as you get ready for the first bell to ring, Loving Guidance is wishing you well and here to support you. We hope you will take a moment to S.T.A.R. and focus on the joy and the many wonderful lessons the coming school year will bring.
As you create and re-create your classroom checklists, we hope you will make room for helpful Conscious Discipline® routines, rituals and structures. Here is a list of components you may want to include to help create a safe, connected environment where learning can thrive.
You can download and print free classroom tools such as the breathing icons in our Free Stuff section. Loving Guidance also carries many products to support the components above. Products like the Make-N-Take CDrom, Picture Rule Cards, Time Machines, Job Boards are all very helpful.
We are having some discussion about notes that go home to parents that are negative in nature about the child’s behavior. Some of our staff don’t want to send notes home because “the notes are hurtful and don’t change behavior.”
To send a note home describing bad behavior or problems is hurtful and doesn’t change the behavior. The notes sent home need to be part of the solution, not notification of problem. Try this procedure:
You can find a reproducible for “You did it” cards on our We Care CDrom. These notes are part of the solution strategies, not communication to the parents.
How do you recognize the difference between a child who is having normal behavior issues and one who needs specialized services?
Developmentally, children between the ages of 3-5 years old will test and question authority to determine what is and is not allowed. Children at this age check the limits and boundaries to figure out the expectations and rules of the environment.
When the behaviors become persistent and maladaptive to an extreme degree and they impede with the child’s learning process, then it would be recommended that the referral for special services begin. These children may also have an inability to form interpersonal relationships with others and/or inconsistent moods including depression. Some children may exhibit similar behaviors during a stressful time; such as the death of a loved one, recent move, change of schools, or other life changing scenarios. For that reason, it is imperative that the child be observed over an extended period of time and not just referred due to a momentary reaction.
What are the common mistakes teachers make when working with young children who are aggressive?
Teachers may rely on using fear-based discipline in efforts to control the children in their care. This stems from the belief that we can make others change, which is unrealistic and simply impossible. We can only really change and control ourselves, and doing so will have a profound impact on those around us. The brain cannot function optimally when under threat. Fear-based discipline approaches are actually detrimental to optimal learning and brain development. There is a better way. Conscious Discipline focuses on a relationship-based community approach to classroom management. Adults and children are encouraged to build connections, and connections govern our behavior. The classroom culture becomes one that centers around a sense of community in which all members are valuable and important.
Teachers may also make the mistake of seeing conflict as a disruption that must be stopped or removed from the classroom. In reality, vital life skills can be taught during conflict moments. These moments give teachers an opportunity to teach the missing skills so that children can become active participants in solving their own problems.
What resources would be the most effective for teachers to use when working with aggressive children?
More and more often, teachers are dealing with aggressive behaviors in children including hitting, biting, and inappropriate language. These behaviors could be the result of an unbalanced nervous system that responds in a violent way. These children need strategies to balance the stress response. Teachers can immediately begin showing children how to disengage the stress response by teaching S.T.A.R.: Smile Take a deep breath And Relax. Through practice and repetition, children will create an automatic response of composure when dealing with upset or when things do not go their way. Teachers can actually help wire the child’s brain for impulse control through the use of S.T.A.R.
A teacher may comment that a child is demanding attention. In fact, an aggressive child may actually be looking to connect. Connection can be enhanced through the use of I Love You Rituals. These loving games send the message of acceptance to the child. When the child feels a sense of unconditional love, he/she is more likely to display more helpful and kind acts to peers and adults. These rituals have proven effective when implemented with even the most challenging children.
When needed, what types of interventions are found effective for young aggressive children? And to what extent (if any) will teachers need specialized training in order to implement them effectively?
To help children self-regulate and to promote composure, I teach use of the “safe place.” This physical structure is created in the classroom as a haven for children and adults to regain their composure after a difficult situation. There they engage in calming activities that have been previously taught as part of the social skill curriculum. The focus in this area is on the healing of the child’s hurt. A coherent adult can guide the child through some of the disengaging stress techniques at this time. Or the child can do this independently. Children learn to manage their own upset and then re-engage in the daily routine. In time and with patience and understanding, children progress to a level in which the safe place in an internal structure to access no matter where they are at the time.
For teachers or administrators to begin implementing the safe place, it is recommended that they seek more specific training. For more information, the Conscious Discipline and School Family books are helpful.
What do I need to do when working with students who are non-verbal?
Children who are non-verbal may begin to exhibit aggressive behaviors due to limited language and frustration from not being understood. For this reason, it is vital that teachers use adaptations in order to help the child communicate his needs. Voice output devices are highly recommended to give the child a “voice.” Teachers record a simple word or sentence on these devices for the child to activate at the appropriate time. The child feels included in the group, thus creating a sense of interconnectedness with peers and adults and decreasing frustration levels.
Visuals also help in working with students who are non-verbal. Picture cues are provided throughout the day so that children know what to expect, creating more predictability and a sense of safety. Some examples of visuals would include a picture schedule so that students know what comes next in the daily routine. Communication boards can also be provided so that children (may) point or use verbal approximations to indicate a desired choice or to express an opinion or feeling. The child is understood and the adult can understand.
These mentioned strategies are not designed to replace language and communication, but to enhance it. Students feel a sense of accomplishment and increased self-esteem knowing that their words have power.
One of my colleagues attended your workshop and came back saying Conscious Discipline does not “allow for” suspensions and that if we were using Conscious Discipline, we wouldn’t have to suspend students. I cannot believe that violent acts are accepted without consequences like suspension! Please tell me when and where Conscious Discipline feels suspensions are appropriate.
It sounds like your colleague might be saying that by becoming a Conscious Discipline school, the need for suspensions would decrease or disappear entirely. Research does indicate a dramatic decrease in problem behaviors in schools where Conscious Discipline is used. This correlates with a reduction in referrals, suspensions and other imposed consequences.