Yesterday was even more difficult than I had expected.
I got to work early, but it still wasn’t early enough to get everything done before the big meeting. The meeting was actually quite productive; Mom showed up, with Little One in tow, and Mom was very helpful. (Little one came over and collapsed on my lap, not long after I had mentioned that I didn’t think she had any special relationship with me, as she was in class so little of the time. It was amusing and sweet, but also concerning. She hugs total strangers regularly, which makes me wonder if she is insecure and/or insecurely attached.)
All of the problems were laid out on the line, and the Princess was wonderfully blunt. We ended up going with what the Princess said — we need to come up with a plan and do everything we can to help her be successful, and if that doesn’t work, we will talk about another setting.
We learned a lot from Mom, mainly that much of the behavior we’ve seen is not because she is overwhelmed and can’t help herself, but that it is deliberate and she is testing us.
We decided to start with a sticker chart for being in the right place at the right time (Mom said Little One loves stickers), and I put that into place right away that morning. “You’re in line for breakfast! You get a sticker on your page…..You’re sitting down for morning meeting! You get a sticker on your page.” The sticker page and my setting firmer boundaries made an amazing difference. She was calmer, behaved more appropriately, and was probably only NOT with us for about 10% of the time, which is a huge difference from the previous two days.
She was still very difficult, and exhausting. I gave so much of my attention to her, and used so much effort to keep her on track, that the rest of the class started to fall apart. They were really jealous of Little One’s stickers, and some of them pouted when I said that they would have to wait for another day. They were hungry for my attention, and I had several children trying to talk to me or hug me at once for most of the morning. Their neediness was exhausting, as was the way they stopped doing things they had just learned to do (“Get back in line, please! No, come over here. No, it’s not your turn yet,” and so on). I snapped at them a few times, and felt terrible about it. I wished I had a clone.
To make things more difficult, my wonderful Americorps volunteer was at a training meeting, and my assistant and I were scrambling all morning. Plus it was the day for Friday folders, but I hadn’t finished the newsletter yet. I didn’t even get to look at my lesson plan before the day started, so after morning meeting I took the class outside and left them with the assistant teacher while I ran in and tried to find help. I saw the school psychologist and asked, “Do you have ten minutes to spare?” and he answered, gallantly, “For you, I do.” (Mental note: it pays to be nice and to be appreciative of EVERYONE.) He went out to help with recess while I quickly got the classroom ready for the next activity.
I never did get my margarita, but I did finish my day with a lovely glass of wine.
What I have done in the past when I had a difficult one such as this is have my aide be their “buddy” while I focused on the rest of the class. I know it does tear at your heart when they are wanting your attention and you can’t give it to them. Persist!
That is an excellent idea. Alas, in my case, it won’t work. My aide is lovely, but she has her limitations, and being able to respond appropriately to a special needs/behavior child is beyond her particular skill set. (She gets into power struggles, and thinks the child is just being “naughty.”)
Well, there is something to be said for recognizing your staff’s limitations. Sorry you are in this with no real help, but you can do it!
Kiri, I don’t know if this will work, but I find sometimes with staff members who struggle with being gentle enough with difficult children, the self-fulfilling prophecy works! (I.e. praise them constantly for how GENTLE they are with the child, “Oh my goodness, I appreciate your patience with “X” so much, I am so glad someone can be X’s “safe place person”! Etc etc.) I find when people aren’t what I need them to be, telling them that they are, over and over and praising them for being that way (they way they really aren’t) has amazing transformative power. It may be that your aide is just not capable of handling Screamy’s behaviors, but if you put that implicit trust in her, and subtly manipulate her version of herself (and your version of her) in the best one, she’ll strive to live up to it! I suggest using this website:
On the left under training modules, they have some great videos of classrooms with kids tantruming and teachers responding and/or pre-teaching to avoid tantrums that I’ve used to train aides in the past. You can roleplay scenarios, and it gives the person you’re training/discussing how to handle behavior with a model besides you to shape their behavior toward children.
This one’s great too. Becky Baily and Conscious Discipline are HUGE helpers in my classroom for many of my emotionally disrupted/crazy kids. I like this website because it has Boardmaker downloads for using picture cues for rules and emotional regulation, which is great for our little low in oral-language babies!
Hope this helps!