First, the district did not want to face a due process hearing. They preferred to change the situation. They were willing to move the student to a new school. The former teacher was rigid. She wanted to force compliance. She had a "do it my way" attitude that invited rebellion. And, William, being a bright child, escalated his behaviors in order to get attention. The previous teacher was also focused on William's behavior so much that she ignored his academic needs to the point of failure. William was constantly in the office rather than in the classroom. Even the special education personnel did not believe that they could improve William's academic failure so they did little to nothing. (When I went to examine the curriculum books that the special education teacher was using with William, the books were spotless, smooth and crisp unlike books used by children.) The school's focus was on the bad "behavior". There is a long-held attitude among educators that one must get the behavior under control before the child can learn. To some extent, that concept is true. However, there is no need to focus so much on the behaviors that the child begins to feel bad about himself. When a child feels bad about who he is, then he will not make academic progress. So, the goal should be to improve behavior and improve the child's self-esteem while focusing on the academics.
The new teacher had the background and education to know that if a child cannot get positive reinforcement then that child will get whatever reinforcement, whatever attention, he can get. Further, the new teacher did not have William labeled as a "behavior problem". In fact, when William attempted some of his previous behaviors at this school, the new teacher was flexible enough to address the behaviors. William liked to annoy other children by sticking his feet out in line and causing the children to trip. This behavior, at the previous school, lead to an office visit and more time lost from instruction. Instead of drawing attention to the negative behavior, the new teacher appointed William to be the door holder or "door monitor". And, he could keep that "position of power" only so long as he behaved. Positive reinforcement works. William took the responsibility seriously.
Second, William was a bright child but he was also dyslexic and dysgraphic. He needed more assistance than the general education teacher could provide. In addition to his general education class, William received services from special education. The new school aggressively assisted the student and soon, the student was working at grade level. He still requires special assistance and some modifications but he is an "A" student.
Third, William showed enough improvement that he became a member of the school patrol. Belonging to the patrol is something coveted by students. The student must maintain his grades, have good attendance and demonstrate appropriate behavior to remain on the patrol. William was enjoying the positive reinforcement. He wanted to belong and he wanted to participate in a positive manner.
Most children are like William. They want to participate and receive attention for the things they do well. However, some children have behavior or academic difficulties that lead to them receiving more negative than positive strokes. When that happens, those children start seeking any attention they can get. If they cannot be part of the "good children" group then they form their own groups or gangs. In order to have a more productive society, we need to consider incorporating the awkward, slower or over-active children into our schools and our lives in a positive way. Otherwise, we create problems that none of us want.
The school attributed the changes to maturity. If that was the case, then William matured very fast. Within two months of moving to the new school, William was passing and William was no longer a behavior problem. Maturation was not the key although over the past few years, William has shown significant progress and some of that improvement could be attributed to maturation. He will be an interesting child to follow over the next few years as William enters middle school.
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