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It's that time of year, when teachers around the country are looking over their class lists, preparing for their first days of school, and often experiencing intense reactions, positive and negative, to the names on their rosters.
Let's face it. Kids have reputations, with their peers, neighbors, siblings, and with school staff. Unfortunately, even when I taught kindergarten, there were kids already known for their "challenging behaviors." From a 30 minute assessment period, as well as comments from their preschool teachers, some kids were already stamped with a big red mark on their placement cards.
Why do I write, "challenging behaviors" and not "difficult kids?"
My answer is simple: Children are not simply the sum of the behaviors they bring into the classroom. Although we all know this, we don't always seem to remember this when those behaviors threaten to take our class down. We can feel like hostages, victims, and punching bags at times as we try every trick in our book to make headway.
I've been there, trust me. And I'm not saying there are easy answers. No sticker chart, stoplight system, or gummy bear is going to disrupt a pattern of behavior perhaps inadvertently maintained by many others who came before me. There are so many complicating factors and reasons why kids act the way they do!
I'm not saying, "Oh yes, I love them all," in that sweet sappy voice that makes you want to slap me. I do believe, though, that it's our job to find something to connect to, something we can find redeeming, so that we can begin to build a relationship with the student.
We recently talked about this very topic in the Taboo series on BAM radio. When the tough questions came my way, I found myself sounding a bit too idealistic and later a little frustrated that I hadn't spoken up more.
Because of that, I recorded my thoughts afterward on AudioBoo.
I know that I haven't given any easy answers. I wish there were some. But I do believe that talking about this topic is a first step. There are some tactics I employ to find ways to connect to students who are deemed as, "tough." I'll save those for the next post!
So, what do you think? How do you handle the issue of liking students?