To set the scene, imagine that you are in your classroom.  You are getting the kids started on one of your standing assignments that everyone in the room knows will come each week:

You: All right, let’s all get started on (insert that assignment that your students hate to do).

Class: Collective groaning.  From the back you can hear one student say “Why do we always have to do this?”

You find yourself wondering why the reaction is like this – you might think to yourself “they loved doing this earlier in the year!”  Fast forward to the due date.  As you are collecting the assignment, you see that the students who play school well completed the assignment, but it’s clear that they put forth the minimum amount of effort possible.  You also notice that some of your students did not complete the assignment, and no amount of effort from you is going to get them to finish the task – you could have them work in the hall, take away recess, call parents, etc. – nothing is going to make a difference for those students.

As a teacher we have all experienced this.  So here’s the question – why do we keep asking our students to complete assignments that they hate?  Why do we keep giving assignments that students don’t put forth much effort, or simply don’t do the assignment at all?  Why do we keep giving assignments that put the effort on us to run down the missing assignments when the students are putting no effort into the assignment?

HSE21 Best Practice Model
HSE21 Best Practice Model

When I was writing last week’s post, I inserted the HSE21 Best Practice Model.  As I put it into the post, something jumped out to me in a different way than ever before.  Look at the Best Practice Model above – in this blog I have spent a lot of time talking about the boxes on the outside: Student-Centered Approaches; Cognitive Curriculum; Fundamental Classroom Conditions; and Transfer of Learning.  Last week for some reason, the purple circle that connects them all jumped out at me – in particular the word at the top “Reflection.”  Given that New Year’s Day is approaching, I would guess that a lot of us are taking time to reflect on the last year, and many of us think first of our personal life, however reflection is an important aspect of teaching as well.  What better time to take a few moments for reflection than to do so over the 2 week winter break?

Think about how your year has gone so far.  What’s working well?  What isn’t?  Do you often have situations like the one that I referenced at the top?  How could you adjust your assignments so that they don’t get stale?  Even the most engaging activity today may get old and stale to our students if we do the same thing every day or every week over a long period of time.  Find some ways to mix up what you are doing in your classroom to increase student engagement.  For me, an important part of reflection is also getting feedback and ideas from my colleagues.  If you have an activity that has gotten stale, talk with your colleagues – see if anyone has an idea of how you could spice up that activity and make it more engaging to your students.  Or maybe you will just decide to let that activity go for a while – replace it with something else that might serve the same purpose.

New Years ResolutionIf you never take the time to reflect, you may miss out on opportunities for growth as a teacher, as well as opportunities to help your students grow.  As I reflect on this school year, one of the things I am most disappointed in is the amount of time I have had to spend in my office rather than out and about during the school day.  One of my resolutions for the new school year is to spend more time out in our classrooms seeing the awesome things that you all do on a daily basis with our students.  Please help hold me accountable to this goal!

What resolutions have you set for yourself?  Personal or professional, share them in the comments below.  We can all help hold each other accountable to our goals and resolutions.

CPI Refreshed!

Today I had my annual refresher in CPI – Crisis Prevention Intervention.  The focus of the refresher training this year was on Goals, Power, and Relationships.  As I was sitting in the training, I kept thinking how important these ideas are for all the teachers in the building I work in.  It seems that some people think that CPI is all about how to put our kids who are in danger of hurting themselves or others into some sort of restraint.  Unfortunately there are times that this is part of the process.  The reality is that if you are using the strategies put forth in CPI in the best way possible, you are able to avoid getting to the point of using any restraint.

In those early stages of escalation, when students are becoming anxious or defensive, it is all about how we handle the behavior.  The analogy that my trainer used today was that it’s like approaching a fire with 2 buckets, one of gasoline, and one of water.  The things we say to the escalated student, and how we say those things can act as either the gas or water on the fire.

Sometimes as teachers we get caught up in our own feelings and emotions.  We have to remember the Q-TIPs: Quit Taking It Personally!  Instead, as a person who is skilled in deescalation techniques, you need to focus on a goal for every intervention, using the power you hold in a positive way, and building relationships with trust and respect.

In a situation of crisis, there are 3 possible outcomes – things can stay the same, get better, or get worse.  What we say and how we act can control what outcome we see.  If the outcome we seek is for improvement, we have to enter each situation with a goal in mind.  As we all know, there are different types of goals – short term, intermediate, and long term.  Our short term goal must always be focused on safety.  The intermediate goal should be focused on learning opportunities for the student, and our long term goal should be on autonomy.  But how do we get to those goals?

Part of the way that we get to our goals is through our use of power.  Sometimes power is seen in a negative light, but in the crisis situation, not only is the power that you hold important, but also the power that you give to others is important.  By gradually releasing power to our students, we show them that we trust them, and we help them feel empowered to take control of their own situation.  Compliance alone should not be what you are looking for, rather you should be seeking cooperation.

Another skill at reaching a positive outcome is that of relationship building.  When you have a solid relationship with your students, it is much easier to influence their choices and behavior due to the rapport you have with them.  Instead of focusing on rules and regulations, build a positive relationship that makes it easier to have a meaningful learning opportunity for your student.  We all know pretty quickly who our difficult students will be.  Use something like the 2 for 10 strategy, spending 2 minutes per day for 10 days talking to the student about something that is not directly related to school, or something that they care about.  The deposits that you make in a relationship at the beginning of the year will make your life easier later in the school year.

Think about the student that you sense may cause you trouble this year.  What steps can you take today, or this week, to build a rapport with that student?  At the beginning of the school year this year, I encouraged the teachers in my building to know their kids, and love them for who they are.  When they feel valued and loved, its amazing what they will do for you!

What are some of the successes that you have experienced from relationship building?  What strategies have helped you to deescalate a student who was feeling anxious or defensive?  Share some in the comments below.