Tag Archives: school

Trying to give it Three Weeks

I guess there’s something out there that says behavioral intervention should be revisited after being in place for about 6 weeks.  Maybe I’m a little off with that, but I guess it makes sense.  It takes time for a kid (or anyone, really) to internalize or automate responses to daily events/stimuli.

I had a discussion today with Mr. Okay.

He’s not been improving on his understanding of Locus of Control…(also previously blogged about).

Today, his English teacher was subbing for him in social studies class.  Unusual situation, but it actually occurs every Wednesday afternoon.  So Mr. Okay should be accustomed to this by now.  Well, today he had a generally rough time.  Nothing way out of control, just your typical distracting, off-task, attention-seeking behaviors that can sap the energy from the teacher (and prevent the rest of the class from getting on with the work).

She chose to not remove him (her judgment call), but escorted him down to my room after class.  She was hoping to get some information from him.  He was very stern faced (very animated kid), and wouldn’t talk at first.  I told him to head to the ISS room and I’ll meet him there in 5 minutes.  At that point, he decides to open up.  Well, too late in my book (kids love to do that – as soon as they hear the consequence, that’s when they decide to do what you’ve asked).  So I sent him and said I’d talk in a few.  This didn’t help matters, because now it was my fault that he was missing class…

   “I wanted to talk, but you had to make me wait 5 minutes…”  “It’s your fault I can’t go to 7th hour…”

Of course, he neglects to recognize that the reason I wasn’t going to talk to him was because my first attempts to get some information were met with no response.

Anyway, I did eventually get down to talk with him.

The conversation did not go well.

    As a side note, I sometimes avoid these “heart-to-heart” conversations because kids see them as “lectures” rather than opportunities to learn from mistakes.  I was hoping today we could have a positive talk about understanding our role when we get into trouble.  As you will see, that did not pan out so well.

The general gist of the conversation was this:

Do you know why you were brought down by the teacher after class?

No.

Do you think you were a problem in the classroom?

Not that bad.

Why would the teacher have brought you down if you were following rules?

Why do you have to blow this up into a big problem.  I might have been a little more hyper than typical, but it wasn’t so bad I should be in trouble for it.

Why would the teacher have brought you down if it wasn’t that bad?

Oh my God! … (ranting about how I’m overly tough on him and I have major problems and Grandma and Grandpa are going to come in and have a meeting..)

I gave him a lot of short one-liners to ponder – brought up the phrase “victim mentality” and “locus of control,” neither one he could define (and refused to look up).  Nonetheless, he perseverated on the  notion that I put him in an eternally bad mood and that’s why he gets into trouble.

I just don’t know how to get this boy to take a look in the mirror and see his faults.  He’s an awesome kid – he smiles a ton, participates well, and generally does fine.  But when something doesn’t go his way, he will blame everyone under the sun.

As I was reflecting tonight, I realized he’s got a nasty combination of issues at play here:

  1. He often doesn’t recognize the problems with his behavior.  When pointed out that his behavior is disruptive, he immediately
  2. Blames those around him or adults in charge for causing him to be hyper, talk back, or shut down.

The two issues really play off each other horribly – like a nasty cycle of errors in thinking.

He is one of my top projects this year – I am trying to learn more about how to continue to make consequences fit the misbehavior to avoid the “Unfair” response – but it doesn’t matter if he doesn’t even realize that he’s done something wrong.

Ideas?

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Teach them to Tell the Truth

This post is an update to “Teach them to Lie Better.”

For the past month, I have been working with one of my project students to decrease lying and other untruthful behaviors.

One of the simplest interventions I have put in place is the fact that I don’t ask him his side of the story until I know the real scoop.  Knowing that he thrives from getting individual adult attention, he only gets it when he’s being truthful.  I have found this to be extremely effective with this child.  His stealing has diminished and his tall tales about daily events have all but ceased.

It is really refreshing to work with this boy now because I can be more confident he is telling the truth.

I would love to share details about his program if there is interest.  I know others out there are struggling with kids who lie compulsively – love to hear your stories of success or trials!

Okay.

I had a lengthy discussion today with one student.  This student has been the focus of this blog once before.

I have learned from my principal that it can be very effective with students at this junior high age to be completely honest.  That is, instead of beating around the bush and offering advice in a roundabout way, come right out and point out the root of the issue as adults see it.  This can definitely backfire with certain students or if done at the wrong time.

Today, I felt it was the right time to lay it out there for this guy:

Can I say something that is a little bit pointed – even if it might come across as insulting?

    (student agrees)

I think your perception of reality is often skewed.  This causes you to feel like the victim  a lot, and when you fire back at the adult, things only get worse.

    (student thinks for a moment, then thoughtfully), I think at life a lot differently than most kids.

(I visibly agree with him)

Can we try something?  You know that, in the past, when you get called out by a teacher for something and you argue, nothing good comes of it.  Right?

(student agrees)

Let’s try an experiment.  Next time a teacher comes after you for something even if you didn’t really do it (from your point of view),  I want you to say, “Okay.”

(student ponders)

(teacher waits)

(student ponders more)

That’s going to be hard.

Absolutely.

(silence)

I knew I could count on you to try it.

We ended the conversation on very positive terms.  It will be hard for him to put aside his pride and just say, “okay,” but I hope he tries it.

I am not sure yet if I want to give his teachers a heads-up on that, though.  To really have this experiment most authentic, I shouldn’t say anything to them.  But to give this guy the best chance of experiencing positives when he takes ownership for bad situations, teachers need to understand the internal workings of this experience for this child.

We’ll see how this works out.  The key with this intervention is that it is simple and easy to remember.  The tricky thing with this boy is that, no matter what, he seems to feel singled out and treated unfairly.  It’s been a year and a half now that I’ve worked with him very closely, and I’m hoping we can start to take more ownership with this little intervention.

Higher Education – A Different Standard.

I began the masters’ of educational technology program at a local post secondary school in September 2006 after receiving pamphlets from them illustrating their course and program offerings. I had read through other pamphlets and researched other schools, of course. After a few weeks’ deliberation, I decided that this school was the one for me. The main reasons for my choosing:

  1. Cost – they were a bit cheaper because…
  2. Number of credits to earn masters – was less than other universities.
  3. Location – the cohort group met only 25 minutes from home.
  4. Campus – closer than other places
  5. Reputation – I had close relatives who had gone through the program.

I honestly deliberated this for 2-3 weeks. It was not a spur of the moment decision. In fact, I entered the program a bit late because of my need to research the best option. Hey, I care where I spend my $10,000 on higher education.

I began the program with a course in Educational Telecommunications. (Again, I missed the first course in the string because I joined late). This course talked about new web tools (blogs, wikis, etc.) as well as the history of the Internet and its application in schools. My main project for this one was a video that illustrated school application of Web2.0 tools. I was pleased with my work for this. In fact, part of the video can be viewed at: TeacherTube.com

Another course I took talked about hardware of computer systems. And, while I think this is useful on some level, I doubt that an entire three credits should be spent learning about hardware in computers. I don’t know of any school that allows its teachers to tear apart computers on a routine basis… I think this is a topic that could have been skimmed over in an hour or two within another course in the string. However, I did learn a bit during this course.

The second-last course I took before dropping out of this program was “Action Research.” And though this class looked the most daunting at first, it was the most beneficial. I think the reason it was so good for me was because the expectations were a bit higher than for the rest. In the others, it was assumed that class members were “doing our best” – I mean, we were learning some heavy duty programs like Photoshop and Dreamweaver in a couple hours. We can’t expect everyone to suddenly create masterpieces – and I wouldn’t expect to be assessed on that.

So the difference with Action Research was that we could create our own problem/situation and then go find some research on it, then do our own hands on research in the classroom. I think it’s something that teachers should be given time to do at least once a quarter while assigned to classrooms. Otherwise, we don’t really have any proof that our work is improving the knowledge/learning capacities of our students (unless you trust the Fed-mandated bubble assessments…).

The last course I participated in was an “online-only” course.  I really liked that format – the flexibility was great, and I prefer my discussion to be in writing rather than in person.

All in all, no major complaints about the content of the individual courses.

However, during the 4 short months I was enrolled at this college, I realized that, for the most part, the expectations of the professors were not all that grueling. As a matter of fact, that feeling is what drove me to request an “Accelerated, Individualized Program.” I wasn’t feeling challenged in most courses. I was hoping to come away with so much more than I did.

Now, I’m going to once again write a disclaimer here because I know that there are a number of educators who have benefited greatly from this program. I just didn’t.

And when I tried to do something about it, I was shot down.

I created a plan such that I would most benefit from my time at this institution.  Here is the real plan (names removed to protect reputations): Malcore Accel Plan for Masters

If you’re not into the attachment, here is a highly-simplified summary of my plan:

  • Squeeze 18 months worth of coursework into about 6 months
  • Take all courses at whatever location I can (there are several spots where cohort groups can meet in the area), based on possible conflicts
  • Pre-pay for all courses
  • Do any extra work they feel necessary to prove my understanding of curriculum beyond any doubt

If that summary makes little or no sense, please open and read the sterilized version linked above.

The response from the lowest on the totem pole was “like the idea but probly not much we can do…independent studies are frowned upon…policies…”

I understood his hands may have been tied. Next on the list was only one step up on the pole – I think the director of the EdTech program. I sent the same request – same document – and received a more lengthy response:

While I don’t doubt that you have the ability to complete this program in this accelerated mode, I cannot approve it for several reasons.

First, we do want students to stay with their cohort group whenever possible. While we do make a few exceptions, when students jump around we end up in situations where we have cohorts with classes that are under the minimum allowable enrollment causing faculty to receive less pay and then have other classes that have more students than what we normally allow. In some cases we have even ended up with more students in a class than computers. I have not been as flexible on this as I was in the past because of these problems – I try to meet the needs of one student and it ends up negatively affecting staff, faculty, and many other students.

Secondly, we do not allow Independent Studies anymore. This is not my decision but a decision made by the Vice President of Academic Affairs last year. This option is no longer available except with special permission from the Academic Affairs office for rare exceptions – like when the program is no longer being offered and there is one or two students who still need a few courses to graduate.

Another reason I cannot approve it is because we have Policies and Procedures within our School of Education that I must adhere to – in this case, the number of credits that you can take in a semester and the number of months it takes to complete a degree granting program. These rules are in place to make sure that students get the most out of their learning experience here at Marian. Again, while I do not doubt you could complete an accelerated program – if we allow one person to do it, we are opening the door to let others do it as well – thus policies and procedures are born. These policies and procedures also reflect the requirements that are placed on us due to our accreditation. We are accredited by both North Central Higher Education Commission and NCATE which have certain rules and guidelines that we must adhere to or risk losing our accreditation.

I certainly hope you can continue in our Ed Tech program but if you decide not to continue based on this decision, I certainly understand that as well.

I have an interpretation that may or may not fit perfectly with that response:

Sorry, Matt. College is an institution that doesn’t have to meet the needs of its students. We set the policy and even though you as a teacher are required to differentiate to meet the needs of all learners, we don’t have to. If you don’t fit our program, find one that will. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

The part that bothers me the most is the fact that I spend my hours every day finding creative ways to get students to access curriculum (or at the very least, put up with coming to school). But when I make a request to have some concessions made (well, I was actually asking for more work and less time to do it in), I get shot down because it doesn’t fit the mold.

Furthering the contradiction are concepts brought up in class. We are learning about integrating technology to try to reach all the varied types learners with different tools. Well, I think I’m different and aren’t going to learn along the same lines as every other member of the cohort, so there was my plan.

I’m wondering if others have had similar experiences with graduate schools. Do you think this is okay? Am I in the wrong mindset – should graduate school set the program and all students should fit?  Why would an institution of higher learning hold itself to a lower standard of individualization?

I welcome your thoughts and experiences below.

Locus of Control aka Victim Mentality

I have a 8th grade (13-year old) student who seems to always feel like the adults in his life are out to get him.

His behaviors are very blatant and often obnoxious, yet when a teacher calls him on it, he feels like the teacher is picking on him.

For example, this morning he kicked another student while working together at a table.  It wasn’t the end of the world since the students were decent acquaintances, but it still was a distraction to both their learning.  So we had him move to another desk.  Once there, he proceeded to make random utterances, thus disrupting the class again.

As a side note, this is a student who is perfectly capable of devoting quiet attention to a task for hours on end – I have seen it.  So we are not asking of him things he is not capable of doing.

So we needed him to leave the classroom and go to another one just down the hall.  This was in his eyes a major offense on our part.

No matter how an adult tries to reason with him, we are met with a response like “I don’t understand why you guys always have to pick on me…”  As if he wasn’t doing something worthy of being removed.  We have tried to reason with him (both in the heat of the moment and when he’s calm), but he maintains the fact that we are singling him out as a “bad kid” when he’s doing nothing different than the rest in the class.

Watching a video of himself in such situations yields no better results.  He still perceives that adults are out to get him.

I am crying out in desperation here for some intervention techniques for this boy.  He is in a social skills class, so we have the opportunity to role play scenarios and such.
I am just at a loss for how to retrain him to understand that HE is in control of his life.  When he messes up, something bad can happen (and at school, we do our best to ensure there is a consequence).

Does anyone have any strategies for dealing with this victim mentality – or some insight as to his mis-perceptions?  We love this boy and want him to take ownership for his mistakes.

Getting Around School

In years’ past, I spent 80% or more of my day at school in my classroom, teaching “pullout” classes. This was my ideal setup because it allowed me to really get creative in teaching all the different subjects to my students – doing all kinds of service projects and technology-integrated projects.

This year is quite different; I have only two classes that I provide direct instruction for – math and social skills. The rest of my day is filled with either:

  1. prepping for the two classes listed above
  2. more so, supporting students in the regular education setting

While this is more limiting of my personal endeavors as the head of the class (and designer of the lessons), it has opened my eyes to other facets of education

    • seeing master teachers at work
    • learning content that I haven’t seen before
    • working with students who are not in special ed programming
    • making connections with music programs
    • connecting with classroom teachers for behavioral supports and academic modifications and accommodations

Today, I felt a little positive feedback for my “increased visibility.” I was walking through the halls and a student asked, “Mr. Malcore, are you planning on working with solo/ensemble kids again this year?”

This probably seems like a really simple, superfluous question to most. I mean, so the kid is wondering if I am going to be accompanying kids for their band solos. What’s so great about that?

To reiterate, I’ve been sequestered to my own classroom for four years up until this year. When I walked the halls, students would ask if I needed to be escorted to the office (okay, an exaggeration). Seriously, though, anytime I walked the halls, students looked at me like a stranger.

This had a number of negative consequences on my day (you can imagine how it feels to walk as a stranger in your workplace for four years).

So, just having someone outside of my program say something to me (not to mention something as reinforcing as asking if I would accompany her solo) adds a boost to my day.

Of course, working with students in an inclusive setting also has benefits for them 🙂