June 1, 2021
Wow, once again, Barb O’Neill has outdone herself with the presenters she lined up for her virtual conference this year, Transforming Challenging Behavior Online Conference 2021! After reviewing the list of 21 presenters and topics, I knew that I had to start with Sally Haughey’s talk on Why a Sense of Wonder is Essential for Tackling Tough Behaviors Like Throwing Chairs. For those of you who don’t know Sally, she is the founder of Fairy Dust Teaching – an amazing site for early educators.
My first year teaching high school I had a young man, let’s call him Joe, who did indeed throw a chair across the room. Granted it was a small room because I worked one on one or in small groups with Juniors and Seniors who needed to pass their Regents Competency Tests in reading and writing in order to graduate high school in New York state. Boy, I ure wish that I knew then what I know now. I did was I was taught to do. I reported Joe to my Principal and he was suspended for 2 days – definitely not one of my prouder moments. Had I listened to this video, I would have done things differently.
You may be thinking, geez Paul, I work with very young children, what does this have to do with me? Let me tell you...today, I would have realized that Joe was exhibiting his frustration the only way he knew how and that he was missing the skills he needed to resolve his frustration. I would have wondered what in the world caused him to do this...I missed that completely.
Fast forward 20 years and I see his older sister Lisa at a party. One thing led to another and our conversation steered towards Joe who was in the Marines and having a successful career. I brought up the infamous chair throwing and she told me that Joe was being teased by several members of the football team and was embarrassed to come to my class. Had I taken the time to wonder, and to speak with him, we could have resolved the situation differently. You see, I had not taken the time to get to know Joe. I was only out of college for 4 years and this was my first year teaching high school. I did not understand the impact of getting to know, truly know my students. Being only a few years older than they were, I had to walk a very fine line. I didn’t realize until later in the year that there was a stigma attached to attending my classes – you were labeled ‘stupid’ or ‘loser’.
As luck would have it, the cheerleading coach resigned and I applied for the job. This opened a whole new way of connecting with my students – many of whom were athletes. We got to know each other on neutral ground. Simply because I changed my mindset to I wonder why...why are kids being teased about coming to my class...why is my class any different than any other required class for high school graduation? By having these discussions, it led to a change in their mindsets which in turn led to an all-around positive change.
I urge you to look at the child in your room who is exhibiting challenging behavior. Take the time to wonder, lean into that child and find out what it is that they need. Sending them out of the room to another teacher or to your Director will not change their behavior. By talking to them in a way that you would want to be spoken to can open up many new doors. Take the time to build that relationship and let the child know that you will stand by them no matter what. Don’t look to fix the problem but to instead deepen the relationship.
Those of us in the field of early education especially need to remember the why…why are we here….it is because we make a difference every time we enter our classrooms. Please make the commitment to never lose your why or wonder…..I believe in you.😁
Until next time, I wish you well,