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When Behaviors Take Over Your Classroom


Every summer, no matter how much we want the sun and fun to continue, we inch closer to returning to our classrooms.  As Special Education teachers, we could have students for two, maybe three years in a row. But many years, we start anew. This is my year. This is my story.

Even though I am usually ecstatic when school ends, I always seem to find myself thinking about next years’ group of kids. What will they be like? What skills are they working on? How are their communication and social skills? Are there any behaviors or compliance issues I should be aware of? Are their mommies nice? (Yes, I ask that.) And so, probably like many of you reading this, I begin to shop, plan, and organize (at least in my mind). I vow to steer clear of the Dollar Store and Target, but of course, I always return for “just one more thing”. This summer was no different than any other, except that I worked harder and logged enough hours to declare a years’ salary.

And then, on this late July afternoon, I get the phone call. I will have several new students in my class this year. Four of them have Behavior Plans, safety concerns, and are in diapers. I will have ten students with one assistant.  I’m not sure which emotion to feel first, but overwhelmed would be an understatement, to say the least.

I decided to tackle this venture with a positive attitude. I’ve been in situations like this before and have successfully maneuvered through the year. As I think back, this is what I did and now need to do again. As many of you will encounter similar situations this year, here are my tips on how to have a successful school year.

1.   ORGANIZE. Not my classroom just yet, but my mind. Take a mind walk through a typical school day and as you think of things that may work, jot them down on paper. You’ll be surprised at just how quickly that list of “Oh, this will work!” pointers will add up!

2.   PREPARE. Through IEP’s and documents shared from other schools or teachers, you should be able to figure out what incentives work and where the student should be academically. Just plan for the first week or so until YOU can get to know the new students. Sometimes what you see on paper, can be a big surprise in person.

3.   COMMUNICATE. Meet the families as soon as you can. Communication is the golden key to learning about the student. Mom or Dad can share things with you about behaviors, past experiences, likes and dislikes, and much more. I have almost always found that when you show the family that you care about their child and what happens in school, it becomes a win-win situation for both sides.

4.   BE PROACTIVE. Be on your toes, because it’s just going to be that kind of year. Share (with confidentiality) any information that may help a therapist, cafeteria staff member, etc., that may help prevent a behavior or meltdown.

5.   SHARE RESPONSIBILITES. Allow your classroom assistant to work with the kids during reading, math, center work, by following your lead. If you group some of the students together, including some that have more intensive learning needs, it will provide you the opportunity to work with another group of kids.

6.   ENJOY THE KIDS. This is the most important thing to remember. Even on the most frustrating of days, hold this thought close to your heart. Every single child that you will ever meet has something wonderful about them. Take the time to learn the wonders of your students, too.

Whether you are preparing to return to school now or in September, hold on to those tips. They have helped get me through past years, and will this year, too.

Have a wonderful “rest of the summer”!

Debbie Singer
Autism Educators, Inc.